Parents of Illinois public school students have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to secure what they consider adequate funding for the coming school year.
In a complaint filed Aug. 10 in Cook County Circuit Court, three mothers — Lisa Kuliseck, Amy McNeil and MaryBeth Linse — sued the state, naming as defendants Illinois State Board of Education and Comptroller Susana Mendoza, claiming they and their children have been injured by the failure of state officials to pay the amounts allocated to their school districts and hampering nutrition and special education programs, and further asserting they will be irreparably harmed if the state does not immediately employ the evidence-based funding allocation system called for in a newly adopted state budget.
Kulisek has two children attending Jackson Language Academy in Chicago, and said if Chicago Public Schools facilities are closed over a lack of state funding, she will be unable to work.
According to the complaint, McNeil has two children with autism. Both are nonverbal; an 18-year-old daughter is in the full-time special education program at Herrin High School,z while her son is entering kindergarten at Tri-C Elementary School, part of Carterville Community Unit School District 5. She said Williamson County is borrowing money to make up for delayed state payments to District 5, but its lender “refuses to extend credit further for the next fiscal year”
Linse, who lives in McHenry, has a child who is a quadriplegic and qualifies for special education services at her local school, but she has not lived at home for two years due to a lack of funding for home care services. Linse said the state budget impasse led her to move from Lake County in search of more affordable care.
In their complaint, the women raised issue with delays and prorations in the state’s scheduled quarterly disbursements to school districts for mandated categorical programs. They said the recently approved state budget includes more than $1.7 billion for categorical payments due in fiscal 2017. On Aug. 10, Mendoza said she directed payment of $429 million in mandated categorical grants.
The women also cited the General Assembly’s July 6 override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the state budget, and specifically a shift to evidence-based public education funding outlined in Senate Bill 6.
Under the new model, the complaint said, state money would be allocated to districts using unique adequacy targets calculated for each district “based on considerations of staffing, student populations and administration and operation needs; enrollment; demographics; and relative regional costs.” Districts are to be placed in tiers based on how spending relates to adequacy targets, and those farthest from their targets get the most benefit from increases in state funding.
The women said the new approach represents “a clear rejection of Illinois’ historical, and indisputably broken, approach to school funding, which experts and politicians of both parties generally agreed had been failing Illinois’ children.”
The first payments authorized under SB6 were slated to be issued Aug. 10, but Rauner’s Aug. 1 amendatory veto on Senate Bill 1, which puts in place the model to satisfy requirements set forth in SB6, has cast uncertainty on when full implementation of the Legislature’s intended reforms will take place.
As such, the women asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus forcing Mendoza to release and distribute any remaining fiscal 2017 categorical payments, and to enjoin the state from distributing general state aid for fiscal 2018 using any method aside from the evidence-based approach now considered state law under SB6.
Representing the women are attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP, of Chicago.