Crusader Staff Report
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on Wednesday, February 22, approved a settlement with the Chicago Urban League, ending nearly a decade of legal battles after the state was accused of discriminating against minority and low-income students in its funding of school districts.
The settlement came after the Chicago Public Schools filed its own lawsuit on February 14 against Illinois officials, seeking to gain equal funding for students enrolled in disadvantaged school districts.
The CPS lawsuit may have added more pressure on state officials to settle the complaint with the Chicago Urban League.
In 2008, the Chicago Urban League sued ISBE, saying 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, violating the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
In 2009, the Chicago Urban League’s constitutional claims were dismissed under a ruling that concluded that lawmakers could not be sued for discrimination under the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Since that time, Chicago Urban League officials kept their claim that ISBE practices were discriminatory towards disadvantaged students.
With the 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. The settlement is expected to bring unprecedented transparency to State Board funding distribution decisions.
Theodia Gillespie, President and CEO of the Quad County Urban League whose constituents reside in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will counties 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 is President and CEO of the Tri-County Urban League, which provides services to the Peoria community. She 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.”