Political cartoon depicting people marching toward the edge of a cliff. The cliff has a sign on the side that says "Coming soon to a school near you," and the edge is labeled "federal fiscal cliff, Sept. '24." The people are holding signs reading "cost of living increases," "teacher shortage," "migrant influx," and "persistent under-funding." At the bottom of the cliff is a safety net labeled "evidence based funding."

If the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) Formula were fully funded, Illinois schools would see about $4.5 billion more in State funds, of which around $1 billion would go to CPS. When EBF passed, there was a stated intention to reach full funding by 2028 and a somewhat contradictory establishment of a $350 million “Minimum Funding Level” that wouldn’t possibly enable us to reach that full-funding-in-ten-years goal.

It’s not just Chicago – more than 600 districts are underfunded…and FY25 “will be a ‘bloodletting’ for the education industry… as it weathers the financial shock of the funding cliff.” So, an increase to the $350 million Minimum Funding Level would be especially welcome in this year’s budget. CPS and the vast majority of Illinois’s other school districts need the infusion of EBF this year more than ever.

Political cartoon depicting people marching toward the edge of a cliff. 

The cliff has a sign on the side that says "Coming soon to a school near you," and the edge is labeled "federal fiscal cliff, Sept. '24."

The people are holding signs reading "cost of living increases," "teacher shortage," "migrant influx," and "persistent under-funding."

At the bottom of the cliff is a safety net labeled "evidence based funding."

How much of an increase? Of course, a $4.5 billion increase is out of reach in just one year. But Illinois’s students cannot wait another generation to have adequately funded public schools. The $350 million floor loses its buying power every year as the cost of educating students increases. Even if we just kept pace with inflation, that $350 million from 2018 would be $437 million today. The Funding Illinois’ Future Coalition is asking for $550 million.

One more thing: just in case you’re wondering whether CPS and other Illinois districts are putting their resources to good use, recent research on learning loss recovery found that Illinois is one of just three states to have surpassed its pre-COVID reading scores. It found CPS to have significantly outperformed other large districts across the country. The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University has created searchable tools to dig deeper into where those achievement gains were greatest. The scatterplot below shows 2022-2023 achievement gains in reading by districts’ low-income rates. The larger the circle, the larger the enrollment of the district. Chicago is highlighted, but there are lots of other Illinois districts beating the odds for their students and closing the learning loss gap (Rantoul, Cicero, East St. Louis, Steger, Crete Monee, Peoria, Dolton, Cahokia… ). Go poke around and find your district schools!

Scatterplot showing Average Student's 2022-2023 Change in Average Reading Scores vs. Percent Free/reduced -price Lunch<br><br>Circles represent school districts, sized relative to the number of students. The largest 526 districts are visible. <br><br>X axis: Percent Free/Reduced-Price lunch, 0-100%<br><br>Y axis: 2022-2023 change in average reading scores for all students, -0.5-+1.5<br><br>Chicago is the biggest school district on the plot, with over 80% of students receiving free/reduced lunch and a little over +0.5 change in average reading scores

I’d be remiss if I ended this blog without discussing the hidden inequity in Illinois’ school funding structure. Teacher pensions are inequitably funded on two fronts: first, Chicago vs. the rest of IL school districts, which have historically been funded very differently. And secondly, underfunded school districts, which generally have lower salaries and thus, benefit less than better funded districts when the state picks up everyone’s employer pension tab.

Chicago teachers participate in their own pension fund, not in the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System. Historically, CPS has paid the employer costs for teacher pensions that the State covered for all other districts. Evidence-Based Funding provided a partial fix for this inequity: now the school funding formula pays the current employer costs for Chicago teacher pensions.

However, CPS is still covering its “legacy costs” (or you could call it “debt” from past years of not keeping up with current payments), which the State continues to fund for all other districts. The amount CPS pays in legacy costs is deducted from the local resources counted for school funding purposes, which is a nod toward equity, but Chicago taxpayers remain on the hook for costs that the State covers for everyone else. (And CPS only netted $23 million from EBF in FY24, so that “nod toward equity” isn’t a very substantial one.)

How much of an inequity is this? Well, compared to “Tier 4” district under EBF (that is, one with at least 100% of adequate funding), CPS sees about $4,000 less per pupil and districts with less than 70% of the funding they need see about $1,500 less per pupil:[1]

Bar graph showing the Value of State-Paid Pension by District Adequacy, including Normal and Legacy Costs<br><br>X axis: Funding Adequacy % of Districts<br><br>Y axis: $ per pupil normal cost + underfunded Liability<br><br>Under 70% funding adequacy: $3,307 per pupil<br><br>70-80% funding adequacy: $3,354 per pupil<br><br>80-90% funding adequacy: $3,584 per pupil<br><br>90-100% funding adequacy: $3,94 per pupil<br><br>Above 100% funding adequacy: $4,816 per pupil<br><br>CPS: $820 per pupil

“Sees” is probably not the right choice of word – because schools don’t see it at all. It comes from the State budget – right off the top. It’s invisible to schools. Especially the legacy costs. For the most part, the State pays the current employer costs of teacher pensions. But the debt? The State failed to keep up with pension costs, the debt stacked up, and it has caught up to us. Not because teacher pensions are especially generous. They’re not. Particularly for newer teachers hired after 2011. It is, nevertheless, a large chunk of the state budget.

