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  • Senator Forby speaks about fair education funding

    Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) speaks at a recent press conference about the importance of fair and equitable education funding.


  • Senate panel approves Manar’s school funding reform proposal

    manar 032416SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to update the state’s education funding formula passed through the Senate Executive committee on Wednesday.

    The legislation, Senate Bill 231, provides that state funding for education would be distributed based on student need while ensuring that no district would receive less state money than it did in the 2015-16 school year.

    “Today’s vote was a great step forward in changing what is, without a doubt, the least equitable system of funding education in the nation,” Manar said. “I’m fully committed to hearing input from everyone in the legislature, and throughout the state as this proceeds through the legislature.”

  • Winners, losers predictable in governor's ed funding plan

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  • Harris backs plan to bring resources to struggling local schools

    harris 040516State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) released the following statement in support of Senator Andy Manar’s education funding reform legislation, Senate Bill 231:

    “Our kids throughout Chicago and the South Suburbs are facing some tough issues because of where they live, and receiving a quality education shouldn’t be one of them. Thanks to Senator Manar’s initiative, we have the opportunity to open doors for them and all children living in low-income communities by providing more resources to schools who are most in need. Most would agree that education is the gateway to opportunity, and every child deserves a chance to reach their full potential. I look forward to alleviating some of the disparities created within our current system.”

  • Lightford: It’s not too late to do what’s right for our kids

    lightford 040516In response to legislation filed today restructuring the Illinois school funding formula, State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood) released the following statement.

    Fairness in our school funding formula has been a topic of legislative debate and revision for decades, yet education equality remains elusive. At some point, justice has to become more than a promise. It must become a reality for all kids.

    Senator Manar has worked tirelessly with leaders on both sides of the aisle and from all sides of the funding debate to construct a bill that takes the well-being of every student, every school and every district into account. It’s not too late for us to do what we should have done decades ago – pass fair education funding reform worthy of our students.

    Like previous versions of education formula reform, such as SB 1, schools with fewer resources will receive more funding under the new version of the plan, but this legislation also allows more districts to qualify for additional funding through a widened adequacy grant, institutes a complete hold harmless for the next fiscal year and creates an evidence-based panel to oversee implementation of any changes.

    The legislation is filed as Senate Bill 231.

  • Manar: Time is now to change school funding (VIDEO)

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  • Governor’s resistance to formula change this year will plague Paxton-Buckley-Loda

    manar 032416Spending more won’t fix inequity

    SPRINGFIELD – Students and taxpayers in Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10 are being disadvantaged under Illinois’ antiquated system for funding education. The current education formula funnels money to largely wealthy districts that have the resources to spend as much as $30,000 per student. Recent data suggests that Paxton-Buckely-Loda CUSD 10 spends roughly a third of that per student, about $9,696. Reforming the state’s education funding formula could send more state money to Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

    Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner is pushing to put more tax dollars into the system that shortchanges Paxton-Buckley-Loda. He toured the high school Thursday.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) appreciates the governor’s commitment to improving education, but is trying to win support for a modern school funding system that better recognizes the needs of schools like Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

    “Increasing our investment in education alone will not get to the heart of the inequity between Illinois’ school districts,” Manar said. “It’s disheartening to hear the governor tell students, teachers and parents all over the state in struggling school districts that he will fix the problem, while he refuses to commit to implementing a more equitable funding formula.”

    Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Paxton-Buckley-Loda, based on the needs of its students. Under the reform plan, Paxton-Buckley-Loda could see an additional $237,000 in annual state aid, or about $170 more per student. Manar notes that this pending legislation would not require more spending, as the governor has proposed, at the state level. 

    “I have advised the governor that he is making the same mistakes as his predecessors. He thinks we can spend our way out of this problem,” said Manar. “We spend $12 billion today on schools, and we have the least equitable system in America.  We can spend that $12 billion better to drive better results and bridge the inequity gap.” 

    The new proposed funding formula takes student need into account, by providing more money to districts serving higher numbers of low income, special needs or English learning students. According to recent data, 49 percent of Paxton-Buckley-Loda students are low income, close to the state average.

    Roughly 16 percent of students in the district have disabilities, higher than the state average of 14 percent.

  • Cunningham wants agriculture education funded

    cunningham ag edStudents looking to get into agriculture could be without the necessary educational opportunities to spring them forward in the industry.

    In the most recent budget proposal from the governor’s office, agriculture education in Illinois is set to be cut completely out of the budget. In past years, agriculture education has received nearly $2 million.

    Senator Bill Cunningham has proposed legislation that puts a priority on agriculture education instead of slashing it to zero.

