It's time to fix the way we fund our schools!

Equitable Funding | 04/21/2014

Jessica Handy
Government Affairs Director

Jessica advocates at the state capitol for fair school funding and equitable education policies.

Illinois has one of the most inequitable education funding systems in the country. Some school districts spend $7,000 per pupil, while others spend $25,000.

This disparity is largely driven by zip code.We need to make sure that all Illinois students attend schools that are adequately resourced, and there’s promising news from Springfield!

Real progress is being made on moving to a new school funding formula (Senate Bill 16, as amended).It’s a conversation that has been going on for years, but didn’t progress until last year when freshman Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) created a commission to dig into the funding formula.

The commission, consisting of a bi-partisan group of Senators, travelled the state for input, convened national experts, and issued a report with strong recommendations for overhauling our inequitable formula. That report has now resulted in a new bill that fundamentally changes the way Illinois’s state funds are directed to schools.

Want to go in the weeds with me here? Here’s what the bill does:

1) It moves toward a weighted student funding formula. The old formula only directed 44% of state dollars through formulas that consider student need and local district wealth. SB 16 would send 91% of state education dollars through a focused formula that considers poverty concentration, bilingual and special education needs, and local property wealth. It does this by collapsing competing and contradictory categorical lines into the streamlined formula so that all funding is focused and directed toward the need.

2) It eliminates the Chicago Block Grant (an outdated mechanism that directs dollars to Chicago based on 1995 student counts), but also factors in Chicago’s added expense of paying its own pension payment. This improves transparency, while enhancing equity in several budget areas that treat Chicago and downstate/suburban districts differently. (Granted, we’d prefer to see even more equity by shifting pension payments to the local districts and investing those dollars in the primary school funding formula – but this definitely a step toward equity.)

3) Finally, it adds school-level budget transparency to the process, a vital tool to enable parents, communities, and policymakers to see how equitably funding is being distributed within a district. SB 16 passed out of committee last week. There is still more work to be done, numbers to be crunched, and input needed. The legislature has until May 31 to pass a bill during their regular spring session.

This is major progress. We urge them to stay focused and continue to strive for smart spending and funding equity for all Illinois students!

Take action here to let your State Senator know you support this great progress.

Standing with you,

Jessica Handy, Government Affairs Director

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