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Facebook flip-flop? State rep candidate changes post on school funding formula

State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, left, and opponent Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville.
State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, left, and opponent Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville.

A candidate for state representative in the metro-east posted support on Facebook for a controversial bill that would change Illinois’ school funding formula, but then she took it down.

Katie Stuart, the candidate who made the posting, committed a “huge flip-flop” on the issue, says her opponent, Rep. Dwight Kay.

Stuart, however, said the Facebook post was an accidental mistake. She said she supports more “equitable” funding for schools, but not necessarily the specific legislation in question: Senate Bill 231, which would shift a greater proportion of state aid to poor school districts.

The situation illustrates how the proposed change in the funding formula is a precarious issue for state lawmakers and candidates, whose districts can include schools that gain as well as schools that lose under the plan. Illinois House District 112 — which Kay represents and Stuarts wants to represent — covers Granite City schools, which stand to get $2.3 million more per year under the plan, as well as Edwardsville schools, which stand to lose $5 million annually.

Stuart, an Edwardsville Democrat who is running for state representative in the Illinois House District 112, posted to Facebook a photo of herself Monday at a rally with other supporters of Senate Bill 231, which would change the school funding formula.

Her post mentioned the bill by number, and she wrote, “I sincerely hope the bill passes in the House with enough votes to protect it against a veto by the governor.”

A few hours later, she revised the post — removing any mention of the bill and instead stating, “I sincerely hope the House recognizes the need to fix our funding formula for school districts.”

Kay, a Republican from Glen Carbon, called it a flip-flop.

“I’d say it’s a flip-flop, and a pretty serious one,” Kay said. “It’s a huge flip-flop. This is a catastrophic mistake.”

I’d say it’s a flip-flop, and a pretty serious one.

State Rep. Dwight Kay

Stuart said there was a “communication error” regarding the Facebook post.

“Basically there was a draft that got posted that wasn’t supposed to get posted,” she said. “So we fixed it.”

Stuart said she hasn’t yet fully analyzed Senate Bill 231.

“On that specific bill, I don’t think it’s a simple yes-no,” she said. “I’ve gotten conflicting reports on how different districts would be affected. I do know that a lot of schools in our area would be positively affected by it.”

On that specific bill, I don’t think it’s a simple yes-no. I’ve gotten conflicting reports on how different districts would be affected. I do know that a lot of schools in our area would be positively affected by it.

Katie Stuart, candidate for state representative

The change in the funding formula has been proposed by Democratic Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill. He says his plan would make funding more equitable by, among other things, taking into consideration a school district’s local property tax wealth when distributing state funds.

Currently, the amount Illinois school districts spend on education varies dramatically because as state funding has dropped, districts have become more reliant on local property taxes to cover costs. That means that poorer districts such as Taylorville spend about $7,000 per student annually, while wealthier districts such as Bannockburn spend close to $21,000.

Opponents of Manar’s plan — mostly Republicans — say it amounts to a bailout for Chicago Public Schools. An Illinois State Board of Education analysis of Manar’s plan shows CPS, which is facing a $1 billion budget deficit, would receive about $175 million more next year compared to last year. Republicans point to a provision of the bill that would pick up more than $200 million a year in teacher pension costs for CPS.

Kay said a number of metro-east school districts would be losers under Manar’s plan, including:

▪  Edwardsville District 7 would lose $5 million in state funding per year.

▪  O’Fallon Township High School would lose $1.1 million per year.

▪  Roxana District 1 would lose $1.6 million per year.

▪  O’Fallon District 90 (grades K-8) would lose $1.9 million per year.

▪  Central District 104 (grades K-8 in O’Fallon) would lose $520,000 per year.

▪  Belleville Township High School District 201 would lose $341,000 per year.

▪  Triad Unit 2 would lose $1.7 million per year.

▪  Highland Unit 5 would lose about $916,000 per year.

▪  Mascoutah Unit 19 would lose $1.24 million per year.

But there also would be some local winners, including:

▪  Belleville District 118 would see an annual increase of $1.1 million.

▪  Granite City Unit District 9 would see an annual increase of $2.3 million.

