Illinois school funding reform: 200 rally in Springfield

Online Staff Report

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — More than 200 members and supporters of the Funding IL Future (FIF) Coalition, representing all regions of the state, rallied at the State Capitol Nov. 18 to demonstrate support for the School Funding Reform Act, or Senate Bill 16, which aims to overhaul the way the state funds public education.

Supporters gathered prior to The House Committee on Elementary & Secondary Education hearing testimony about how S.B. 16 would impact education funding in a state that holds the dubious distinction of ranking last among all 50 states for its share of education funding — only 20 percent of dollars comes from the state, with the remainder derived from local property taxes.

The FIF coalition is an unprecedented effort of partners from diverse regions and backgrounds coming together to change the inequities of school funding in our state,” said Dr. Lett, one of more than 125 school superintendents lending support to this effort. “In my 30 years in education, I have never seen so many superintendents involved in such an effort.”

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois also has the second most regressive public education funding system, meaning districts with high poverty populations received less state and local funding than their more affluent counterparts. Only the state of Nevada had a more regressive funding distribution.

We are in a self-imposed crisis,” said Elgin School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders. “Every child deserves a quality education — and that is only possible with an equitable and fair formula.”

S.B. 16, sponsored by State Sent. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, addresses funding inequities by:

Creating a single funding formula that provides an equitable means to distribute education funds to Illinois school districts.

Prioritizing resources to help districts where there is greater student need.

Providing greater transparency about how funds are spent at the school level.

Phasing in the new funding formula over four years to allow districts to adjust to new funding levels, with any losses that are capped at $1,000 per student.

The school funding formula has not been changed since the mid-1990s, by then Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Supporters are urging the House Education Committee to pass the bill out of committee and send it to a full vote in the veto or lame duck session being held this week.

Dr. Jennifer Garrison, superintendent of Sandoval C.U.S.D. 501, said: “The time for education funding reform is now. Our students are too important to delay the overhaul of a broken funding system where proration has taken more dollars per student in districts who depend on General State Aid the most.”

If it is not acted upon, supporters, including Sen. Manar, say the legislation will be introduced in January when a General Assembly and a new governor are sworn into office.

Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois, said: “The state has a comprehensive plan for improvement in place, and we must make sure that we provide resources and support to implement it. All of our students deserve a chance at success.”

Posted Nov. 18, 2014

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