* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service…
Rauner’s Education Secretary Beth Purvis said the Democrats’ bill is an evidence-based plan, but it also provides hundreds of millions of dollars to Chicago Public Schools pensions above and beyond the funding formula.
Purvis said that in 1995, an agreement was made that, because the state didn’t pay for the cost of Chicago Public Schools pensions, it instead would send a block grant, which is about $250 million a year “that is over and above what they would otherwise get within the school funding formula.”
“And the idea was, ‘Chicago Public Schools, we’re going to give you that money and pay down your pensions’,” Purvis said. “Now CPS didn’t use that $250 million to pay down their pensions. In 11 of 25 years, they only made partial payment or no pension [payments].”
Purvis said by ignoring that pension debt, the health of CPS pension funds deteriorated rapidly.
“Our argument is … it’s as if your parents gave you money to pay for your college tuition,” Purvis said. “You didn’t pay for your college tuition, instead you bought a car. That car got you to and from school so it’s important but now you’re going back to your parents and saying, ‘Hey, can I have some of my brother and sister’s college money to pay down my college debt?’ I just don’t think that’s fair.”
* Dusty Rhodes at WUIS earlier this week…
In reality, the CPS block grant has no formal relationship to pensions. All districts receive state reimbursement for seven “categoricals” above what they receive in General State Aid. Every district except Chicago has to submit vouchers to get reimbursed for these categoricals. But since 1995, Chicago has been reimbursed via a block grant, based, at least in part, on the reality that submitting claims for thousands of different students was burdensome. Over the years, as CPS enrollment has declined, the block grant resulted in the district receiving $250 million more than it would if it had to submit vouchers for reimbursement.
Rauner’s education czar Beth Purvis has said those extra funds have been audited, and aren’t being misspent. “There’s no implication that CPS is misusing those funds in any way, shape or form,” she told me in May. “We believe that they’re using them for the educational costs of educating those children.”