Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) led the effort to send a letter, along with nine other members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, to Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch urging the state to reconsider the decision to move school districts toward a reimbursement model and away from the current advance funding model. On January 10th, 2011, it was announced that there would be a change in how local education agencies receive federal funding through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Schools use Title I funds for various reasons such as providing additional educational services to disadvantaged children, improving literacy through school libraries, and working on ways to reduce school dropout rates. IDEA funds are used to develop individualized education programs and services for children with disabilities.
The proposed change becomes effective for the 2011-2012 school year. Beginning July 1, 2011 school districts are required to apply for reimbursement after they have provided the services for Title 1 and IDEA. Critics argue this move has the potential to be detrimental to school districts which do not have the necessary cash reserves or cash flow needed to pay for the services upfront. In the letter to the State Superintendent, the Congressional delegation notes their concern that "for many school districts, especially smaller and rural school districts, this change can be detrimental as they may not have the necessary funding available to absorb the initial cost upfront."
"I am very concerned that this decision to move away from the current system will force school districts to make additional tough financial choices and forgo services that would directly benefit the students," said Schock. "A lot of our smaller and rural school districts don't have the resources to fund expenditures up front, so this new decision will put them at a severe disadvantage.
"On top of it all the state of Illinois is in a very difficult financially strapped position with their own budget deficits. To have to rely on the state to reimburse a school district after they have already made a purchase is definitely a concerning aspect of this change in the funding model." Schock's concerns about the state's budget gap is also expressed by the group in their letter to Dr. Koch.
In the letter, the members of Congress state, "This change to the reimbursement model is especially troubling given the fact that the State of Illinois owes millions of dollars to school districts that are routinely delayed due to the state's fiscal situation. We are concerned that should the State of Illinois be unable to make its payments to school districts in a timely manner, school districts will be hit twice as hard if there is a delay in both their federal and state funds."
In addition to how the new funding model will work, many have expressed concerns about the lack of communication between the state and local school districts, those stakeholders who would be adversely impacted by the change, and the lack of time school districts will have to prepare for the change. "I am also particularly concerned that this decision was a unilateral one without input from affected stakeholders. This is a major financial change that is slated to take place in only six months so it doesn't provide much time for school districts in Illinois to prepare for the change," added Schock.
Dr. Christopher Koch
Illinois State Board of Education
100 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Dear Dr. Koch:
We write to express our strong concern regarding the January 10, 2011 Superintendent's Weekly Message announcement changing the manner in which local education agencies receive federal funding through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Title I) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Currently, local school districts are allowed to use the advance funding model to receive their share of Title I and IDEA federal funds. The advance funding model allows a school district to receive their share of federal funding before the actual expenditure is made. However, with the January 10th announcement, the Illinois State Board of Education will require school districts to move to the reimbursement model starting on July 1, 2011. The reimbursement model requires school districts to apply for reimbursements from the State of Illinois after they have incurred Title I and IDEA expenses. For many school districts, especially smaller and rural school districts, this change can be detrimental as they may not have the necessary funding available to absorb the cost of providing Title I and IDEA services upfront.
This change to the reimbursement model is especially troubling given the fact that the State of Illinois owes millions of dollars to school districts that are routinely delayed due to the state's fiscal situation. We are concerned that should the State of Illinois be unable to make its payments to school districts in a timely manner, school districts will be hit twice as hard if there is a delay in both their federal and state funds.
Finally, we are concerned that this change was made on a unilateral basis with no input from the local stakeholders. Considering that this change will become effective in less than six months, we are concerned that local school districts will not have enough time to build up the necessary reserves needed to provide Title I and IDEA services to their communities.
We strongly urge you to reconsider the move to the reimbursement model as it will have a negative impact on many school districts throughout the state of Illinois. We appreciate the thankless job you do at the Illinois State Board of Education and look forward to your response.