Amid 84 percent student failure rate in Sandoval, superintendent touts income tax hike as elixir
Sandoval Community Unit School District 501 Superintendent Jennifer Garrison was a strong advocate for raising taxes to increase school funding and enacting a fundamental change in the funding formula.
Both measures have been approved.
But while Garrison argued in part that the wealthier suburban districts had an unfair advantage over the poorer ones, a closer look at her district in terms of money spent per student and performance results tells another story.
In 2016, the district spent $7,108,645, or $14,657 per student, according to figures from the Illinois State Board of Education, but only 81 of the 485 students, or 16 percent, passed the statewide Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
That equates to $87,766 per student who passed.
Moreover, teacher salaries in the district fall in line with salaries in the rest of the community. The median teacher salary is $36,245, and the median household income in Marion County is $38,974. The median home price there, per the U.S. Census, is a $68,600.
On the funding formula side, education experts say the evidence-based formula she and others fought so hard for will not lead to improvement in student results.
Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and an expert in the development of economic analysis of educational issues, told the Prairie State Wire for an earlier article that there is little evidence to support claims of success with an evidence-based school funding system.
“Evidence shows no consistent achievement gains under evidence-based funding,” Hanushek said. “How money is spent is much more important than how much is spent.”
The evidence-based formula was developed by Lawrence Picus of the University of Southern California and Allan Odden of the University of Wisconsin, who since 2000 have conducted school finance studies in numerous states.
In his article “Confidence Men: Selling Adequacy, Making Millions,” Hanushek said that claims of improvement along the lines of three to six standard deviations would be an “extraordinary gain.” One full standard deviation is approximately equivalent to the average difference in test score performance between a fourth- and eighth-grader.
Rather, Hanushek said the professors and other supporters of the method have selected studies that have in some instances demonstrated improvements in student achievement, but the evidence supports no across-the-board demonstrations of higher student achievement.
An analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute of student achievements in states using the evidence-based formula – Ohio, North Dakota, Arkansas and Wyoming – found that progress “failed to grow at the rate the evidence-based formula promises.” In fact, results on National Assessment Educational Progress tests have been “virtually flat,” the group said.
Jennifer Garrison was a key player in the “Pass Illinois Budget” campaign by Illinois school officials pushing for increased funding and enactment of the new formula. The effort included trips to Springfield, according to a May 16, 2017, Naperville Sun article. Garrison’s covered expenses incurred on trips to Springfield are listed in records obtained by the Southwest Illinois News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
But Garrison told the News that none of the expenses are related to lobbying in Springfield.
“They are for professional development under our School Improvement Grant,” she wrote in an e-mail.