Alton school chief rejected funding change despite increase for district
Mark Cappel, the superintendent of Alton School District 11, had asked lawmakers not to accept the state's school funding formula that was pushed by Gov. Bruce Rauner even though it would provide his district with almost $2 million more than the original bill.
In a letter to all state legislators, Cappel urged an override of Rauner's amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, the K-12 funding measure. The Senate overrode the veto, but while in the House, a compromise measure, SB 1947, was hammered out, approved by both chambers and signed by Rauner.
According to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Alton district would have benefited from Rauner's amended version of SB1 to the tune of $1.94 million.
“In my opinion, SB 1 is the only fair funding formula that has ever been proposed in this state," Cappel wrote.
Cappel did not return calls for comment by press time.
The ISBE analysis indicated that the governor’s changes to SB 1 would mean that 97 percent of the districts would receive more in funding than with the bill as passed by the General Assembly. The extra money would come from removing additional funding meant to go to Chicago Public Schools and its teachers' pension program, which is millions in debt.
In fact, the ISBE figures showed that Metro East's 48 school districts would have received an extra $15.5 million this year under Rauner' plan, and Alton, at $1.94 million, is near the top of the list. Other big winners include Valmeyer Unit 3 ($4.04 million), Collinsville 10 ($1.57 million) and East St. Louis 189 ($1.14 million).
ISBE released the funding figures surrounding the governor's plan on Aug. 12, a day before 38 senators voted to override the governor’s veto even though nearly all would see their school districts receive more in state funding under the governor's plan.
One notable case was Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), whose district would have received an additional $8.7 million, according the Illinois Policy Institute. Manar had been on a campaign denouncing the governor’s changes to SB 1, saying that they would result in reduced funding for many districts.
At the time, his office did not return calls for comment on the discrepancy in figures.
The institute's John Klingner earlier said it’s likely that Manar did not account for the governor’s changes to two programs: PTELL, a property tax extension law limit designed to prevent inflationary increases in taxes, and the tax increment financing (TIF) program, originally intended as an economic development tool. TIF has been exploited in some cases to increase state education subsidies, with Chicago being the biggest offender, the institute said.
“Under the governor's changes, money that would have gone to Chicago would be spread more evenly and fairly to all the districts,” Klingner said.