    “We need to be prioritizing the industries that make Illinois great. Agriculture is one of those industries,” said Senator Cunningham. “We need to continue to invest in agriculture education, not just end it.”

  • Sen. Manar discusses education funding reform

    Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker hill) discusses education funding reform with members of the press at a press conference in East Moline, Illinois on February 8, 2016.


  • North Mac students paying price for state’s broken school funding system

    manar n macManar optimistic for change this year

    VIRDEN – A broken school funding system is cheating North Mac students out of educational resources and opportunities and needs to be changed, state Senator Andy Manar told a crowd Monday that turned out for a town hall meeting hosted by the North Mac School Board.

    “Right now the state is failing our students,” Manar said. “We need a complete overhaul to bring funding and resources to schools and students who need them.”

    Manar, who’s leading efforts in the General Assembly to modernize how the state funds schools, outlined what a new system should look like. The guiding principle, he said, is that funding should target students and schools who need it the most for instance, those serving high numbers of low-income students, students with special needs and other key education and cost factors.

    Local officials joined Manar in calling for sweeping changes to the outdated system now in place.

    “The North Mac Schools have been hit hard financially by the inequitable education funding formula and recent state cuts. We’ve been forced to cut 38 staff and teaching positions and increase class sizes. We’ve also delayed educational improvements and building renovations to ensure the financial survival of the district,” said North Mac School Board President Robyn Hays.

    Manar is hopeful that a new education funding system, one that would recognize North Mac’s educational and financial needs, will be approved this year in Springfield.

  • Lightford responds to Cullerton's school funding reform speech

    lightford cps 012016CHICAGO—Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) issued the following statement in strong support of Senate President John Cullerton’s speech detailing the necessity for need-based school funding reform Monday at the City Club of Chicago.

    “Just as President Cullerton expressed so eloquently today, we must continue to shed light on one of the grossest injustices setting back Illinois today – the iniquities of our school funding system. Working together is the only way we turn our education system’s regression into progression. It’s the only way we turn systemic disadvantage into education equity. If we don’t act now in the interest of our children’s futures, it will be too late for another generation, and this, we cannot afford.” Sen. Lightford said.

  • Harris: Education funding reform is a priority

    harris mr 110115Senate President John Cullerton addressed the Chicago City Club today. Cullerton’s speech focused on education funding reform as a priority for legislature. State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) reacted to the speech with the following:

    “Affording children a quality education has been one of my priorities since becoming a state senator. I applaud President Cullerton for focusing on the issue in his City Club speech today. I’m currently working with Senator Andy Manar to produce legislation that would secure a fair, adequate and well-funded education for all children,” State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) said. “Our education funding formula doesn’t work, and it’s hurting the poorest kids in our state. We can’t continue to ignore this issue. Our state’s future is at stake.”

  • Manar response to senate president’s school funding reform speech

    manar detectorsCHICAGO—State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) issued the following statement in support of Senate President John Cullerton’s speech detailing the necessity for need-based school funding reform Monday at the City Club of Chicago.

    "Solving our school funding crisis isn't just a downstate problem or a Chicago problem or a suburban problem. The rampant inequity in our public schools affects every community in Illinois.

    “I appreciate Senate President Cullerton’s strong call today for a statewide solution to this statewide challenge. The time has come for Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take decisive action to end the least equitable system in America," Manar said.

  • Cullerton to City Club: School funding reform the defining crisis of our time

    Cullerton to City Club: School funding reform the defining crisis of our timeSenate President John Cullerton on Monday called Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula the defining crisis of our time and challenged Gov. Bruce Rauner to turn around Illinois by making fair funding for schools his top priority.

    Cullerton outlined the problems with Illinois’ school-funding formula during a sold-out speech at the City Club of Chicago, whose members include prominent civic, business and government leaders.

    “Our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers are tired of the bickering, tired of the impasse,” Cullerton said. “They’re looking for leaders with the courage to step beyond the status quo and do what’s right. Today I’m asking my colleagues to take that step.”

    Illinois has not updated its school funding formula since 1997. The system has resulted in striking inequities across Illinois’ school districts, rewarding wealthier communities and penalizing impoverished communities where students need more resources to succeed.

    In addition, Illinois covers barely a third of the total cost of public education, while most states cover half.

    As a result, the performance gap that divides rich and poor students, as well as students of color, ranks among the worst in the nation. Illinois is 42nd in terms of the gap in reading scores among these students, and it falls among the bottom 10 in the achievement gap between black and white students.

    Cullerton said Illinois leaders must ask themselves two questions: How much are we going to spend on education, and how are we going to spend it?

