With over 400,000 Chicago Public School students depending on state aid to fund their education, Senate President Cullerton called for a fix of the state’s funding formula. Chicago Public school students receive only $31 dollars in comparison to surrounding suburban districts receiving about $2,000 per pupil in state payouts. While surrounding districts have reserve funds in the millions, CPS schools are strapped and are facing massive budget cuts that would result in massive cuts across all schools. At Payton, it was initially projected that it would lose roughly 12 teachers if the district did not receive $480 million dollars, a shortfall that CPS CEO Forrest Claypool characterizes as inequitable funding for some of the poorest kids in the state.
Minutes after Republican Governor Bruce Rauner held a press conference, Senate President John Cullerton spoke to a packed room at the City Club of Chicago including this Paw Print reporter, which has hosted influential speakers for decades. In the past year, Democrats and Republicans have been at odds, especially after Governor Bruce Rauner announced legislation that would allow for CPS to file for bankruptcy. While the City Club speakers are never disclosed prior to the event, many were not surprised that President Cullerton took this opportunity to present his plan to reform education in the state of Illinois.
As attendees finished their lunch in the banquet hall of Maggiano’s, President Cullerton began his speech titled “Time for a Turnaround,” in which he advocated for a new education spending formula that ensures equitable school funding. Speaking to a room of senators, many of whom voted for his senate presidency, he called for Springfield to correct a flawed funding formula that “shackles poor communities.”
Cullerton said Illinoisans are “tired of the impasse” in Springfield and that the defining crisis the state faces is a “broken school funding formula.”
The current formula has allowed Berwyn and Aurora school districts to not receive the same state dollars for funding, said Cullerton. Additionally, Illinois provides fewer dollars per student: the state spends a meager one third on education compared to other states that pay at least half on education. The senate president commented that Illinois is the “polar opposite of Ohio when it comes to funding: Ohio heavily invests in low-income student and schools, and the state has seen huge success from such programs. Cullerton believes this Ohioan-style spending will allow for long-term returns. Low-income residents will rely less on governmental agencies, are less likely to commit crime, thus creating more jobs for traditionally underprivileged communities.
Before taking public questions, Cullerton closed, saying, “we all owe our success to quality education…and that there are winners, but far too many losers in the current schools system and that it was time to change an entrenched status quo.”
When asked if his proposed formula will solve CPS’s $580 million shortfall, he admits it won’t fill the half-billion deficit, but will direct millions to CPS. His plan “could only help, not resolve, their financial crisis.”
Before ending his brief press conference following his speech, he reiterated how the Governor has an equal part in passing a budget because the state is losing hundred of jobs due to the “dysfunctionality.” He also criticized his “irresponsibility in throwing around the word ‘bankruptcy’ ….dollars simply aren’t going where they are needed.”
Cullerton calls this his “own turnaround agenda, it’s not a special deal.”