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*** UPDATED x3 *** ISBE to vote on settling Urban League school funding lawsuit

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

*** UPDATE 1 ***  I’m hearing that the issues in the lawsuit have been so whittled down that this settlement will be very narrow. So, likely a false alarm. We’ll know more at about 4:30 this afternoon.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Yep. Really narrow. Not much there at all. Click here and go to page 173 of the board’s packet.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From CPS…

The Urban League raised critical and complex issues, challenging the State’s regressive methods of funding public education and its impact on the poor. We applaud the Urban League for its efforts.

Neither the Urban League case nor its settlement affects the lawsuit filed by CPS on Tuesday. The CPS case challenges Illinois’ discriminatory funding, which creates two separate and massively unequal systems of funding public education: one system for the predominantly white school districts in the rest of Illinois, and a separate system for CPS, whose African American, Hispanic, and other children of color make up 90 percent of Chicago students.

The State’s discriminatory system has shortchanged CPS by approximately $500 million in this fiscal year alone. CPS will continue to aggressively pursue its lawsuit.

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* The Illinois State Board of Education put out an agenda today for its upcoming Feb. 22nd meeting. Check out this item near the bottom…

Settlement Agreement in the Matter of the Chicago Urban League, et al. v. Illinois State Board of Education

I’ve put in calls to the State Board of Education, the Chicago Urban League and others and haven’t heard back yet. The State Board of Education’s chairman, James Meeks, hasn’t returned two calls but did say “Yes” via text when I asked if the ISBE was settling the lawsuit.

* For now, here’s some background on that particular suit

On August 20, 2008, plaintiffs in Chicago Urban League v. State of Illinois filed a complaint that asks the court to declare the state’s current school funding scheme unconstitutional. Plaintiffs claim that the education finance system is in violation of the education provision of the state constitution which guarantees all students “a high quality education” and that it also discriminates against families based on race in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.

On April 15, 2009, the Circuit Court of Cook County held that plaintiffs’ claim that the state education finance system has the effect of providing substantially lower dollar amounts per student in “majority-minority” school districts states a valid cause of action under the Illinois Civil Rights Act and that the case may therefore proceed to trial. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, individuals can not file discriminatory impact claims under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in federal court, but a private right of action is available under the Illinois Civil Rights Act, the provisions of which are similar to Title VI. Discovery and pre-trial motions have proceeded for the past several years. In this process, the court has narrowed the scope of the triable issues to include only actions taken by state board of education which may have a discriminatory impact; the impact of the basic state funding system enacted by the legislature is apparently beyond the scope of the issues that the court will consider.

The Illinois Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ education adequacy claims because of the binding precedent of Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d 1178 (1996), in which the Illinois Supreme Court held that adequacy claims are not justiciable. After the trial is completed on the Civil Rights Act issues, the Plaintiffs may appeal the adequacy issues to the Supreme Court to ask it to re-consider that precedent.

During the summer of 2016, the Illinois State Board of Education and the plaintiffs entered into a series of intensive negotiations to settle the case. State Superintendent Tony Smith has stated that the state’s funding system is archaic and harmful to minority students and he and a number of board members reportedly would like to settle the suit. However, according to the plaintiffs, the board’s representatives have walked away from the talks, leading the plaintiffs to file a motion for summary judgment. Under prodding from a number of legislators who agree that the system is inequitable, the state has in recent years compiled a substantial amount of data that the plaintiffs believe will help them to prove their case.

And click here for a column I wrote last fall about the settlement talks.

This could be huge, campers.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

13 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    – In this process, the court has narrowed the scope of the triable issues to include only actions taken by state board of education which may have a discriminatory impact; the impact of the basic state funding system enacted by the legislature is apparently beyond the scope of the issues that the court will consider.–

    So how much money can ISBE realistically shift around at its discretion to fund a settlement? General State Aid was $4.6B last year.


  2. - walker - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    Sounds like the state’s case is steadily deteriorating, and the plaintiffs will settle for some forward movement. Very interested in what the gives and takes are in the settlement.