***

There’s no easy answer to any of this. Today’s leaders didn’t create the problem; they inherited it. But we owe it to our children – in Chicago, the suburbs, and downstate – to figure it out and fully fund our public schools as fast as we reasonably can.  A $550 million increase to Evidence-Based Funding in FY25 would be a good place to start.

P.S. – If you are a legislator who agrees that $350 million for EBF is a floor not a ceiling, you can share your support by taking the pledge here.


[1] Calculated using data from: our TRS FOIA for pensionable payroll by school district received November 2023, Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability state retirement systems report December 2023 actuarial projections certifying the contribution rate of 48.7%, Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund annual financial report of state paid normal cost minus the amount to defray retiree health care, and student enrollment data from the Illinois State Board of Education’s FY24 Full EBF Calculation. We included CPS’s approximate EBF amount gained through the unfunded liability offset in its local resource calculation as state payment toward CTPF normal cost in this calculation.

Illinois state capitol

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                         

April 23, 2024                                                                            

CONTACT: Mea Anderson | [email protected]

Stand for Children Celebrates the Passage of House Bill 5020, Bringing Illinois One Step Closer to Equitable Access to Dual Credit Courses

(Springfield) – Stand for Children celebrated a huge win for Dual Credit last week after the Illinois House passed House Bill 5020 (Blair-Sherlock). “Student access to dual credit has increased over the last five years, but those gains have not been equitable across student groups. HB5020 knocks down roadblocks to enable more Dual Credit access through strong local partnerships between high schools and community colleges, while maintaining a high bar for rigor,” said Stand for Children Government Affairs Director Aimee Galvin. 

Dual Credit courses allow high school students to get a jump start on their postsecondary and professional careers by providing them with opportunities to earn college credit while simultaneously earning high school credits. Inequitable access to Dual Credit persists and is felt more acutely in high-need regions of the state. This bill improves access for students across Illinois by providing multiple avenues for eligibility and better communication with families, helping more educators become fully qualified Dual Credit instructors, and prioritizing local partnerships. It also significantly improves access to Dual Credit within Career and Technical Education, where instructors will now qualify to teach based on relevant experience.

HB5020 passed with a near unanimous vote of 105-1-0 in the House on Thursday, thanks to the committed negotiations of the bill’s sponsor and education stakeholders. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. 

“Education is the key to economic mobility. Community college was my path to escape poverty, and that’s why we were so committed to working out this bill,” said Illinois State Representative Diane Blair-Sherlock, the bill’s House sponsor. “A student’s access to Dual Credit should not be driven by their zip code. A patchwork of inconsistent local policies around instructor qualifications is a recipe for inequitable access. We are grateful to the many education stakeholders who came to table to help us negotiate this bill to help students and protect the quality of Dual Credit courses.”

###

Stand for Children Illinois is a non-partisan education advocacy organization that fights for educational equity. Stand partners with parents to support their education journey and become strong advocates, and it advocates for proven policies and funding so that all students receive a high-quality, relevant education. Learn more about our work at stand.org/illinois.

The Road to Chicago's 2024 School Board Election. March 18: School maps become law. March 26: Petition circulation begins June 17 – 24: Petition filing period September 26: Early voting begins November 5: Last chance to vote!

The Governor signed legislation Monday that finalizes the Chicago school board electoral map. Here it is!

On March 26, candidates will begin circulating petitions to get on the ballot. They need 1,000 valid signatures, which will be turned in during the June 17 – 24 filing period. That’s coming up fast, so if you’re thinking of running or encouraging a promising community leader to step up, now is the time!

Funding Illinois' Future. Better Funding for Public Schools

The Evidence-Based Funding Formula was created in 2017 after five years of diligent study, intense advocacy, and hard-fought negotiation. At the time, Illinois had the single most inequitable funding system in the nation. The law established a goal of adding $350M to Evidence-Based Funding every year. That goal has been met each year but one.

An evaluation of the program shows the new funding has had the biggest impact on the most underfunded districts, exactly as intended. Evidence-Based Funding is working, but $350M is a floor, not a ceiling. At the rate of $350M per year, it will likely take two more decades to fully fund our schools compared to $550M, which would get us there in half the time.

Dedicating funds to address education disparities and disruptions like learning gaps, academic losses, and chronic absenteeism is critical to lifting students out of poverty. Children entering pre-K today will graduate before Illinois’ schools have the funding they need if we do not act now. We need a realistic plan to reach full funding within a decade!

