The way Illinois funds its public schools is antiquated and inequitable. That much we know. But the real question is this: what can our state do to level that playing field?
A new series of articles from NPR digs into money and schools, using Illinois as a prime example of how drastically different some districts are funded. Take the Chicago Ridge School District. It spent $9,794 per student in 2013. In the northern Chicago suburbs, Rondout District 72 spent $28,639 that same year.
With different levels of property value comes different levels of school funding, a huge issue that drives the inequity in Illinois school funding. While Rondout students have small class sizes and individual learning plans, students in Ridge share one nurse between three schools and they study only half a year each of art and music.
“Quite frankly, Illinois is just one of those states that’s never bothered to put enough state aid into the system,” Bruce Baker of Rutgers, told Chicago’s WBEZ. As the station noted, most states break school funding down roughly like this: the state covers 45%, local covers 45%, and the federal government covers the final 10%. But in Illinois, that breakdown “tilts toward local funding (56.8%)” according to WBEZ.
Basically, the state is under-spending, by orders of magnitude, on districts that really do need the help.
The good news is that you can make a difference! Contact your state Senator today and urge them to support SB231. This bill will change the way our state funds our schools, making the system more fair for the districts and students who need help the most.