  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:15 pm:

    Great. More money for Chicago. Tony Smith thinks it’s unfair the funding? So does every collar county resident that pays huge taxes for local schools. Working hard buying a smaller home in a good school district and driving a used car was the mistake I made. I should have gotten a lawyer. Please Governor. Line item veto much of ISBE budget. Pushing a settlement on a lawsuit to change funding behind the backs of every tax payer is a bigger joke than anything I have ever seen. Unreal.


  4. - JS Mill - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    =State Superintendent Tony Smith has stated that the state’s funding system is archaic and harmful to minority students and he and a number of board members reportedly would like to settle the suit.=

    Go to the Cicero 99 website and look at their books for the past 10 years. They are not being discriminated against.

    In recent years, the state created a pool of “supplemental” funds for districts highly reliant on GSA that were high poverty. Even though Cicero was running annual budget surpluses in the millions and tens of millions, they were still sent “supplemental” funding.

    Same with U 46. Last time I looked they had fund balances in excess of $500 million.

    It can be a challenge to understand how we “fund” poverty in schools, how we determine “wealthy” districts. It does not always work the way one thinks it does.
    This is really ridiculous.


  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:41 pm:

    –Same with U 46. –

    That’s an unusually large and sprawling district for the suburbs. Was that the result of past consolidations?


  6. - Echo The Bunnyman - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 2:03 pm:

    Tony Smith. Beth Purvis…Bruce Rauner… the very idea as the head of ISBE you would call funding unfair and try to settle a lawsuit for funding adequacy using the tax payers from all over the state for Chicago? Wait, it’s ok. Let the courts decide everything. JS Mill… stop trying to force people to search the “poor” districts… some of the suburban “rich” districts that have high taxes are not as fiscally sound as the poor. But, that ruins the narrative.


  7. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    Since when did ISBE have unexpended money lying around?

    Since Chicago Urban League schools have a positive balance on their books, why would ISBE settle? This doesn’t pass the smell test.


  8. - m - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 3:22 pm:

    =This doesn’t pass the smell test.=

    Agree.


  9. - Elliott Ness - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 3:44 pm:

    This actually does pass a smell test…… A rat, that’s what your smelling.


  10. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 3:55 pm:

    Regarding the UPDATE …
    Darn. If we could get state worker pay AND school funding on court ordered auto-pilot we’d be one step closer to turning the position of governor into truly ceremonial post and Bruce Rauner would have more time to commit to winning his wager with his 1 percenter pals of being pictured holding a Stag tallboy in every municipality in Illinois within a four year period, which is the real reason he ran for governor in the first place.


  11. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 4:02 pm:

    Kind of amazing the hoops people will jump through to defend the racist, classist status quo.


  12. - JS Mill - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 4:08 pm:

    =Was that the result of past consolidations?=

    I do not believe so. They have not “consolidated” anyone in a long time.

    And, you are correct- it is a huge district, second largest in Illinois.

    I may have come off a little harsh on U-46, they have a $1 billion dollar budget. That includes many interventions and specialist roles that many of us cannot afford though. They have significant needs and high poverty as well.

    But my point…getting supplemental GSA funding when they were in good condition with solid fund balances is hard to justify when others are hanging on by a thread.


  13. - JS Mill - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    =JS Mill… stop trying to force people to search the “poor” districts… some of the suburban “rich” districts that have high taxes are not as fiscally sound as the poor. But, that ruins the narrative.=

    Ruins the narrative? Stop asking people to do a bit in their own?

    Yeah, that makes sense if you are trying to hide something. Like the fact that many of these districts have, at best, a nominal tax rate and receive massive resources from the state, so much that they can’t spend it all or don’t and build up massive fund balances while many districts that are cutting and cutting a barely hanging on? No wonder some are in good financial condition. Our taxpayers are paying at a rate that is 35% higher than theirs and supplementing their annual surplus.

    When you can dispute the numbers come back and let me know.

    Otherwise maybe you are the one that needs to stop.


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