Financial Recognician

“A disturbing number of Illinois school districts are in poor to dire financial shape, with 121 getting low or dismal ratings in the state’s annual financial report card for schools.” – full article found here

Is Schiller Park School Dostrict 81 one of the Schools getting a low rating? Not according to an Illinois annual report card.

“The analysis of school finances also examined operating budgets for the current school year, estimating that 62 percent of districts are now deficit-spending, including affluent schools in Winnetka, Wilmette and Kenilworth. In addition, the data indicates that districts are borrowing more money to stave off deficits, in the process burdening taxpayers with more debt.” – taken from the article linked above

With the state’s budget in crisis, schools have been getting less money than they are entitled to receive under the formula used to distribute funds to schools. This formula will most likely change in the future, but it is unknown how. At the same time, the cost of quality education is continuously going up.

The four ratings used by the state, from best to worst, are: “financial recognition,” financial review,” financial early warning,” and “financial watch.”

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Information found here

So according to that data alone Schiller Park School District 81 is in the financial recognition category.  What does that mean exactly? Districts with a FAAS ratio greater than +10%. Financial Assurance and Accountability System (FAAS) get the “financial recognition” designation.

What exactly is FAAS? The Financial Assurance and Accountability System (FAAS) is a tool for self-analysis that helps districts determine their financial status. FAAS was developed cooperatively by the Illinois Financial Advisory Committee (IFAC), the Large Unit District Association (LUDA), the South Cook Organization for Public Education (SCOPE), Education Research and Development (ED-RED), Illinois State University (ISU), Southern Illinois University (SIU) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

So a FAAS ratio of  10% or more would help to establish that a School District is making sound choices with their funds right? It’s not the only factor, but it’s a big one.

A healthy fund balance (in the range of 5%-8% of a district’s general operating budget) is recommended to provided financial stability, strong credit ratings as well as to provide for unanticipated emergencies. Responsible school boards maintain an appropriate fund balance for these reasons. In difficult budget times as we face now, there is pressure to draw down fund balances to pay for ongoing operating expenses. But How do you respond to critics who say districts are stashing away money they should otherwise be spending to prevent tax hikes or program cuts, when at the same time doing that could put the education or safety of the communities children at risk?

Prudent financial planning suggests districts should have adequate uncommitted fund balance as well as, for example, capital reserve funds. Critics can’t have it both ways — criticizing districts for failure to plan for the future while also criticizing for not using funds to pay for today’s costs. Some critics would say that our district is reserving too much in these savings accounts. It depends on the financial situation of the district, and can’t be generalized the way it has been.

Common arguments even if they are not said out loud are “but I don’t have kids in the public schools” or “I already pay for to much in taxes” or “it wasn’t this expensive when I was in school”. If I were to play devils advocate I would say those are valid excuses, but I would add that they are very short sited and selfish ones at the least. No one wants to pay taxes let alone more taxes, but the bottom line is that education has advanced way beyond what it was “when I was in school”, and education of any sort is not free, let alone a quality one. Schiller Park School District 81 provides a quality education, It’s a service to the community and to the world. It is an investment in our future as a planet. It is an undisputed fact that our future leaders, scientists, artists, and generals will come from our schools. The fundamentals they learn now will help shape their choices and this planets future. Does it seem like a very good idea to skimp on their education because we don’t have kids in school?

The bottom line here is that we need to value public education and invest in public education at the state and local level. Rather than trying to stop School Districts from having reserves, or returning them to the public as some would have you believe is the right course of action. It is more important to create awareness of these reserves, and what the purpose for having one actually is, and understanding the impact of education on the world environment.

What is even more important to understand is how good the Administration and Board of Education of School District 81 is actually doing at maintaining the proper balance, and continuously trying to improve on the educational value they provide. With School District 81 not being one of the 121 School Districts getting low or dismal ratings in the state’s annual financial report we should all be paying closer attention to who is saying the board is doing something wrong, and ask ourselves who’s best interests do they have at heart. Because in this School Board’s case they are doing things right, and giving the staff of the district the right tools to do what they do best.

Recently, and during election seasons some individuals would have you focus on all the wrong things, and avoid all the positive and good that is going on in Schiller Park School District 81. Those same people have to actually make up lies or twist the truth to try and scare people into voting their way. When hiding the fact that voting their way damages your children’s future, and our own futures by default.

I encourage everyone to attend the monthly School Board meetings and ask any and all questions you may have. Attend the various committee meetings that have been put in place to ensure absolute transparency, and a muli-level system of approvals, and recommendations. Invest in not only your own future but everyone’s future by educating ourselves to what’s really going on.

Stand up, and Speak out in defense of all of our futures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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