stadelman education forum rNo disagreement at forum: State needs to reform education funding

State Senator Steve Stadelman was joined by public school superintendents Ehren Jarrett of Rockford and Julie Morris of Harlem for a discussion of the outlook for education in Illinois' spring legislative session.

Much of the conversation at the League of Women Voters forum centered on the longstanding need to reform the way the state funds schools in a way that reduces the reliance on local property taxes.

Stadelman told the crowd at the North Suburban Library in Loves Park that Illinois currently pays about a quarter of the cost of operating schools across the state, which puts an unfair burden on poorer communities where teachers need more resources but where low property values produce less tax revenue to cover the state funding gap.

"Wealthy suburbs of Chicago spend twice as much per student, but their tax rates are two times lower," Stadelman said. "That creates great inequity across the state. We probably have the most inequitable funding system in the country."

Stadelman said he is hopeful that the Illinois Senate passes a bipartisan 2017 budget compromise that includes education funding reform among one of 13 pieces of legislation. A vote to advance the so-called grand bargain to the Illinois House could come as soon as Feb. 28.

•    WREX-13 report on League of Women Voters education forum

Pressure builds for Senate to bail out Rauner

Gov. Bruce Rauner last week unveiled a budget at least $4.6 billion out of balance that relies on the success of a Senate grand bargain to save the state’s finances. A deeper dive into the plan showed it actually may be unbalanced by more than $7 billion, according to analysts including the governor's own budget chief.

At a recent hearing, Senate Democrats asked the governor’s budget chief to defend the unbalanced proposal. From the Chicago Tribune's report on that hearing:

"Meanwhile, at the Capitol, Senate Democrats spent hours dismantling Rauner's budget proposal, hammering administration officials about the exact size of the plan's multibillion-dollar deficit. By the end of the contentious hearing, Rauner budget director Scott Harry acknowledged the spending plan is $7.2 billion out of whack without various savings and revenues built into the proposal that rely on changes in law which are far from fruition."