Measure to overhaul Illinois school funding system introduced in state Senate

Online Staff Report

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Earlier this year, a bipartisan State Senate committee, created by State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, issued a report acknowledging Illinois’ outdated school funding system and recommending changes be made to the system to better reflect students’ needs.

April 2, Manar, along with other Senate Democrats, introduced the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, a proposal to streamline the current hodgepodge of funding sources into one funding formula that would account for school districts’ funding needs.

Illinois has the second-most inequitable school funding system in the nation,” Manar said. “Our current funding system is doing a disservice to taxpayers, school districts and, most importantly, our children. The funding system we are proposing will better address student needs, such as socio-economic background, language ability or special learning needs, while also accounting for a school district’s ability to raise funds locally.”

The current funding formula, unchanged since 1997, only distributes 44 cents for every $1 invested in education on the basis of district need. The other 56 cents is distributed to schools through archaic and complicated grants, not based on need.

Under the new funding system, 92 cents of every $1 invested by the state in the K-12 education system, with the exception of funds for early childhood education, construction projects and high-cost special education, would flow through a single funding formula that provides a simple, straight-forward and equitable means to distribute education funds for Illinois school districts.

According to Manar, the new formula would also increase stability and transparency regarding how much state money is provided, how it gets to school districts and how it is spent.

Parents, teachers, school administrators and even lawmakers have acknowledged that we must dedicate more resources to education,” Manar said. “However, our efforts will be in vain until we fix an outdated and inequitable funding system.”

Senate President John Cullerton said: “Every budget year, there is an appropriate sense of urgency concerning the level of funding for education, but it’s time for lawmakers to start considering appropriateness of the funding formulas we use. I want to commend the members on the Education Funding Advisory Committee for dedicating their time to studying systemic shortfalls and providing a bipartisan framework for addressing the issues.”

Our schools need both more funding and smarter funding,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, D-Maywood, who successfully negotiated several of Illinois’ most meaningful education reform laws in recent years. “We haven’t fully funded education — breaking our own laws — for years. However, this proposal is a solid step that will make sure that the money we do send to local school districts goes where it’s needed most.”

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D–Grayslake, said: “Every student in Illinois has a right to an equitable public education — based on fair funding, not their ZIP code. This new formula provides equality for students and funding stability for school districts.”

State Sen. Michael Noland, D–Elgin, said: “This is a plan to make the state’s school funding structure more responsive to the needs of school districts. There’s more work to be done, especially in making sure we are budgeting enough money for our schools. But this is a significant first step toward public education that meets the needs of students, teachers and schools alike.”

Posted April 2, 2014

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