The goal of Senate Bill 1 is to reform education funding in Illinois by providing greater equity among school districts across the state. In District 54, we agree that every student deserves the same opportunities to succeed regardless of location or economic status.
However, the methodology is flawed. Senate Bill 1 dramatically reduces state funding to many suburban school districts by redistributing general state aid to districts in other communities. Hundreds of districts would lose funding. It’s the classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in this case Peter and Paul are both Illinois students.
If Senate Bill 1 becomes law, District 54 would lose $12.3 million or $1,000 per student. This represents the largest loss to any Illinois district and would greatly impact our ability to provide a quality education to our students.
Supporters of Senate Bill 1 argue that it includes an “adequacy grant,” to ensure sufficient funding for a quality education in each district. The state projections say District 54’s adequacy target is $12,703 per student, $85 less than we currently spend. That $85 multiplied by 12,300 students (our average daily attendance) is $1.05 million. Why then are we losing $12.3 million?
Senate Bill 1 supporters reason that suburban districts, with higher real estate values, can simply raise local property taxes. However, we are limited by the tax cap. In addition, Gov. Rauner is proposing a property tax freeze. School districts would have to ask taxpayers to approve higher tax rates through a referendum. Why should our taxpayers, who already pay to support their schools, be asked to pay more?
District 54 students are successful. Our students are in the top 10 percent nationally in meeting their growth targets in reading and math.
We accomplished this while being fiscally responsible. We have lived within the consumer price index, balanced our budget for 17 straight years, and been debt free since 2011.
We ask the state of Illinois to do its part and fully fund education, rather than ranking among the worst in the nation in education funding. The state can solve the education funding problem by providing additional resources to districts in need rather than redistributing money from other school districts.
Andrew DuRoss is superintendent of Schaumburg Community Consolidated School District 54.