Rose raises concerns about 'unrealistic' school funding proposal
Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) held nothing back in his discussion with Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Superintendent Tony Smith at Tuesday’s Senate Appropriations II Committee hearing.
At the hearing regarding ISBE’s FY19 budget request of $350 million based on a new evidence-based formula, Rose said he was not sure where to start after Smith told Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) he did not believe the budget before him was "realistic" and also said he was unwilling to discuss Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget with the lawmakers.
“We are here for the governor’s budget, and I only have one question on the governor’s budget and it is pretty simple, it is a yes or no question,” Rose said. “Does the governor’s recommended budget for evidence-based funding in FY19 meet the $350 million dollar funding level, yes or no?”
“Yes,” Robert Wolfe, chief financial officer for ISBE, said.
But Rose made it clear that he did not ask Wolfe and posed the question to Smith once more. After Smith agreed with Wolfe, Rose said he appreciated Smith’s candor that the budget was not “realistic” and that he admitted as such before discussing the budget he said was filled with “cogitative dissidence.”
“I can’t go back to Moultrie County, Illinois, and explain why the taxpayers, whether they are federal or state, are paying for a storyteller when their property taxes are going up,” Rose said.
Rose said he also has issues with the many prorations proposed in the $350 million budget, specifically bringing up the Southwest Organizing Project.
“I read the description of that and I find it kind of interesting,” Rose said, reading the explanation to recruit and train approximately eight parents per school to volunteer in a classroom for two to four days a week, receiving a $4,000 taxpayer funded stipend after 100 hours are reached.
“Do you know what that sounds like to me,” Rose said. “That sounds like teacher’s aides. Every teachers aide in my kid's school is a parent and they are earning a little bit extra income, you know what the difference is – our schools are paying for it out of our dime.”
Rose said the only difference is some teachers are getting a W2 and others are getting a 1099 for their time.
Smith said the outreach to engage parents has a significant positive impact on student outcomes, to which Rose countered that he has a school in his district that is almost 73 percent poverty and wanted to know why they don’t get an organizing project with the same benefits.
Smith said the Southwest Organizing Project made a case at a budget hearing and the funding was approved.
“So should I tell my schools to come to your meetings and you think that is realistic since we are not talking about reality in your budget,” Smith said, adding he will advise "his superintendents to storm" into Smith's meetings to seek funding.
Smith said Rose was welcome to come to an ISBE meeting.
Rose said “for reality sake,” he wanted to know about the disbursement of funds, which according to Wolfe is underway with the ISBE comptroller anticipating the 2019 tier funding to be distributed in the last quarter of FY18.
“Robert, I am not asking you this, I am asking the superintendent this,” Rose said of supplementing categorical payments with tier funding payments.
Smith said he does not believe any supplementing will occur between the tier and categorical funding, but could not speak to when exactly that would happen.
After almost 30 minutes of back-and-forth comments, Rose reminded Smith that he asked for the superintendent's assistance in the past and it was never given. “I would suggest that you or anybody else that comes before this committee bring a realistic one and not an unrealistic one,” Rose said.