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2/22 Plaintiffs Settle Longstanding Lawsuit And Secure ISBE Promise to Distribute Funds Based on Individual District and Student Need

PLAINTIFFS SETTLE SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ILLINOIS

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 22, 2017

 

Plaintiffs Settle Longstanding Lawsuit And Secure ISBE Promise to

Distribute Funds Based on Individual District and Student Need

Chicago, ILAccording to lead attorney for the Plaintiffs, Lisa Scruggs, a partner at Duane Morris, LLP, “[a]fter nearly nine years of active litigation, the Plaintiffs have achieved a settlement of their lawsuit that will require ISBE to distribute state aid based on student and district need.”

In 2008, Plaintiffs brought a comprehensive challenge to the Illinois State Board of Education’s (“State Board’s”) and lawmakers’ adoption and implementation of the school funding system on constitutional grounds and under the ICRA. A 2009 ruling dismissed Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and concluded that lawmakers (“the State”) could not be sued for discrimination under the ICRA. Since that time, Plaintiffs have aggressively pursued its single, remaining claim against the lone defendant, the State Board.

Although the State Board does not act alone in its implementation of the broken school funding system, Plaintiffs argued that ISBE took a number of actions that led to the loss of substantial sums of state funding for majority-minority districts and the students they serve. One of the most significant actions was ISBE’s repeated decisions to prorate – to distribute cuts to funding across the board – rather than by looking at which districts need funding most.

Today, the State Board voted to approve a settlement with Plaintiffs, rather than face a court’s ruling on Plaintiffs’ pending motion for summary judgment. In that motion, Plaintiffs argued that the method the State Board has used in recent years to distribute limited state aid funds, known as “proration”, had a discriminatory impact on African-American and Latino students who attend majority-minority school districts in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act.

With this settlement now in place, the State Board’s practice of proration – distributing funding without regard to the needs of majority-minority districts and their students – will essentially come to an end. Going forward, when lawmakers limit the dollars available to districts, the State Board must use its discretion to distribute state aid in a way that takes into account student and individual district need. Moreover, the settlement will bring unprecedented transparency around State Board funding distribution decisions.

Theodia Gillespie, President and CEO of the Quad County Urban League said, “After years of fighting on behalf of the African-American and Latino public school students in Elgin, Aurora and other parts of the state, we are thrilled to achieve this result. We think it will make a real difference in districts like the ones that serve our families.”

Laraine Bryson, President and CEO of the Tri-County Urban League, said of the settlement, “We cannot predict what lawmakers will do in Springfield on overall funding reform. But with this settlement, we have secured a commitment by ISBE to do its part to make funding decisions in the best interest of the students in districts, like those in Peoria, that really count on funding from the state.”

The settlement will not result in the overhaul of the school funding system that they sought in the complaint when it was first filed. However, Plaintiffs know that the lawsuit, and the settlement which resulted from it, is a win for the students they serve. Shari Runner, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League notes, “After this lawsuit, lawmakers across the state have finally realized that the current funding system is broken; it is both inadequate and inequitable. By this settlement, ISBE acknowledges that proration does not benefit needy districts and that how it decides to distribute limited education dollars matters. When the needs of students are not treated as priority, particularly those living in areas of high racially concentrated areas of poverty, the long-term consequences can be devastating.”

Even though the groundbreaking lawsuit is ending, Plaintiffs vow to continue working with others in the State to advocate for a better funding system that is both adequate and equitable. “Our families and students deserve a school funding system that ensures funding is raised to a level that enables all students to meet rigorous academic standards and that distributes that funding equitably. This settlement helps, but until we achieve that goal, our work will continue,” said Runner.

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 To view the settlement, click here.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact the following:

Plaintiffs:

Chicago Urban League

Contact: Paula Thornton Greear

Phone: 773-892-5427

pgreear@thechicagourbanleague.org

www.thechicagourbanleague.org

 

Quad County Urban League

Contact: Theodia Gillespie

Phone: (630) 851.2203

http://qcul.org

 

Tri-County Urban League

Contact: Laraine Bryson

Phone: (309) 672-4355

lebryson@tcpul.com

www.tcpul.com

 

Attorneys for Plaintiffs:

Duane Morris LLP

Contact: Lisa T. Scruggs

Phone: 312-499-6742

LTScruggs@duanemorris.com

www.duanemorris.com

Jenner & Block LLP

Phone: 312-222-9350

www.jenner.com