    “If the money isn’t going to help students in need, it doesn’t really matter how much we spend,” he said. “That’s why our funding formula needs to be overhauled.”

    To level the playing field among schools, Cullerton said a new funding approach must include some key principles:

    • State resources should go to school districts based on the needs of students, with more funds to support children who need extra support – those who live in poverty, have special learning needs and who are English language learners.
    • There should be a single, straightforward funding model and no more special deals for some districts.
    • The formula must account for a district’s ability to support local schools with local dollars, and accountability must follow those dollars.

    Cullerton noted that no one wants any school district to lose money. But in Illinois’ system of winning and losing school districts, there are far too many losers.

    “There’s a reason why the current school funding formula has been in place for two decades. It’s hard to change an entrenched status quo. It requires true, dedicated leadership,” Cullerton said. “The question is whether today’s leaders are up to the task.”

    Download the Senate President's City Club remarks
    Download the slides from the Senate President's presentation

     

     

  • Taylorville schools, students suffering from unfair school spending

    manar lgdfTAYLORVILLE – Illinois’ outdated, unfair system of school funding is forcing Taylorville public schools to consider laying off teachers and staff, consolidate schools and eliminate athletic programs. Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 is faced with the challenge of cutting $680,000 from its budget under a state system that defunds downstate school districts.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and Taylorville CUSD 3 Superintendent Gregg Fuerstenau spoke out for the need at a press conference at North Elementary School on Tuesday.

    “The state is failing Taylorville. The school board and the district are doing everything they can to make due with less and have been taking extremely difficult financial decisions for years. Regardless of these savings the schools are being strangled by a funding system that has no connection to the realities of teaching students,” Manar said.

    “We have great teachers and staff and provide our students with the best resources that we can afford. But we can only do so much under Illinois' unfair school funding structure. Our students are in desperate need of a balanced funding structure that treats down state students fairly. A student’s zip code should not matter,” Fuerstenau said.

    “As a public school teacher for more than 30 years, I know firsthand how students are harmed by inadequate funding and resources," Scherer said.

    "It’s a struggle for any teacher to give individualized attention to his or her students and meet each child’s unique needs. Research shows that large class size is the number one detriment to teaching and learning, and to backslide into large class sizes would only short students of many opportunities for growth. It is unconscionable for the state to do anything other than fairly and equally fund all schools, no matter where the students come from,” Scherer said.

    The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the district for its sound finances.

    Taylorville teachers already take home smaller paychecks than the statewide average and the district’s administrative costs are within the lowest 10 percent of unit districts in the state.

    To educate students, the school district can only afford to spend $7,163 dollars per student, well below the state average of $12,521. Students and teachers must also cope with above average class sizes.

    The state has made minor improvements to increase funding to districts like Taylorville. This year’s state school budget set aside extra money for financially distressed school districts. Under this increase Taylorville schools receive an additional $53,000.

    Despite increased funding and cost-cutting measures, the district is still facing the difficult decision to cut another $680,000.

    Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Taylorville based on the needs of their students. Under the reform plan, Taylorville public schools could see an additional $1.07 million in annual state aid.

  • Student-Teacher Background Checks go into effect January 1

    cunningham bkgrd chksCHICAGO — On Jan. 1, prospective student-teachers in Illinois will be required to go through the same background check process as a regular teacher. Senate Bill 706, passed during the last session of the 99th General Assembly, improved the process of how to properly screen student-teacher candidates.

    The legislation is the result of a multi-year discussion between Senator Bill Cunningham (D-18), the Illinois State Board of Education and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Currently in Illinois, student-teachers are required to get separate background checks for each school they teach at, which can create confusion for the student-teacher and the districts where they are placed to teach.

    “Our first priority should be protecting our children while they are at school,” Cunningham said. “This law is a sustainable way to allow student teachers to get the on the job training they need while protecting our students.”

    The legislation requires that student-teachers submit to a series of background checks, including a fingerprint-based criminal history check, a Statewide Sex Offender Database check along with a check of the Statewide Murderer and Violent Offender Databases. The Illinois State Police and FBI are also required to furnish any conviction records of prospective student teachers.

    “This is about protecting our students from predators. If we want to keep excellent teachers in the classroom, we need a plan to both protect our future leaders and ensure our instructors are the best and safest,” Cunningham said.

    The legislation passed both the Senate and the House and was signed by Gov. Rauner.

    For other laws going into effect on Jan. 1, please visit the Illinois Senate Democrats’ website.

