A group of school superintendents is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner and the State of Illinois seeking more than $7 billion for schools.
Last August, Illinois adopted a new school funding plan. It’s called the "evidence-based model" because it's calculated using dozens of metrics to determine how much money each district needs to provide kids with a good education. The State Board of Education, known as ISBE, says the total cost would be $7.2 billion. Lawmakers planned to get to that number over time, by appropriating around $350 million per year over the next decade.
But Dan Cox, superintendent of Staunton District 6, says schools that have been starved for cash for years want it now.
"We're seeking a judgment of $7.2 billion in [fiscal year 20] 19 ... to reflect the amount ISBE has always said is the amount required by Article X of the constitution,” Cox says. “We can't wait for the General Assembly at some future date to appropriate these funds."
State Sen. Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, hasn’t seen the complaint, but is skeptical.
"Setting aside the merits of whether that could be true — it's doubtful that it is — the obvious question is where do they think that money is going to come from?" he says. "Do they plan to cut $7 billion out of state government? Do they plan to advocate on behalf of the taxpayers in their school district families for a $7 billion dollar tax increase?”
The 22 districts are represented by Chicago attorney Thomas Geoghegan. He says a legal ruling is the best way to remind lawmakers that school funding has to be priority. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Saint Clair County.
Jackie Matthews, spokesperson for the state board, wouldn't comment on the lawsuit except to say it's consistent with the board's budget request.