–‘Make them compete for dollars like Tuscola and every other school district does’
By Colleen Lehmann
In the race for much-needed and increasingly dwindling funding from state and federal resources, school districts are having to rely more and more on their local taxpayers to provide for education essentials. Cuts continue to be made, and promised payments are often lagging months behind schedule.
With education dollars at a premium, State Senator Chapin Rose says he and other lawmakers were particularly outraged by findings uncovered by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the FY 2013 report on Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Systemic fraud, waste, and abuse to the tune of millions of dollars has prompted lawmakers to call for eliminating CPS block grant funding and instead make CPS compete for dollars under the same school-aid formula by which the rest of the state abides.
“Schools in my area—and every other area of the state—are owed $500 million in backlogged payments, but Chicago schools get at least $230 million in ‘extra’ funding from the state,” Sen. Rose said at a recent stop at Tuscola’s East Prairie Middle School on March 11, 2014. “Couple that with the most recent report from the Chicago Board of Education inspector general that came to light in the appropriations process–which shows a rampant pattern of waste, fraud and abuse. It’s unconscionable. I’m a former prosecutor, and even I was shocked by what was uncovered.”
Sen. Rose said the OIG report detailed “cases of school administrators faking data, creating ‘ghost students’ to pad enrollment and allow for hiring even more administrators. That’s taking money right out of the pockets of schools in my district.”
Tuscola Superintendent Michael Smith noted, “The bigger crime is that the less we’re given, the more we have to do locally; its put on the backs of local taxpayers and businesses. He verified that Tuscola School District #301 is currently owed approximately $149,000 in state reimbursements.
•Call for funding changes
In response to the report, Rose said the bipartisan Education Funding Advisory Committee “has recommended eliminating the CPS block grant, which provides additional funding to the city, and instead recommends the school district needs to qualify for funding like all other districts.”
Rose said he is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 2617, introduced by Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) that would accomplish that goal. He is asking local residents to take a look at the OIG report, then contact legislators and the governor “to say we don’t coddle this practice of waste, fraud, and abuse.” And, added Rose, “In addition, we are calling for a criminal investigation. I would like the inspector general to come before us to report the findings.”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 19, 2014 edition