  • Stop kicking the can on school reform: Cullerton

    JJC crains 12 15

  • West Aurora School District announces new campus: Holmes

    holmes newschoolDeal provides new early childhood, administration, job training centers

    AURORA — West Aurora School District 129 today announced its proposed new West Aurora School District Campus – a 15-acre site near the intersection of Galena Boulevard and Edgelawn Avenue on Aurora’s west side.

    “The unique partnership demonstrates how high quality education offerings affect economic development and quality of life in the community,” said District 129 Superintendent Jeff Craig. “Most certainly, this investment from the District, the City of Aurora and Advocate Health will benefit West Aurora School District for generations to come.”
     
    The campus will be home to the district’s new Early Childhood Development Center, new district administration offices, and a new technical training center.
     
    The agreement comes 14 months after a capital needs referendum that identified early childhood and post-secondary training as areas to expand upon, Craig said. State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, assisted the district by bringing together representatives of Advocate and the school district.

    “This is the result of government, business and school districts working together,” Holmes said. “Dreyer has been a member of the community for nearly a century and this is an investment in the community that will enrich education for generations of students to come.”
     
    Advocate Health Care will donate part of what is now the Dreyer Medical Clinic building at 1870 W. Galena Boulevard to house the district’s new Early Childhood Development Center. West Aurora Schools will purchase the facility for just $600,000. More than 1,000 students and their families will benefit from the center that will replace the Todd Early Childhood Center.
     
    “Advocate Dreyer has been an important part of the Aurora community for nearly 100 years and we are so pleased to build on our partnership and donate our building for such a worthy cause,” said Donna Cooper, President of Dreyer Medical Clinic and Chief Operating Officer of Advocate Medical Group.
     
    Advocate will begin the transition process to its new facility next spring. The new Early Childhood Development Center is expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.
     
    The West Aurora Board of Education also approved the purchase of the building immediately south of the clinic at 1877 W. Downer Place to house the district’s central administration. The current administration building is nearly a century old and in need of $800,000 in repairs. The move will place the district’s headquarters more conveniently.
     
    “This facility will enable more interaction with district administration and staff, students and parents,” said Craig. “We are being more cost efficient by transitioning into existing facilities as opposed to building brand new or investing in our current aging infrastructure.”
     
    The district expects to be fully operational in its new headquarters by the start of the 2016-17 school year.
     
    The City of Aurora will provide a $150,000 tax rebate to Advocate Dreyer, offsetting part of West Aurora Schools’ purchase of its new property. In exchange, the City will secure the current River Street administration building and seek redevelopment opportunities.

    “This is a win-win-win for all involved because we know all too well the difficulties of repurposing medical buildings and special-use facilities like the current District 129 headquarters,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner. “As a major employer, District 129 will provide immediate economic stability to the West Galena corridor, as the City works to put the current building back on the tax rolls. We are here today because District 129 parents and taxpayers chose to invest in Aurora’s most important resource – our children.”  
     
    Finally, the school district announced the construction of a new technical training center on the campus that will provide opportunities for students to pursue dual credit classes, job-ready training and career certifications as a part of the Pathways to Prosperity initiative. Training available includes Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, and Health Occupations services.
     
    This component is a result of many years of research and planning on the citywide Pathways to Prosperity initiative. Currently, West Aurora students are traveling nearly two hours each day to a training center 19 miles away in Maple Park.  Groundbreaking for the tech center on the southwest corner of the new campus could happen as early as next summer.
     
    Complete plans for the proposed West Aurora School District Campus are available at www.sd129.org.

  • Higher Ed funding is investment in middle-class families

    hi ed hrngs2

    As Illinois students begin preparing for mid-terms, Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the Senate’s Higher Education Committee at Joliet Junior College to hear from students, parents and state community colleges and universities on the impact the current budget impasse is having on higher education in Illinois.

    “Time's a'wastin' - first semester already has started. Governor Rauner, get on board,” McGuire said. “Support MAP and higher education funding so Illinois high school graduates and returning adults can earn the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy to make our state strong again.”

  • Illinois Senate President Applauds Mayor Emanuel’s Leadership on City Finances

    Illinois Senate President Applauds Mayor Emanuel’s Leadership on City FinancesCHICAGO – Senate President John J. Cullerton released the following statement regarding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016 budget address.

    “I join Mayor Emanuel in his efforts to both celebrate and protect our world-class city. We simply cannot ignore the painful reality that the city’s looming pension debt is threatening the financial stability of Chicago.  In the coming days, city and state leaders will be calling on Chicagoans to accept the challenges and financial obligations that come with maintaining the progress of the city that is the economic engine of Illinois.