Education Desk: Purvis Promotes Gov's School Funding Plan

Jun 8, 2016

Beth Purvis made her first appearance as Illinois Secretary of Education in February 2015 at a conference hosted by Vision 2020
Credit Dusty Rhodes

Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis is pushing Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to make sure schools open on time this fall.

The Republican has called for sending an extra $100 million to schools — the one area of the budget he has not held up in order to pass his legislative agenda.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Purvis deflected questions about Rauner’s remarks earlier this week in which he described some Chicago Public Schools as “crumbling prisons.”


“I don’t think that now is really the time for me to expound on the governor clarifying his own statements,” she said. “But again, what I think that the governor is trying to do is put forward a budget that will allow schools to open in the fall.”

General State Aid is the amount of money Illinois provides all school districts to achieve basic funding, currently about $6,000 per pupil per year. The state has reduced (or “pro-rated”) GSA for the past seven years. And while Rauner and Purvis are touting his plans add $100 million to the current system, critics argue that more money doesn’t help when it’s distributed through an inequitable formula. In fact, Rauner’s initial proposal to simply fully-fund the formula would’ve meant that many of the state’s poorest districts would’ve lost money, while wealthier districts gained.

 

Purvis repeatedly referred to Rauner's new plan as a "bridge" to get schools through the coming year, saying it would give lawmakers time to continue debating how to fix the formula.

Another major area of contention is teacher pension costs. The state of Illinois pays pension costs for teachers in every school district except one — Chicago Public Schools. Democrats have been trying to change that, but Republicans have railed against every bill that includes the state taking on even half of CPS’ normal pension costs.

Purvis, however, wouldn’t say whether the idea was “off the table.”

“I’m here today really to discuss specifically HB 6583 and SB 3434 that does those things that we laid out — using the current funding formula, but ... ending pro-ration of GSA, increasing the funding of schools by $105 million to hold schools harmless, and making sure we increase early childhood education,” Purvis said. “So that is really what I need to focus on in this question and answer period today.”

As Illinois enters another fiscal year with no budget, any plan to fund schools will require bi-partisan support.