Monday, August 29, 2016

Funding hike brings budget flexibility

Jennifer Gill, superintendent,
Springfield School District 186
The state budget and education spending dominated Illinois news coverage for the first half of 2016. Among the issues: proposals to change the way tax dollars are distributed to schools; recommended increases in school funding that varied from $100 million to nearly $1 billion; and the doomsday prospect of schools not opening on time because a budget was not finalized. All came and went, with more money funneled to schools but little change in the way those funds are dispersed.

Illinois school districts will see more than $360 million in new state funding during fiscal year 2017. The per-pupil foundation level will be fully funded at $6,119 per student, an additional $250 million sent via “equity” grants to schools with the highest poverty ranks, and $75 million more dedicated to early childhood education. Mandated categorical grants remain at FY 2016 amounts and Chicago Public Schools receive $215 million toward the normal cost of their teacher’s pensions, contingent upon legislators approving some kind of pension reform by the first of the year.

The resulting prospects are positive for districts around the state. For the first time in nearly seven years, schools will receive the statutorily set foundation level, leaving them additional flexibility to spend on other critical needs.
Jay Strang, chief business official,
Indian Prairie School District 204

Jay Strang, the chief school business official of Indian Prairie School District 204 (Naperville), said he is pleased with the education spending approved by the state.  “It is higher than the pro-rated amounts we have received in the past. We had originally projected a 92 percent proration, but the full funding amounts to an additional $3 million,” Strang said.

District 204 will spend around $321 million next year, with nearly $47 million, or 15 percent, coming from the state, and $265 million, or 83 percent, from local property taxes. The federal government will provide the remainder: roughly $9 million, or a little less than 3 percent.

While encouraged by the increase in funding, Strang said the state’s delay in approving a spending plan presented other challenges. 

“When revenue projections are that late you can’t plan for projects. We then have to take money out of our capital outlay and that delays those projects,” Strang indicated.  “We were working to install air conditioners in our elementary classrooms.  That is a summer project that has to be pushed back to the fall and possibly to next year because we missed the prime bidding season in the spring.”

Springfield School District 186 plans to spend a little over $190 million for the current school year. The district will have a surplus of $2.6 million in its education fund. Technology upgrades for teachers and students, as well as the addition of new positions, such as a psychologist, are on the agenda for this year.

District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill also expressed her optimism regarding the fully funded general state aid formula. "It allowed us to pass a balanced budget and have a small surplus that we can utilize to support teaching and learning in our district,” Gill acknowledged. “While it will take us more than one year to replenish things we have lost over the past few years with several rounds of budget cuts, this year we will feel less pressure when student needs arise.”

The fiscal 2017 education budget is promising for districts throughout the state; however, the unknowns for the coming year are certainly on the minds of school officials.

“As lawmakers consider school funding formulas, it is important for them to remember the needs of school districts like ours,” said Gill. “We also hope that transportation reimbursement will be considered in new funding formula models, since we are currently at 70 percent proration. This directly affects our overall operating budget and is essential for students getting to school safely each and every day.”

When asked what he would like to see from the state before the start of next school year, Strang said, “A two-year state budget would be nice. I would like to see them work toward the Vision 20/20 Evidence-Based Funding model, but that will require additional revenue from the state.”

A full list of all Illinois school districts general state aid budget allocations is available at the Illinois State Board of Education website.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Alliance Legislative Report 99-53


Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have granted new rights to educational support personnel (ESP) in school districts in cases of reduction in force (RIF). HB 6299 (Andrade, D-Chicago) provides that if ESPs are dismissed as a result of a RIF and the employee accepts re-employment with the same district, the employee maintains any rights accrued during the previous service with the school district. The Alliance had opposed the bill throughout the legislative session and strongly urged the governor to veto the bill.

The governor, in his veto message, stated that the bill “would impose another mandate on school districts in how they manage their personnel” and that these decisions “should be made at the local level, not mandated by statute.”

The Alliance letter to Governor Rauner can be found here. The governor’s veto message is available here.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 99-53

Friday, August 26, 2016

IASB school calendar released

IASB has posted its Annual School Calendar of legal dates and deadlines for 2016-2017 online. This is published in order to help school districts prepare their local school calendars. Dates contained in it comply with all statutory deadlines in the Election Code, the School Code, and selected acts of the General Assembly.

Among the noteworthy new listings in the calendar are the updated election deadlines and a deadline arising under a new state law regarding board expenditures. On the board expenditure law topic, for example, the calendar entry for November 15 states:

Last day for school district to file with the State Board of Education, a one-page report that lists the actual administrative expenditures for the prior year from the district’s audited Annual Financial Report, and the projected administrative expenses for the current year from the adopted budget. (17-1.5)

The calendar is a PDF that can easily be downloaded here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Conference hotels filling up

The Hyatt Regency Chicago is nearly booked up.
With the 84th Joint Annual Conference just three months away, there is still time to register for the upcoming event and related professional development opportunities; however housing blocks at reduced rates are filling up fast.

Three participating hotels, the Fairmont, SwissĂ´tel, and Embassy Suites, are sold out, and the Hyatt Regency Chicago is nearly sold out as well. Housing offered through IASB at conference rates is still available for the Hyatt, the Sheraton Grand Chicago, Marriott Chicago Downtown, and Intercontinental Chicago.

More information on housing is available on the Conference registration and housing webpage for school districts. Conference registrations will continue to be accepted at the pre-conference rate of $445 per person through Oct. 14. After that date, registration fees will be $470 per person.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

LSBA establishes school flood relief fund

The Illinois Association of School Boards is responding to a request made recently by Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association in Baton Rouge:

“Natural disasters such as the historic flooding event occurring in south Louisiana never happen at a ‘good time’ … this one is hitting just as many school districts started the new school year. In fact, the most seriously affected school districts had just completed day one or two of the new school year, and now face the challenge of trying to get schools up and running again ― without the necessary supplies needed to do so. Moreover, many families have lost all their belongings and their homes.

“While we know state and federal assistance is in process, the LSBA Board of Directors and membership felt it appropriate to establish an LSBA Fund for Restoring Schools in order to provide some additional assistance in the short term ... As we learned from past experience with natural disasters; it's imperative that schools get up and running as soon as possible. Every day that is lost is a day a student is not learning,” Richard said.

The Louisiana School Boards Association represents 69 local public school districts in the state of Louisiana. Their relief effort is aimed at helping the schools most dramatically affected by the recent and unprecedented flooding, back up and running. All contributions into the fund will be donated by the LSBA to school districts based upon the proportion of students whose schools were flooded.

The school district will then decide how best to expend the funds, as they will best know how to address their individual needs. While there is the promise of federal assistance, that often takes time. The LSBA will be able to provide short-term assistance for such necessities as classroom supplies, repairs, clean-up costs, and basic technology replacement.

“Your help will make the difference in the education of children, many of whom have suffered the loss of their homes and personal belongings,” Richard added. 

To access the LSBA fund for restoring schools, click on this link: