Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

In the News: State owes public schools $768 million

Two-thirds of Illinois school districts are operating in the red, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Since 2010, the state has come up lacking in general state aid for Illinois public school districts every year, shorting them $518 million for the 2012-13 school year alone. In all, the state owes public school districts $768 million, according to the Rockford Register Star.

CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER: Dr. Stephanie A. Whyte has joined Chicago Public Schools as its first ever Chief Health Officer. A board-certified pediatrician, she oversees student health and wellness policy and programming for the district with the goal of improving student achievement by removing health-related barriers. Whyte will collaborate with the Chicago Department of Public Health on the “Healthy Schools” component of the citywide “Healthy Chicago” initiatives.  (Release)

STUDENT HEATLH: CPS has unveiled its Healthy CPS Action Plan, a district-wide initiative to improve the health and wellness of Chicago’s students, according to a press release. Under the plan, CPS will work with the city's park district to provide increased space for physical activity to 150,000 students;  double the number of school-based gardens, increasing student access to fresh foods and providing new opportunities for hands-on science education; develop and implement a standardized curriculum for physical education across all grade levels; expand access to free oral health exams, dental cleanings and sealants for all high school students; ensure all students receive a free vision screening and that students who fail their screenings have access to a local optometrist and free eyeglasses.

Maine West in Des Plaines is one of the three Maine Township High School District 207 schools that will be conducting focus groups this month with a consultant hired to address hazing and bullying. (Daily Herald)

FUNDING INCREASE: Wisconsin's Republican president of the state Senate and the chairman of the Education Committee said Friday they are proposing an alternative plan to GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would allow public school spending to increase $150 more per student in each of the next two years. (San Francisco Chronicle)


Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

on the Rockford Register Star report

That was really some story from the Rockford Register Star on the fiscal problems of school districts. It's true that two thirds of school districts are operating in the red, but unfortunately the Illinois State Board of Education's analysis of the fiscal situation of school districts actually does not reflect that. In March of 2012 ISBE stated that "2012 financial profile scores show that the number of districts in Financial Recognition increased from last year’s 604 to this year’s 670 or 77.3 percent of 867 districts. While more districts have improved their financial standing, ISBE’s data also shows that school administrators continue to reduce their expenditures and increase borrowing to balance budgets."

The disconnect between ISBE's claim in the article that two thirds of districts are operating in the red and its own financial profile of the districts is more than apparent. It's based on the goofy way ISBE measures the fiscal health of districts. This system uses a fund balance to revenue ratio, expenditures to revenues ratio, days cash on hand, percent of short-term borrowing available, and percent of long-term debt remaining. The State Board of Education is required by law to calculate each district’s finances and to incorporate late payments, thus removing any impact of late payments for mandated categoricals such as pupil transportation, special education and other expenditures due to the state and the great recession. The school code was amended, effective August 2009, to specifically ensure that districts are not designated as being in financial difficulty solely due to delayed state payments.

So it's an absurd situation where very few districts are actually listed as being on the financial watch list. Using 2011 data only had 17 school districts listed as being on the financial watch list in 2012 and CPS was not among those. Those districts were Quincy SD 172, Hardin County CUSD 1 20, Streator ESD 44, Morris SD 54, Edwardsville CUSD 7, East St Louis SD 189, Marion CUSD 2, Paw Paw CUSD 271, Calhoun CUSD 40 , Union SD 81, St Libory Cons SD 30, Millburn CCSD 24, Neponset CCSD 307, Thornton Twp HSD 205, Ashton-Franklin Center CUSD 275 ,Bellwood SD 88, and Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview 89.

Most school districts are using short term borrowing and reserve funds, but these districts are formally not listed as being in trouble. The failure of the state to meet its payments for special education in particular are a big part of the reason for the fiscal difficulties of the districts. When this reality is tied up to federal sequestration and cuts to federal special education payments to the states we can see very clearly why ISBE is trying to revoke all special education class size rules and let districts decide what is "appropriate."

Given this fiscal reality if this revocation of rules happens it will be a disaster because there will be an avalanche of special education cuts that will be very ugly. Districts have to be allowed to waive rules when they are fiscally collapsing, but the extent of those waivers need to be carefully monitored. The proposed general revocation of class size rules will lead to a blood bath of special education teacher layoffs and have to be opposed actively by teachers and parents of children with disabilities.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago


Illinois gives us less money, but expects more from our schools. In the case of CPS ...they just passed the obligations down the line to the teacher in the form of SB 7. It just shocks me how little compassion and understanding that CPS has for its teachers and the poor condition of education. I know it's been said a million times...

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more