By: Mark Glennon*

It’s not uncommon to hear the thought, though it usually comes from the right: Just let everything blow up because sooner is better. “Go ahead, elect Pritzker and let him do what he wants.” Or, “Sure, pass another big tax increase because that will have people going for the pitchforks.”

But this one comes mostly from the left: A demand that the state pay an additional $7.2 billion, immediately, for school funding. For more background, a good Herald & Review article is linked here.

Illinois obviously can’t pay it. A judgement for the plaintiff school districts would decimate the budget. The amount demanded would represent almost 20% of the state’s revenue and roughly double its current contribution to schools (excluding its teacher pension contributions).

But don’t think the lawsuit isn’t viable. It was clearly well-orchestrated and predictable. The logic behind it is simple. Constitutionally, the state has “primary responsibility” for funding: “The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality education,” it says.

What’s the evidence on whether the state is fulfilling that obligation? That’s what was teed up so nicely. It’s basically an admission by the state that it made in passing, last August, the “evidence” based standards on “adequacy” for school funding. See paragraph four of the legal complaint, linked here.

And ISBE, the state’s own board of education, affirmed the admission by calling current deficiencies “shocking,” as the complaint also emphasizes, and by itself proposing an additional $7.2 billion in its budget request.

I can’t predict how Illinois courts, which are political, will rule on the lawsuit, but it appears viable to me.

So, here are the questions: What do the plaintiffs really want and what should we expect to happen?

I can only speculate, and maybe they don’t have a precise answer, either.

They have to know the state could never pay their immediate demand, but maybe they’d be content to let the bomb go off and let the state figure out how to pay for it. Maybe they’re looking to settle by having the state bind itself to a court order to fund the ramp in school funding that is contemplated by last year’s legislation. It calls for an additional $350 million each year for ten years.

Or maybe they envision a huge shift away from relying on property taxes to fund schools. A big, new state liability would be more palatable if offset by cuts in property taxes.

And what was Governor Rauner thinking as the setup developed? He let the new school funding formula progress on its own through the General Assembly last Spring. He ended up opposing only the bailout elements for Chicago, on which he was overridden. What did he think about his own people at ISBE asking for another $7.2 billion? How does he propose to fund the creature he nurtured?

I don’t think we know how this will play out. Will it be the last straw that prompts the masses to throw up their hands yelling, “The numbers are impossible and Illinois’ crisis is hopelessly complex”? Maybe.

Another possibility is that the enormity of the potential liability will trigger some critical inspection of the new school funding formula, which is long overdue.

On that, look for my partner here at Wirepoints, Ted Dabrowski, to be writing again soon.

*Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints.

 

 

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Mr. Common Sense
1 year ago

And when the Illinois legislature sends the cost of those teacher pensions back to the local school districts, with the authority to raise taxes to cover the cost, I envision people setting their homes on fire in the middle of the night, and leaving Illinois for good.

Mr. Common Sense
1 year ago

I’d bet the farm that most of that money would go right into the pension accounts

Bob
1 year ago

That is possible since making up for past abuse (80% of this years if made) will go to cover past abuse – just like a credit card. Much better to meet your constitutional obligations when due. Of course people like yourself would be fine with broken promises – the General Assembly is “banking” on you!

Mike xyzx
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob

The school district from which you retired was located in which county?

danni smith
2 years ago

I sold many pitchforks at my last garage sale.

2 years ago

By insisting the problem is money, educators and the ISBE mask their own inadequacies. Politicians, the ISBE, state legislators, university execs, school boards & others have one thing in common: an unwillingness to acknowlegde and solve the strategic problems they created. This is #FailureToLead

nixit
2 years ago

From the article: “There are a lot of things the district would be able to do with an additional $43 million: pay our teachers more competitively…” So the FIRST thing this district COO does with this windfall is raise salaries of current employees. No mention of improved performance or results. Funny how adequate spend doesn’t equate to adequate results.

Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  nixit

When I was in school, we started Algebra at the end of 8th grade with no Geometry. I now help my Grand Son with the same material in 6th grade! Would some body tell me how you can start advanced Math in the 6th grade and they be poorer in Math? Not possible. But it is if you change the tests. If test results rise, the just up the test. That leads to the bizarre situation where a family will find some of the kids meet the cut and others don’t(with the same score) just because the rules have been… Read more »

Bob Out of here
2 years ago

Where’s the evidence the education being provided is high quality?

Bob
2 years ago

You might be able to recruit better and stop the exodus to Texas. 600 unfilled Math & Science jobs here at the start of the school year.

Evidence? Whose flag is on the moon? Not a scientific measure but better than unstandardized standardized tests.

China only reports results from Shanghai, itself a magnet school. Yet we are more than happy to accept the nonsense of those numbers. Solution? Just send in results from Massachusetts and we are fine.

Kvetch 22
2 years ago

What they want is to load as much of other peoples’ money as possible into the pension funds so that the already-retired (or about-to-retire) pension millionaires will have a few more months or years at the trough. “Adequacy of school funding” means that already overpaid teachers will get more — resulting in even larger pension obligations. These pension promises (which courts say can never be broken) will add more current expense “for education” as the pension funding obligation increases. This will be done and said over and over as if truth must arise out of loud and incessant repetition. The… Read more »

Bull
2 years ago

OK who believes that the state is going to do introspection on “evidence based education?” IF this lawsuit is successful what are the chance of the average property tax pay coming out ahead on paying a much higher income tax? Surely the Superintendents surely know that they are trying to beat a dead horse so do they really think a bad economy is good for school finance? I see neither side as innocent in this battle. The state passed this monstrosity and now can’t pay for it. The schools for not facing up to reality that structural reforms must happen.

danni smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Bull

structural reforms-the wood bores in your crawl space; that 15 foot chimmey needs rebuilding, the roof is degraded and leaking into the house, mold and ceiling damage have started. The sinking foundation, hohum. Hoping for a magic healing of the structural failings ? I suppose one good storm and your house blows down. The storm is here as Illinois has become the Land of Leavin’.