SPRINGFIELD, IL – A scathing report on the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has raised concerns that area school districts are paying a "corruption tax" that subsidizes waste, mismanagement and fraud and shortchanges schools in the 53rd District and across Illinois, State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) says.
Barickman joined other downstate and suburban lawmakers on Thursday, in a renewed push to prioritize education funding and eliminate a special block grant which allows CPS to end-run the school aid formula.
"Schools in my area are owed more than $16 million in backlogged payments, while circumventing the state's allocation formulas allows Chicago schools to get at least $230 million in 'extra' funding from the state," State Senator Barickman said. "At the same time, a recent report from the Chicago Board of Education Inspector General exposed a disturbing pattern of waste, abuse and even outright fraud.
Barickman said the unequal treatment between Chicago and other schools districts "amounts to a corruption tax, because local school districts get shortchanged while the Chicago schools are allowed to go around the allocation formula and that helps offset the money the school district wastes through abuse and fraud."
Barickman explained that the Chicago Board of Education Inspector General's Annual Report for 2013 came to light recently during the Senate's state budget review process.
That report found cases of school administrators faking data and even creating 'ghost students' to pad enrollment and secure more funding.
The waste and fraud identified by the Inspector General was particularly disturbing, Barickman said, because many school districts in the 53rd District and surrounding areas are still owed money by the state, primarily for "mandated categorical" programs such as transportation, special education and free lunch programs for poor children.
According to figures supplied by the Illinois State Board of Education, school districts in the 53rd District, including Pontiac CCSD 429 and Township High School District 90, McLean County District 5, Central CUSD 4 in Iroquois County, El Paso-Gridley, Prairie Central and others are owed just over $8 million, while other area school districts, including Bloomington, Kankakee and Danville are also owed more than $8 million. (Itemized lists attached)
"School districts that are owed thousands of dollars in back payment should be justifiably outraged that they aren't getting the payments they deserve, while the kinds of abuse outlined in the Inspector General's report are occurring," Barickman said.
Earlier this year, a special bipartisan Education Funding Advisory Committee, which Barickman served on, recommended eliminating the Chicago schools block grant.
Barickman said as the committee studied school funding, they found that the special Chicago block grant serves as 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.