Martinez calls for probe of allegedly 'leaked' school funding formula numbers
Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) joined several Democratic colleagues recently in calling for an investigation into what they called a leak of false information by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration regarding a bill on school funding.
The Kankakee Times, a publication affiliated with the Chicago City Wire, released an analysis documenting the potential financial effects Senate Bill 1 would have by allegedly favoring Chicago Public Schools (CPS) over downstate districts, including in Kankakee County.
The Times report relied on an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) of Manar's previously proposed formula changes. The information is available on ISBE's website. During a press conference called in response to the report, Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said the figures were based on outdated data because the bill had been revised.
However, Manar said an ISBE analysis of the revised bill was not performed before the Senate passed the bill, so he couldn't refute the previous analysis with new data.
Senators who voted for SB1 lacked information showing how the new formula would impact funding for school districts, Manar admitted. He said that's not unusual.
"We’ve requested them," he said. "It takes time. I don’t think there is anything going on here other than what the normal process is."
Martinez criticized Rauner for wanting to put out false information that would lead the public to think Democrats don't care about all schoolchildren throughout the state.
“If you look at Senate Bill 1, it aims to make sure that all children in Illinois get an equal education,” Martinez said in the press conference. “But apparently, Gov. Rauner and his administration think that some children don’t deserve the same chance. Apparently, children in Chicago Public Schools did something wrong by being low income, by being black or brown, or that they don’t deserve equal opportunities across the state.”
Martinez also argued that characterizing the bill as a “bailout” for CPS is inaccurate.
“It is our responsibility as legislators to make sure that the circumstances that children are born into do not dictate the education they receive,” Martinez said. “It’s our job to stand up for every children in our state. In order to regain trust and maintain transparency during this important process, I, too, stand with my colleagues in urging the inspector general to conduct an investigation into this matter. I am tired of hearing the term ‘bailing out CPS.’ CPS, again, is the third-largest school district [in the country] with so many challenges.”
The Rauner administration responded by questioning how readily available information could be considered "leaked."
“The Senate Democrats today jumped the shark,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Rauner, said in a statement. “One cannot leak something that is on a public website. Their false and outrageous accusations have been disproven, and they should apologize for manufacturing blatantly false accusations.”
The investigation request came in the form of a letter signed by Martinez, Sens. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) and Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), and Assistant Majority Leader Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).
“It has been brought to our attention that records and information from Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration and the Illinois State Board of Education were provided to a political group funded by the governor’s campaign. This is disturbing,” the letter reads.
The Kankakee Times is not affiliated with the Rauner Administration.