A new school funding formula is one vote away from reality, but the road was rocky
and the final results are mixed. With the legislature caught up between the
legislature's version of SB 1 and the Governor's version of SB 1, a tweaked evidence-based funding model was added to a new bill - SB 1947. New provisions added to the mix in SB 1947 include an income tax credit for private school tuition and a form of mandate relief for public schools.
When SB 1947 was first called for a vote Monday afternoon on the House floor, it failed miserably on a vote of 46-61-5 - far short of the 71 votes needed for passage. After their respective caucus meetings, legislators returned to the floor for a vote on the override motion on the Governor's amendatory veto of SB 1. This motion also came up well short of the 71 votes needed with only 63 representatives voting for the override. The Speaker of the House then recalled SB 1947 for a vote and it was approved on a bipartisan vote of 73-34-3.
The bill will be taken up in the Senate later today (Tuesday) for final action.
HOW THEY BRIDGED THE GAP
SB 1947 takes the main tenets of the original evidence-based funding proposal that has been introduced as part of several different bills this year, including SB 1. Though it still addresses the Chicago Public Schools' pension issue, it removes the pension language from the school funding formula and places it into the pension code. The block grant for Chicago schools remains.
The amendatory language from the Governor's Veto Message regarding how Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts and Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) property values are calculated, were both removed so it mirrors those provisions in SB 1 as originally passed. The bill does include the creation of a TIF Task Force to study the benefits and costs of TIF districts and the interaction between the TIF law and school funding.
The agreement also includes a mechanism for property tax relief for taxpayers in school districts that are calculated to be at 110% of their adequacy target. It allows for a citizen initiated referendum that asks voters if the school district's tax extension should be reduced.
The final deal was reached when two Republican requests were agreed to become part of the package: an income tax credit for tuition paid to non-public schools and mandate relief for public schools.
INCOME TAX CREDIT
SB 1947 establishes the "Invest in Kids Credit" in the Illinois Revenue Code. This five year pilot project authorizes up to $75 million per year to be credited back to taxpayers in the form of income tax credits based on contributions to a "Scholarship Granting Organization" - a not-for-profit entity approved by the Department of Revenue to issue such scholarships. The organization grants "scholarships" to students throughout the state who have applied and have been accepted (students' families are "means tested" for eligibility) to be used at non-public schools.
THE PROPERTY TAX EXTENSION ROLLBACK
School districts that are calculated to be at least at110% of their adequacy target, may be subject to a referendum to lower their property tax extension. If at least 10% of the registered voters in the school district sign a petition, the question of whether the district must lower its property tax extension for educational purposes must be put on the ballot at the Consolidated Election in April of odd-numbered years. The extension reduction could not be more than 10% and cannot result in the school district falling below 110% of its adequacy target. Also, once such a question is placed on the ballot, another such question cannot be placed on the ballot in the next two Consolidation Elections.
THE MANDATE RELIEF
SB 1947 attempts to provide relief to school districts from unfunded and underfunded mandates in three ways: it makes changes to the current mandate waiver process; it gives flexibility regarding Physical Education; and it allows school districts to contract out to provide Drivers' Education.
The bill deletes the current limitations in the mandate waiver process regarding Drivers' Education and P.E. Further, it allows for the establishment of a panel of four legislators to have the first opportunity to weigh in on the waiver requests. If ¾ agree to object to a request, then it goes directly to the full legislature to dispense with. Those waiver requests that the legislators do not have concerns with are transmitted to the Illinois State Board of Education to consider.
For P.E. there was a fairly significant change. The current five-day-a-week requirement for P.E. could be amended by a school board which could determine to reduce the P.E. offerings to three days per week. The school board could also determine if other students (grades 7-12) could waive out of P.E. if they participate in interscholastic or extracurricular activities.
For Drivers' Education, school districts are specifically allowed to offer their driving courses by contracting with a commercial driver training school to provide both classroom instruction and practice driving.