Q&A About Senate Bill 16

Dr. John Burkey, Superintendent
October 15, 2014

What is Senate Bill #16?

Impact of SB 16 on District 158Last July, the Illinois Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee was tasked with recommending ways to improve public education funding in Illinois, which has remained unchanged since 1997. The result of the task force was the creation of Senate Bill #16 (SB16).

Schools in Illinois are primarily funded by local property taxes.  Because of the wide range of property wealth in Illinois, schools in wealthier property areas have access to more dollars.  Under the current formula, school districts with more property wealth receive fewer state dollars, and those with less wealth get more dollars.  This is done to help equalize resources across the state.  Even with that factor, the amount of spending among school districts ranges from a low of approximately $6,000 per student to a high of over $20,000 per student.

If enacted into law, SB16 will make sweeping changes in how the state funds education. It will continue to take property wealth into account but will place a greater emphasis on the low-income count in districts.  SB16 does not increase the level of education funding. Rather, it changes the way in which limited state funding is apportioned among school districts.  All state funding, with few exceptions, would be combined under one funding formula.

How does District 158 fare under this bill?

While the bill purports to shift money from wealthier districts to poorer districts, there are many examples where it does the opposite.  District 158 is one of those examples.  We get less than 25% of our funding from the state of Illinois. Under current projections, District 158 would lose $2.25 million per year.

Over the past three years, the state has funded only 89% of its general state aid obligation.  The change needed is for the state to fund the foundation level at 100%, not to penalize districts that are already operating well under the average state expenditure per student.  We should be getting more money from the State of Illinois, not less.

Since District 158 is losing money, does that mean that District 158 is a “wealthy school district?”

By no comparative measure is District 158 a wealthy school district.  We spend approximately $8,500 per student per year.  This amount is $3,500 LESS than the state average.  The average assessed evaluation per student (the amount of property value in the district divided by the number of students) is $144,000.  This is the second lowest in McHenry County and one of the lowest in the entire Chicago suburban area.  Some perceive D158 as wealthy due to our newer buildings and major addition occurring at Huntley High School.  The reason for the newer buildings is simple: the District had about 1,000 students 15 years ago. Since then, we have grown to 9,500 students and need facilities to serve them.  As a note, the high school additions are being paid for with a State construction grant, which was paid 10 years late.

Aside from Senate Bill 16, I have heard talk about a pension cost shift that could be placed on local districts.  What does this mean?

Teachers, outside of Chicago, are in a pension system, TRS.  This system has been in place for decades and was completely enacted by the State of Illinois.  Over time the state has not funded the pension to the extent needed to provide the level of benefits the state promised through law.  In an effort to deal with the state’s pension burden—to in essence “wipe its hands” of a problem it created—it has been proposed that the pension cost get “shifted” to local school districts.  If the entire cost of the pension got shifted, the cost to District 158 would be approximately $2.4 million.

What will happen to our District if these legislative changes occur?

Quite simply, if either one of these changes occurs, it will be devastating for District 158.  We operate very efficiently and continue to offer excellent educational opportunities. Despite the economic downturn, in recent years we have continued to increase our academic performance (HHS just had the highest ACT score in our history), in addition to offering a strong slate of extracurricular opportunities, from fine arts to sports. We have among the lowest administrator-per-student and administrative cost-per-student ratios in the area.  The bottom line is that we are getting excellent results with low expenditures.  There is no way a hit of $2.25 million can be absorbed without major negative impacts to students.

What can I do?

Our local state representatives very much understand this issue and are not supportive of Senate Bill 16 in its current form.  It is still important that they hear from residents regarding these proposals.  Whether it gets called for a vote and supported in the House largely will be up to Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.  We encourage you to reach out to his office and voice your opposition to the bill as well.

Contact your representatives:
Sen. Karen McConnaughay, 33rd District

District Office
130 Washington St.
West Dundee, IL 60188

Phone and Email
(847) 214-8245

Rep. Mike Tryon, 66th District

District Office
1500 Carlemont
Suite D
Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Phone and Email
(815) 459-6453

Rep. Timothy Schmitz, 65th District

District Office
127 Hamilton Street
Suite D
Geneva, IL  60134

Phone and Email
(630) 845-9590

Rep. Jack Franks, 63rd District

District Office
1193 South Eastwood Drive
Woodstock, Illinois 60098

Phone and Email
(815) 334-0063

Rep. Michael Madigan, 22nd District

Speaker of the House

Springfield Office
300 State Capitol,
Illinois 62706

Phone and Email
(217) 782-5350