Network 21 Position on Governor's Budget - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Network 21 Position on Governor's Budget

Network 21 believes Gov. Rod Blagojevich's FY 2004 budget proposal for education is a step in the right direction. Specific recommendations for additional needed changes, as well as updates on the status of Network 21's legislative priorities, follow.

An impending financial crisis is hitting schools throughout Illinois: 80 percent of state school districts are deficit spending and one in three are in on the State Board's financial watch and warning lists. More than half of local school tax increase referenda failed at the polls on April 1, 2003. All of this adds to an education quality crisis that will be highlighted even more under federal No Child Left Behind requirements. Against this backdrop, Network 21 believes Gov. Rod Blagojevich's FY 2004 budget proposal for education is a step in the right direction. It acknowledges the precarious fiscal position of many districts, and the need to increase the state share of school funding — particularly for districts who need the resources most. In order to meet the needs of schools, however, Network 21 believes a specific long-term package of education funding reform is still needed.

Network 21 strongly supports four priorities outlined in the FY 2004 budget proposal and encourages the General Assembly to support funding for these areas:

  • Foundation Level Increase of $250: The $250 increase in per-pupil funding is a meaningful and necessary down payment by Gov. Blagojevich toward making adequate education funding a reality. The proposed increase is critical to reaching the Education Funding Advisory Board’s recommended foundation level of $5,665 by the end of the governor’s first term.
  • Costs for implementing programs mandated by federal and state government, of which special education is one of the largest, are rising. The governor’s proposal of an $87-million increase for these mandated categorical programs, which would continue to fund them at 91 percent of costs, is critical for local districts to meet these needs.
  • Early Childhood Education Block Grant: Research consistently shows important benefits that early childhood education provides for young children, their families and society. The governor's $29.9 million increased investment in early childhood, with a focus on at-risk children, is essential to providing children opportunities and resources to succeed later in school and life.
  • Mentoring and Induction Program: The governor’s $8.1 million proposal for mentoring and induction programs is imperative to improve teacher quality and retention and realize No Child Left Behind mandates of ensuring qualified teachers in classrooms.

Network 21 strongly recommends that any increases to or restoration of other programs (such as non-mandated categorical programs) be provided through additional revenues.

In addition to the key priorities above, Network 21 strongly encourages the General Assembly and the governor to fund the following important initiatives:

  • Poverty Grants: Adopt HB 430 to change the poverty count measure from U.S. Census figures to Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) annual poverty counts. Phase-in incremental appropriations for these changes in the measure and the grant formula over four years.
  • School Construction Bond Program: Maintain $500 million bond-supported financing for school construction projects in FY 2004 as reflected in the governor’s budget proposal. In addition, commit now to extend bond authorization for FY 2005 to $1 billion so school districts have time to properly plan for school construction initiatives.
  • Education Technology: In FY 2003, education technology received a disproportionate reduction of $12.8 million or 26 percent of its FY 2002 budget. Restore education technology funding to $25 million and keep the “Technology for Success” grant program under the Illinois State Board of Education (not Central Management Services).
  • Chicago Teachers’ Pension: Fund Chicago teachers’ pensions at least at FY 2003 level of $65 million.

Network 21: Quality Schools for Stronger Communities is supporting:

HB 3541 (House: M. Madigan, D. Miller) Provides adequate education funding. A recently filed amendment will increase the foundation level to $5,665 over four years, with the first year increase at the governor’s $250 proposal. Changes poverty count source to the greater of Census or DHS and enacts a permanent continuing appropriation. The bill has been extended in the House Rules Committee through May 2, 2003.

HB 430 (House: D. Miller; Senate: P. Welch, J. Schoenberg) With a recent amendment filed by the Senate sponsor, the bill changes the poverty count source from Census to DHS data and changes the distribution of grants to the Education Funding Advisory Board recommended formula. The bill passed the House and passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee.

HB 2352 (House: J. Mitchell, B. Currie, C. Giles, R. Kozel) Requires annual assessment to meet No Child Left Behind requirements. SB 878 (Senate: M. del Valle) Revises the state’s watch list to determine adequate yearly progress. Network 21 continues to advocate that ISAT results be returned to schools the same academic year the tests are administered and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) be required to invest in professional development for the assessment system. ISBE staff have committed to implement both issues administratively. HB 2352 passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee. SB 878 passed the Senate and is currently in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

SB 22 lets local school districts raise the tax levy for health life safety ($0.10 increase for elementary and high school districts and $0.15 for unit districts) and moves the health life safety levy out from under the property tax cap. It restores local control to local districts, and enables them to address urgent repairs as needed. The bill passed the Senate and is currently in the House Revenue Committee.

SB 65 creates a state Early Learning Council, a crucial step toward the improvement and expansion of early learning programs statewide. It has received unanimous approval by the Senate as well as the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. It now awaits only a vote by the full House.

HB 294 would update income-eligibility guidelines for child care assistance, helping more low-income, working families to access child care for a longer period of time. Gov. Blagojevich's budget included an increase for child care, and advocates are working to target part of this increase toward income-eligibility efforts. This could be an amendment to HB 294, which passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 1(Senate: E.Jones; House: M. Madigan, J. Fritchey) creates a continuing appropriation for general state aid. The bill has passed the Senate and is being held in the House Rules Committee.

SB 23 (Senate: M. del Valle) adopts many of the recommendations made by the Education Funding Advisory Board: It raises the foundation level to $5,665 (in FY 2003 dollars) — the research-supported adequate level; changes the poverty countprocess so thatannually updated Department of Human Servicesnumbers are used(instead of the 1990 Census numbers currently being used) and adjusts the poverty grant formula; s ets up Local Property Tax Relief Fund; provides 37.5 percentproperty tax relief; increases individual income tax rate from three to four percentand corporate income tax from 4.8 to 6.4 percent. The bill remains in the Senate Education Committee and has had its deadline extended until May 31, 2003.

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