▪  Cahokia Unit District 187 would see an annual increase of $1.8 million.

▪  East St. Louis District 189 would see an annual increase of $729,000.

Districts that lose funding under Manar’s plan would not suffer the losses in the first year. His proposal includes a “hold-harmless” guarantee that no school district will receive less state funding next school year than it did this year, but the provision would be phased out over four years.

Kay said metro-east schools in total would eventually lose about $10 million annually. He said he suspects Democratic House leaders told Stuart she needed to back away from the bill.

“I think somebody, probably (House Speaker) Mike Madigan or one of his handlers, called her and said you better flip-flop because you’re going to cost the school districts in Madison and St. Clair counties millions of dollars in revenues, which are going to be sent to Chicago to cover pension costs,” Kay said. “That’s not going to happen under my watch.”

I think somebody, probably Mike Madigan or one of his handlers, called her and said you better flip-flop because you’re going to cost the school districts in Madison and St. Clair counties millions of dollars in revenues, which are going to be sent to Chicago to cover pension costs.

State Rep. Dwight Kay

Stuart said she supports a more equitable distribution of state funds to school districts, including a plan that would provide a greater proportion of state funding to poor districts and less to wealthy districts.

“There are districts that have more challenges than other districts,” she said. “We need to be able to support those districts and provide high-quality education for all students.”

Kent Redfield, an expert on Illinois politics, said changing the formula for distributing state funds to school districts is a tricky issue for politicians. He said it’s hard for politicians to support a measure that would hurt any schools in their districts.

“The only way to make this work politically is to have enough money so that you hold everybody harmless — nobody loses money. Then you’re taking new money from a new revenue source or revenue growth, and you’re distributing it in ways that reduce inequities that are related to poverty,” said Redfield, a professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois-Springfield.

He added, “If you’re in a situation like we’re in now, where we’ve lost a whole bunch of state revenue and we have a huge amount of debt, then you can’t make the math work without creating winners and losers.”

If you’re in a situation like we’re in now, where we’ve lost a whole bunch of state revenue and we have a huge amount of debt, then you can’t make the math work without creating winners and losers.

Kent Redfield, expert on Illinois politics

Every political district, Redfield said, is likely to have some schools that gain and some that lose.

“You’re just being presented with options that are really a no-win situation, politically,” he said. “So generally they’ll say they’re in favor of the concept, that we have to do something, but we have to make the math work. And the math doesn’t work without more money.”

And it’s not necessarily an urban vs. suburban vs. rural issue. Gainers under Manar’s complicated formula include the unit districts in rural areas such as Sandoval ($317,000 more per year), Du Quoin ($543,000 more per year) and Harrisburg ($795,000 more per year).

Senate Bill 231 passed in the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 31-21, with three senators voting “present.” The House has not yet voted on the bill.

Prayer vigil

The Kay-Stuart flap began Monday, with a prayer vigil held outside Kay’s office. It was organized by United Congregations of Metro-East, a church-based group that often addresses social issues, with support from Advance Illinois, a group that’s in favor of changing the funding formula.

The 35 or so attendees included some Granite City high school students and Granite City’s superintendent, Jim Greenwald.

Both Kay and Stuart spoke with the group, and were asked if they support Senate Bill 231.

Kay told the group he was reviewing the bill.

Stuart said she told the group she supports equitable funding, but didn’t go so far as to say she supports Senate Bill 231.

Video shows a student asking her, “Will you vote to bring equity to school funding in Illinois?”

She replied, “Yes, yes,”

“Straight yes?” the student asked.

“Straight yes,” she replied. “I disagree with Rep. Kay. Equity does not mean the same thing for every person. Every school is an individual school district, every student is an individual student. It takes different amounts of money to cover different needs for different people, and we have to recognize that in the state of Illinois, that we have different districts that have different needs and different problems.”

Later she posted pictures of the event on Facebook, along with the temporary remark about supporting Senate Bill 231.

Kay said Edwardsville’s school superintendent, Lynda Andre, is concerned about the bill.

