Shortchanging Illinois School Kids

The Chicago Tribune:

Indiana lawmakers are proposing huge increases in state education funding this year. Ditto those in Wisconsin.
Here in Illinois, The Deadbeat State? Just the opposite. Education funding is being strangled by the same python that is strangling the rest of state government’s finances: pension obligations. Every day that the Legislature delays the enactment of pension reform, the unfunded liability of the state’s five pension funds grows by $17 million, according to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.
In this state, we’re not arguing about how to, say, give more money to schools because great schools drive growth and innovation, attract businesses, create jobs.
No, we’re arguing instead about which school kids will get cheated more than other school kids because state lawmakers dither on a pension fix — kids from richer districts or those from poorer districts? That’s the depressing debate we’re having.
Here’s why: In Illinois, the Legislature sets a “foundation” funding level that the state says every student needs for an adequate education. That’s the starting point for a calculation that determines how much state aid each district receives. The calculation considers each district’s local taxing ability to meet that foundation level, and also looks at how many students in the district need extra support because they’re from low-income families. Districts that have relatively lower revenue and educate relatively more higher-need students receive more state aid.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Speech:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).