Sign the Pledge to be an Education and Equity Champion if You

  • Believe all Illinois students deserve a fully-resourced school, no matter their background or zip code.
  • Believe the annual increase of $350M in Evidence-Based Funding is a floor, not a ceiling.
  • Will collaborate toward a solution to fully and sustainably fund Illinois’ public education system.
550M in FY25 for EBF three cartoon children holding up signs
Political cartoon. People standing on the edge of a cliff holding signs that read "cost of living increases, teacher shortage, migrant influx, and persistent under-funding." The precipice of the cliff has two arrows pointing to it that read "federal fiscal cliff Sep '24." A banner on the side of the cliff says "coming soon to a school near you..." At the bottom of the cliff is a trampoline labeled "evidence based funding"
black and white photo of diverse high school students walking down steps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                         

January 16, 2024                                                                            

CONTACT: Mea Anderson | [email protected]

82% OF CHICAGO VOTERS AGREE: FAMILIES SHOULD BE ABLE TO CHOOSE THE PUBLIC SCHOOL OPTION THAT BEST MEETS THEIR CHILDREN’S NEEDS

A New Stand for Children Poll Digs into Opinions on Transitioning Away from Magnet, Selective Enrollment, and Charter Public Schools

(Chicago) – Stand for Children Illinois commissioned a poll asking voters to weigh in on public option schools. In a city where fewer than half of public school students attend their neighborhood school, the move to “transition away from” selective enrollment, magnet, and charter public schools affects a significant portion of Chicago Public Schools families. The results of the poll show that the majority of voters believe such a move would increase segregation and flight from the city.

“Transitioning away from high-quality public schools that parents have chosen for their children is a monumental decision that is out of step with the majority of Chicagoans’ preferences,” said Illinois Executive Director of Stand for Children, Jessica Handy. “A family’s zip code or income should not pre-determine the quality of education their children can access.”

Some highlights from the poll findings include:

  • 82% of Chicago voters believe families in CPS should be able to choose the public school that best meets their student’s needs, whether that’s their neighborhood school, a school in another neighborhood, or a magnet, selective enrollment, or charter school. The proportion of parents who agreed was even higher, at 86%.
  • 64% of voters feel that eliminating school choice would limit opportunities and increase school segregation.
  • Half of the families in CPS who do not choose their neighborhood school said they would move to find a school that is a better fit for them if their neighborhood school was the only public option available to them.
  • Of the families that said they would move, 30% would opt to leave the City altogether.

Tulchin Research conducted the poll of Chicago voters in English and Spanish from January 4 – 9, following the Chicago Board of Education’s December resolution to shift away from selective enrollment, magnet, and charter schools. The intended change stands in contrast to the will of the 78% of voters who believe we don’t have to choose between public school choice and strong neighborhood schools.

“I am a staunch advocate for better-resourced neighborhood schools, but this cannot come at the expense of restricting families to only their neighborhood option. Families should have the freedom to seek the best educational fit for their children, especially when neighborhood options fall short,” said Cata Truss, an Austin resident, parent, and educator.

Katie Milewski, a parent to two fifth graders in a selective enrollment school and a leader of the group “CPS Parents for Buses,” conducted an informal poll of her own:  133 parents in her group’s Facebook Group responded.  Forty-nine percent said they would move out of Chicago, 20% would choose a private school, and 24% would go to the neighborhood school (13% reluctantly) if that was their only option.  Milewski has been one of many magnet and selective enrollment school parents advocating for transportation options for the 5,500 students who are no longer offered bus rides to and from school.  

“Denying students busing or even a transportation allowance is one way the board and CPS have already covertly begun undermining public schools of choice.  Families are uprooting their lives to get children to school.  This is not sustainable.  It will erode enrollment at magnet and selective enrollment schools; in fact, 154 students already have left a school they loved because their bus was cancelled.  Eighty-five percent of the students that qualify for busing come from low-income families and are being hurt the most,” said Milewski.

Stand’s poll brings to light the reality of public school choice: eliminating families’ options would not improve equity. Instead, it would encourage those with enough resources to move or choose a private school. “School choice will always be an option for families that can afford it,” Handy continued. “Transitioning away from public school options will disproportionately hurt low-income students and further solidify that a child’s zip code dictates their ability to access a great education.”

###

Stand for Children Illinois is a non-partisan education advocacy organization that fights for educational equity. Stand partners with parents to support their education journey and become strong advocates, and it advocates for proven policies and funding so that all students receive a high-quality, relevant education. Learn more about our work at stand.org/illinois.

Illinois Early Literacy Coalition

The Illinois State Board of Education has released its second draft of the comprehensive statewide literacy plan!  (Read it here) The Illinois Early Literacy Coalition conferred with lots of members and experts and developed this memo with feedback on the plan. Illinois is moving off the sidelines and this plan is the first step. It’s not perfect and it won’t solve the problem, but it is a strong foundation on which to build. We are grateful that ISBE has devoted so much staff capacity and passion into this work.