“The superintendent has already called me. She’s absolutely outraged that we’d even be considering this kind of bill,” Kay said.

Andre declined comment for a reporter, saying “there is not definitive information available about the bill and its amendments.”

Brian Brueggemann: 618-239-2475, @B_Brueggemann

District Name / Gain or loss (loss in parentheses)

  • MULBERRY GROVE C U SCH DIST 1: $67,920.42
  • BOND CO C U SCHOOL DIST 2: $212,541.73
  • ALTAMONT COMM UNIT SCH DIST 10: $169,674.76
  • BEECHER CITY C U SCHOOL DIST 20: $3,001.24
  • EFFINGHAM COMM UNIT SCH DIST 40: $133,474.36
  • BROWNSTOWN C U SCH DIST 201: $271,412.91
  • ST ELMO C U SCHOOL DIST 202: $109,212.68
  • VANDALIA C U SCH DIST 203: $433,623.43
  • RAMSEY COMM UNIT SCH DIST 204: $249,515.78
  • ST ROSE SCHOOL DISTRICT 14-15: ($67,575.60)
  • RACCOON CONS SCHOOL DIST 1: ($19,460.46)
  • KELL CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DIST 2: $27,973.03
  • IUKA COMM CONS SCHOOL DIST 7: $114,153.51
  • SELMAVILLE C C SCH DIST 10: ($75,102.23)
  • PATOKA COMM UNIT SCH DIST 100: ($235,430.00)
  • SALEM SCHOOL DIST 111: $367,146.40
  • CENTRAL CITY SCHOOL DIST 133: $56,458.09
  • CENTRALIA SCHOOL DIST 135: $816,182.15
  • CENTRALIA H S DIST 200: $469,497.29
  • SOUTH CENTRAL COMM UNIT DIST 401: $231,118.33
  • SANDOVAL C U SCHOOL DIST 501: $317,841.51
  • SALEM COMM H S DIST 600: ($18,948.19)
  • ODIN PS DISTRICT 722: $158,431.06
  • ALT SCH-BOND/EFFINGHAM/FAYETTE RO: ($30,959.66)
  • SAFE SCH-BOND/EFFINGHAM/FAYETTE R: ($10,723.27)
  • CARLYLE C U SCHOOL DISTRICT 1: ($174,058.01)
  • WESCLIN C U SCHOOL DISTRICT 3: ($385,727.21)
  • BREESE SCHOOL DISTRICT 12: ($111,968.24)
  • AVISTON SCHOOL DISTRICT 21: ($144,658.84)
  • WILLOW GROVE SCHOOL DISTRICT 46: $81,529.83
  • BARTELSO SCHOOL DISTRICT 57: ($65,828.93)
  • GERMANTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT 60: ($73,747.20)
  • DAMIANSVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT 62: ($3,973.33
  • ALBERS SCHOOL DISTRICT 63: ($35,738.28)
  • CENTRAL COMMUNITY H S DIST 71: ($304,958.13)
  • NORTH WAMAC SCHOOL DISTRICT 186: $92,946.11
  • OAKDALE C C SCHOOL DISTRICT 1: ($6,939.82)
  • WEST WASHINGTON CO C U DIST 10: ($78,446.64)
  • IRVINGTON C C SCH DISTRICT 11: $34,283.85
  • HOYLETON CONS SCH DISTRICT 29: $6,473.34
  • NASHVILLE C C SCH DISTRICT 49: ($87,911.49)
  • NASHVILLE COMM H S DISTRICT 99: ($129,191.25)
  • TRIAD COMM UNIT SCHOOL DIST 2: ($1,712,308.68)
  • HIGHLAND COMM UNIT SCH DIST 5: ($916,540.80)
  • MASCOUTAH C U DISTRICT 19: ($1,246,944.26)
  • ALT SCH-CLINTON/MARION/WASHINGTON: ($14,138.84)
