Lawmakers call for eliminating CPS funding block grant
SPRINGFIELD, IL - On the heels of yet another scathing public funds audit, lawmakers today began a renewed push to prioritize education funding and eliminate the Chicago Public School block grant which allows CPS to end-run the school aid formula.
“Schools in my area – and every other area of the state -- are owed $500 million in backlogged payments, but Chicago schools get at least $230 million in ‘extra’ funding from the state,” State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said. “Couple that with the most recent report from the Chicago Board of Education Inspector General that shows a rampant pattern of waste, fraud and abuse.” Rose is a former prosecutor.
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) noted that school districts in the 38th Senate District and surrounding area are owed over $5.7 million from the state.
The Chicago Board of Education Inspector General Annual Report for 2013 has come to light in the appropriations process.
“The Chicago schools Inspector General reported cases of school administrators faking data, creating ‘ghost students’ to pad enrollment and allow for hiring even more administrators. That’s taking money right out the pocket of schools in my district,” Rose said.
The bipartisan Education Funding Advisory Committee, of which Sen. Rezin is a member of, has recommended eliminating the Chicago schools block grant, which provides additional funding to the city. Instead, the school district would need to qualify for funding like all other districts.
Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) has introduction legislation (Senate Bill 2617) to accomplish the goal, but it remains bottled up in subcommittee.
“We need to establish more uniform treatment of school districts. This block grant is a separate funding stream granted to Chicago Public Schools that allows the school district to bypass funding formulas used for every other school district in the state. It is inherently unfair,” Althoff said. “There needs to be accountability.”
Althoff noted in the 2012-2013 school year, CPS received nearly double what it would have received if the district was reimbursed like all other school districts. CPS was awarded $477 million from the Education Services Block Grant. If recalculated under the formulas used for other school districts, CPS would have received $252 million.
“Given the amount of state support for Chicago Public Schools, the Inspector General’s report of waste, fraud and abuse needs to be vetted in the legislative process,” Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap). “There are serious allegations that data was faked and manipulated – all in a ploy to get more taxpayer funding. A public hearing on the block grant would be a good start. It would provide CPS an opportunity to come forward to explain the Inspector General’s report and how they use the Block Grant funding.” LaHood is a former prosecutor.
Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), also a former prosecutor, recalled the Illinois Auditor General’s most recent report on Governor Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. “Scathing audits have become commonplace, unfortunately. Governor Quinn and the Democrat majority took $26 billion in new money from the taxpayers since their tax increase and it’s now becoming clear how they spent it,” Righter said.
Rose said, “Last week it was NRI. Now we have a CPS Inspector General Report that shows the ghost enrolling in just one Chicago school building allowed the school to draw down hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. With fake data, they were able to hire an assistant principal and to keep seven non-teaching positions. It is just one example from the Inspector General. There is a pattern and practice of waste, fraud and abuse.
Rose continued, “Last week the Chairman of the State Board of Education told the Senate Appropriations Committee, ‘I don’t think our wallet is matching our priority.’ We couldn’t agree more. But when Governor Quinn spends $100 million of taxpayers’ dollars on a political slush fund like NRI and the Democrat majority continues to turn its back on school districts across the state, it doesn’t look like their actions match the rhetoric.”
The lawmakers noted legislation is advancing through the General Assembly to create new programs – requiring additional revenue -- while the State Board of Education struggles for funding to pay districts for existing programs.
The Inspector General’s 2013 report on Chicago Public Schools can be found at: http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Documents/OIG_FY_2013_AnnualReport.pdf.
Last year, Sen. Rezin toured several schools in her district to highlight the education funding disparities in Illinois after Senate Republicans released an in-depth report on the subject. She is pictured here explaining the disproportionate amount of funding Chicago Public Schools receives compared to downstate and suburban schools.