The news: The State of Illinois owed schools and education vendors more than $1.1 billion in education costs through June 28.
Behind the news: Among all schools and education vendors, Chicago Public Schools is owed the most money from the state, with 80 percent of those funds intended for students with special needs, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of school board data.
The state has more than $358 million in outstanding payments to CPS since December. Of that, the biggest chunk was intended for special education, roughly $301 million, and the largest share of that is for transportation.
There are state and federal special education mandates that districts have to meet, regardless of whether they receive the promised funding. Districts have tried various ways to manage the deficit. CPS had to borrow $800 million to pay its outstanding loans to vendors. A few wealthy districts, which had staffed more special education teachers than was mandated, laid off special education workers, said Rod Estvan, education policy analyst for Access Living of Chicago.
Roughly 12 percent of CPS students, or 51,806 children, participated in special education classes or utilized its resources during the 2008-09 school year, according to a joint report from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Special Education Department.
State funding is supposed to offset the differences between the level of per-student funding and local property wealth. A state board analysis of federal data placed Illinois at 49th in the nation for education funding. The national average for state funding for kindergarten through 12th grade is 46.9 percent of districts’ budgets. Illinois provides 29.6 percent.
The second-most outstanding debt in the state is the $19 million that is owed to School District U-46 in suburban Elgin.