The latest salvo in the movement to reform school funding in Illinois came today as the Chicago Urban League filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state and the Illinois Board of Education. The suit argues that the property tax-based funding system is unconstitutional. From the complaint (PDF):
At the core of the State's school funding system is an over-reliance on local property taxes. This over-reliance on locally raised revenues reinforces past discrimination and virtually ensures that in communities where property wealth has been negatively impacted by patterns of residential segretation, the school districts have no capacity to raise the revenues they desperately need to close the funding gap. Compared to other states, Illinois' property taxpayers contribute the third-highest share of education costs, at 62 percent, and pay the 10th highest dollar amount towards school funding. [...]
The continuous and unmitigated harm that results each year from the State's persistent failure to meet its constitutional obligation to treat all students equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, to provide all Illinois students with access to equal educational opportunity and to provide a system of schools offering a "high quality" education, is irreparable and unsconscionable. Plaintiffs therefore seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief on the grounds that the State's school funding scheme, as presently enforced and applied across the State, violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act and the basic rights guaranteed to all State citizens under the Illinois Constitituion.
The Urban League held a press conference today to announce the suit. Below is a brief clip from NBC5 featuring Urban League president Cheryle Jackson, State Sen. James Meeks, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan: