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Illinois Sued Over “Separate But Unequal” School Funding

school funding

On February 14, 2017,  Chicago’s school system sued Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois board of education. The plaintiffs claim that the Department of Education and Governor violated the civil rights of minority children. They alleged that the state school funding system was prejudiced.  The plaintiffs, five Chicago public schools families, want the state of Illinois to be barred from distributing state aid in a manner that discriminates against the plaintiffs.

Recent Lawsuits Against Illinois’ Education System

The State of Illinois has been accused of being racially biased before. Recently, in 2008, the Urban League sued the state alleging that the schools discriminate against minority students across Illinois. The lawsuit still remains and alleges that the state has violated the Illinois Civil Rights Act. However, this suit deals with the entire state and not just Chicago.

What Is the Lawsuit?

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that children in the Chicago Public School districts are predominately African American and Hispanic. It alleges that the State treats them as second-class citizens because the Chicago Public schools receive very little school funding. According to the lawsuit, Cook County receives only about 15% of the state’s school funding, but 20% of the students in Illinois live in Cook County. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claims two different school funding systems exist.

The first system is for Chicago Public schools, which consist mainly of minority students. The other serves the rest of Illinois schools, which consist of mainly white students. Chicago schools receive less funding for teachers and for the schools in general. The Illinois Civil Rights law says that “if the burdens of a state policy fall disproportionately on members of particular racial groups, the state must advance a weighty justification.” Therefore, the plaintiffs claim that the plaintiffs have been victims of discrimination.

Governor Rauner’s Response

Governor Rauner claims that Chicago has received more money than it should have in 2016. Actually, the Governor has claimed that the Chicago Public schools have received more money than any other district in Illinois. Rauner has focused on adopting a new formula that would account for poverty. It usually takes more money to educate an impoverished part of the state than a student who does not live in poverty. Additionally, state Education secretary has stated that Chicago Public Schools must take responsibility for their money problems. She does not believe the governor needs to work on this. In her opinion, the governor has increased funding and believes the problem remains mismanagement.

Will They Work Out a Compromise?

Democrats in Illinois have disliked the Governor since his election in 2014. Since July of 2015, Illinois has never had full-year budget. The General Assembly and the Governor have failed to reach a compromise. Recently, in December, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent $215 million to Chicago Public Schools for pension payments. He wanted pension reform.  The school system announced would have to freeze $69 million in spending to deal with the shortfall. Can they begin a compromise in 2017?

About the Firm


Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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