Stadelman88081SPRINGFIELD – The federal government gives grants to Illinois school districts with large percentages of students from low-income families to pay for additional educators to help these students meet difficult academic standards.  
However, because of the complicated Illinois pension funding system, school districts are forced to use over a third of these funds to pay for the teachers’ pension costs.   
Rockford School Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett joined State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) in a Senate Committee hearing today in support of legislation Stadelman is sponsoring that would allow school districts to use the federal funds they receive, commonly known as Title 1 funding, in the classroom instead of being forced to spend it on pension costs. The proposal could free up as much as $2 million for Rockford schools.
“These funds are meant to help at-risk students receive additional education, not to pay down our pension debts,” Stadelman said. “Siphoning off a third of the funding we receive from the federal government disproportionately affects low-income and special needs students who often need the most help.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 436, would allow school districts to pay the same rate into the teachers’ pension system for federally funded teachers as it does for all other teachers. This would cut the school district’s contribution rate from 36 percent to a more manageable 7 percent, the same it pays for other educators. It would not have an effect on individual teachers’ pensions.
The proposal passed the Senate Executive Committee with a vote of 12-2 and now heads to the Senate Floor.