First birthdays are special. They are opportunities to reflect on how far a child has come, and the limitless opportunities that lie ahead. They celebrate our hopes and dreams for a child’s future.
I recently became a dad, so I have a first-birthday party for my daughter to look forward to. But today is another first birthday that I am so happy to celebrate with you all:
Today is the first birthday of our state’s fair school funding formula becoming law!
Just like a child’s first birthday, we can look back with pride at what has been accomplished in just one year with the new formula. Our state has invested $350 million in new funds for two years in a row, giving much-needed resources to districts that need them the most. Plus, no district loses funding through the formula. That is a big deal for teachers like me, as it puts us on the road to providing each student the education they deserve.
Not only that, but in just one year we have seen specific examples of what equitable funding can mean for districts across the state. Think about students in Taylorville, whose district added a new K-5 reading series and expanded course and advanced technology options thanks to the new funding…or Southwestern School District, which added resources for at-risk students, plus a part-time counselor and two teacher aides. Thanks to the new funding, Streator Township High School District added math and reading learning supports for their most vulnerable students, and a new STEM initiative.
These are successes we should celebrate on the formula’s birthday. But they are also successes that should be happening in all schools, for all students.
Just like a child’s first-birthday, we must also look ahead and rededicate ourselves to ensuring these successes endure. Our work isn’t done – not by a long shot. We need to continue to add $350 million a year in new school funding. With that amount, we could hire about 4,000 teachers…that’s at least one for every school. It could go a long way to addressing our state’s desperate need for more guidance counselors.
We must keep pushing each and every year to ensure the formula lives up to its promise.
We have come a long way in just one year, and the future is bright for Illinois students. But we, as parents, teachers, community leaders, and policy makers, must continue to ensure that the formula lives up to its bright, full potential – for my child, and for so many others.
Then we will truly have something to celebrate.