Springfield Update from the Superintendent
Friday, April 17, 2015

Good Afternoon,

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Springfield as a member of the High School District Organization of Illinois. I was one of only 24 superintendents from across the state who had the opportunity to meet with Governor Bruce Rauner and several of our states legislative leaders.

In two days, we met with:
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (Chicago)
Senator Daniel Biss (Skokie)
Senator William Delgado, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee (Chicago)
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (Burr Ridge)
Senate President John Cullerton (Chicago)
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (Lemont)
Senator Kimberly Lightford (Westchester)

Each legislator was very concerned with the Governors budget and felt there is a long way to go. In our discussions with lawmakers, it is clear that our district faces several challenges moving forward, including:

Senate Bill 1 (previously SB16) will have a negative impact on how much state funding we receive. Depending on the final formula, we could see reductions between 1.2 - 2 million dollars. This would obviously be something we will continue to oppose. While discussions are ongoing, we anticipate the Senate will pass SB1, and early indications are that it could stall in the House.

All legislators who met with us, except one, believe pending pension reform will be ruled unconstitutional. One outcome is the state could shift the cost of the pension burden to local school districts. The preliminary discussions is the pension shift would be phased in over time. We will continue to oppose this due to the tremendous negative impact it would have on our finances.

As part of his Turnaround Agenda, the Governor is proposing a property tax freeze. As a tax-capped district, we rely on property tax revenue afforded by increases in consumer price index. As a trade-off, his proposal includes an increase in state aid through relief from unfunded mandates. Im skeptical of this option as the unfunded mandates referenced may not translate into additional revenue for us.

Also of note, Senator Delgado (Chairman of the Senate Education Committee), shared with us that he will be meeting with SAT and ACT representatives in the coming weeks. Our legislators are open to a discussion about what mandated state testing should look like in Illinois after the 15-16 school year. We will keep a close eye on these developments.

Finally, ISBE voted to select Anthony Smith as the new Illinois State Superintendent, beginning May 1. Anthony is currently the director of an early childhood education non-profit in Oak Park, served as a superintendent in the California bay area, and briefly played professional football. For more, visit: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150415/NEWS/150419709/0/www.sj-r.com

It was a productive two days. I observed the House and Senate in session and attended several meetings about legislative proposals that will impact education in our state. I will continue to actively engage with our lawmakers to ensure they do whats best for our Lincoln-Way students.