And it was so obvious from the time it was first introduced. It is one more lie told by bureaucrats masquerading as experts. It’s one more way the government wasted your money and still wants to keep the program in place.
There were a few of us five years ago who didn’t buy into any of it. Not just the program itself that had been tried in other states and failed, but also the particular way the program in Illinois was being implemented.
I am talking about the complete failure of Evidenced Based School Funding (EBF), the new system adopted to spend state money on education in 2017. At the time of the bill’s passage, Illinois was the number one state for reliance on local taxes to fund schools. This created large disparities in how much was spent on education among our 862 school districts (Florida, with nearly 70% more people, has only 68 school districts, btw); those disparities were mostly a factor of local property wealth and the numerous special grants that overtook the old general state aid formula over time.
In order to more equitably fund schools, superintendents wanted to adopt this new funding idea proposed by a few PhDs sitting in tenured academic positions far removed from reality.
These are the same experts who bought whole language, common core math, portrait of a graduate, and social-emotional learning to education. Their track record of improving education is abysmal.
Evidenced-based funding is predicated on the assumption that if you spend enough money on designated categories of education, then you will get better results. The experts call these the “27 Essentials” for funding education. In Illinois, it is a series of seven spreadsheets, one of them going out 89 columns, and many of the cells have additional complicated calculations behind them. The experts have attempted to build the model school and the model amount of spending based on each school’s student population. They are so sure of themselves that they have this calculation down to the penny!
That’s when you know it all a bunch of BS. To the Penny? Good Grief.
The evidence-based formula funds their ideal school – from the number of teachers, administrators, nurses, special teachers, and other staff needed per student to the amount needed annually for maintenance, technology, curriculum, assessments, activities, and more – DOWN TO THE PENNY. The formula takes into account student demographics like low-income and English language learners and is recalculated every year for changes in student population, property wealth (that is a whole different area I will discuss in the future), and inflation.
I highly encourage you to look at the spreadsheet yourself. You can find the 2023 distribution at this link: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/ebfdistribution.aspx. Click on the link for the Full FY 2023 EBF Calculation.
In 2017, my friend Ted Dabrowski wrote in an Illinois Policy article that, “Ohio, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Wyoming have all had “evidence-based” funding in place – some for up to a decade – and have collectively spent billions of additional dollars on select education programs. In all those states, not only has student achievement on NAEP tests failed to grow at the rate the “evidenced-based funding model promises, but achievement has been virtually flat.” The three lobbyists who wrote and promoted the bill for years claim the reason it failed in those states is because they didn’t spend enough money.
IT'S ALWAYS NOT ENOUGH MONEY.
At the five-year mark, the state board of education was directed by legislation to do an analysis of how the funding formula is working. You can read the report that came out in July 2022 here. The historical section of the report is probably the most valuable part for people new to this topic.
Bottom line from the report: the bureaucrat's conclusion is, as designed, more money is going to districts with higher needs and less property wealth, BUT we need even more money to get to adequacy.
AND, as to academic improvement, the bureaucrat's conclusion is, don’t blame our elaborate plan; lack of improvement is due to COVID and the lag time between spending more money and seeing improved test scores.
No one should be surprised about this.
So it was interesting this week to listen in to the Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations committee that had a hearing on the results of EBF. The committee invited six superintendents in to give testimony. I took the time to check out their individual districts myself.
Here is a screenshot of a spreadsheet I put together based on information available on the ISBE website.
What does this tell us? First, the Final Adequacy number is the total amount of money their 89-column, 7 spreadsheet calculation says they need to fund an adequate education for their students. In all cases, in 2022, those schools already have revenues that far exceed their adequacy number – and it is not all related to extra federal money for COVID. Second, in all but one school district, test scores plummeted! Despite massive infusions of money, student outcomes are worse.
In every case, though, the Superintendents who testified in the House Committee, denied that they had enough money despite the evidence that they have met adequacy according to the public data. And they all made excuses for performance failures. They said that the test scores don’t actually measure student performance and that it is unfair to compare them to other states or to each other.
Of particular note, is the “Preacher”- Superintendent from Vienna, Mr. Joshua Stafford. He asked for an “Alleluia” and “Amen” for the success of EBF. I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, his student proficiency has dropped from 41% in 2017 to 24% now. Mr. Stafford also went off on a tangent, remarking how successful Illinois is compared to Indiana as we hit a trillion-dollar GDP, and Indiana’s economy is just half of ours. First, that trillion-dollar economy, which of course, we are glad Illinois met, is an inflationary economic figure, and secondly, what Stafford should be comparing is that Illinois spends 42% more on education than Indiana, and Indiana has better NAEP scores. Check out these charts from our friends at Wirepoints.
When State Rep Brad Halbrook asked why Stafford wanted to dance on the tables (he said we should be doing so because everything is going great in Vienna), both he and Jennifer Garrison, the superintendent for Vandalia, said the tests are not true assessments of student performance.
Well – how else are we to measure student achievement? Should we scrap all testing? Never measure anything? These people would not survive in the private sector, where performance is measured daily in many professions. FIVE YEARS OF BILLIONS IN MORE MONEY AND NO IMPROVEMENT! And none of the experts can adequately explain that.
There are plenty of unanswered questions. Conservative state reps met with staff and asked a number of questions following the hearing. The big question is how can these superintendents say they are not adequately funded when the data shows they have revenues that far exceed the EBF adequacy target, including the per-pupil adequacy target.
Nothing adds up between the data and the conversations. If they come back and say that the Adequacy number isn’t the whole number needed to fund students or that the revenue number in the report card includes items not covered by the adequacy number, then that only means they believe we can’t educate students until every school district is spending a minimum of 20-25-30, 000 per student. That is insanity. But, they want you to believe that. We are already spending those amounts. And Chicago is spending nearly $30k/student, and only 25% are proficient.
The answer to all of this, of course, is school choice funded by Educational Savings Accounts that fund students and not systems. Let competition bring out the best schooling for students who have varied interests and needs.
Much more to follow on this.
Last week I promised to highlight a few bills that would be good ideas. I am going to present that next week as the EBF topic was more important to cover.
But this bill from downstate Senator Chapin Rose caught our eye, and we just had to do a graphic on it.
SB 1867 - Creates the If This Is Such A Good Idea, Let's Start With You Act.
1. Convert Millennium Park into a solar energy park.
2. The City of Chicago must mount one wind energy turbine on Cloud Gate (The Bean exhibit) in Millennium Park.
3. The City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District must place at least one wind energy facility in each public park operated by the City or Park District.
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