  • SAFE SCH-CLINTON/MARION/WASHINGTON: ($7,602.07)
  • ROXANA COMM UNIT SCHOOL DIST 1: ($1,686,488.51)
  • BETHALTO C U SCHOOL DIST 8: ($116,359.69)
  • ALTON COMM UNIT SCHOOL DIST 11: $91,513.08
  • EAST ALTON SCHOOL DISTRICT 13: $319,820.97
  • EAST ALTON-WOOD RIVER C H S D 14: $161,058.22
  • WOOD RIVER-HARTFORD ELEM S D 15: $89,571.10
  • EDWARDSVILLE C U SCHOOL DIST 7: ($5,015,259.80)
  • COLLINSVILLE C U SCH DIST 10: $622,990.06
  • CENTRAL SCHOOL DIST 104: ($520,826.00)
  • SAFE SCH-MADISON ROE: ($18,516.92)
  • VENICE COMM UNIT SCHOOL DIST 3: ($134,190.00)
  • GRANITE CITY C U SCHOOL DIST 9: $2,319,188.49
  • MADISON COMM UNIT SCH DIST 12: $79,549.24
  • PONTIAC-W HOLLIDAY SCH DIST 105: ($471,485.23)
  • GRANT COMM CONS SCH DIST 110: ($97,386.22)
  • WOLF BRANCH SCH DIST 113: ($577,809.39)
  • HIGH MOUNT SCHOOL DIST 116: $77,268.98
  • BELLEVILLE SCHOOL DIST 118: $1,113,704.36
  • HARMONY EMGE SCHOOL DIST 175: ($49,019.60)
  • SIGNAL HILL SCH DIST 181: ($6,177.21)
  • BROOKLYN UNIT DISTRICT 188: ($19,926.11)
  • BELLEVILLE TWP HS DIST 201: ($341,662.71)
  • SAFE SCH-ST CLAIR ROE: ($22,399.73)
  • LEBANON COMM UNIT SCH DIST 9: ($116,420.67)
  • FREEBURG C C SCHOOL DIST 70: ($442,395.16)
  • FREEBURG COMM H S DIST 77: ($368,384.24)
  • SHILOH VILLAGE SCHOOL DIST 85: ($219,584.54)
  • O FALLON C C SCHOOL DIST 90: ($1,958,891.49)
  • WHITESIDE SCHOOL DIST 115: ($438,089.25)
  • BELLE VALLEY SCHOOL DIST 119: $208,255.66
  • SMITHTON C C SCHOOL DIST 130: ($298,430.86)
  • MILLSTADT C C SCH DIST 160: ($494,336.69)
  • CAHOKIA COMM UNIT SCH DIST 187: $1,834,279.59
  • EAST ST LOUIS SCHOOL DIST 189: $729,991.80
  • O FALLON TWP HIGH SCH DIST 203: ($1,179,261.59)
  • PINCKNEYVILLE SCH DIST 50: $37,679.96
  • PINCKNEYVILLE COMM H S DIST 101: ($30,194.62)
  • COMMUNITY CONS SCH DIST 204: ($88,503.33)
  • VALMEYER COMM UNIT SCH DIST 3: ($222,318.05)
  • COLUMBIA COMM UNIT SCH DIST 4: ($1,255,802.89)
  • WATERLOO COMM UNIT SCH DIST 5: ($1,598,338.38)
  • COULTERVILLE UNIT SCHOOL DIST 1: $66,998.61
  • CHESTER N H SCHOOL DIST 122: ($971.71)
  • RED BUD C U SCHOOL DIST 132: ($627,074.53)
  • PRAIRIE DU ROCHER C C S D 134: $33,200.32
  • STEELEVILLE C U SCH DIST 138: ($88,939.82)
  • CHESTER COMM UNIT SCH DIST 139: $234,722.27
  • SPARTA C U SCHOOL DIST 140: $340,655.91
  • ST LIBORY CONS SCH DIST 30: ($18,407.05)
  • MARISSA C U SCH DIST 40: $219,217.93
  • NEW ATHENS C U SCHOOL DIST 60: ($133,888.41)
  • DUPO COMM UNIT SCH DISTRICT 196: $434,076.73
  • ALT SCH-MONROE/RANDOLPH ROE: ($41,851.14)
  • SAFE SCH-MONROE/RANDOLPH ROE: ($8,330.98)
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