This year marks the fifth year we have advocated for increased school funding through the evidence-based funding formula. You’ve been there with us every step of the way, and our collective advocacy has made a difference – this year, nearly $1.5 billion more has flowed through the equitable formula than when the formula was first enacted in 2017. And more importantly, it prioritizes funding for the school districts that need it most.

But closing the funding gap for Illinois schools is a marathon, not a sprint. Every year, we have to fight to keep the progress going. That’s why I offered testimony to an Illinois House committee yesterday, urging their support for $350 million in new funding. Despite all the investment we’ve made, 85% of Illinois students still attend schools that are underfunded.

We’ve got to do better for those students. Join me in urging policy makers to support an additional $350 million in evidence-based funding for our schools.

I also spoke in support of the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship program. This work aims to attract and support teacher candidates of color to build up the state’s teacher pipeline with diverse and qualified candidates. Over half of Illinois’ student population are people of color, but teachers of color represent just 16% of teachers.

We need to support diverse educators through programs like the MTI Scholarships, and we need to support a boost in evidence-based funding for our classrooms. I hope you’ll take a minute of your busy day to contact Springfield and urge them to stand up for Illinois students and educators.

While much of the state is getting blanketed with snow today, the work of government goes on. Today, Governor JB Pritzker delivered his budget address and proposed to include $350 million in additional funding for the Evidence-Based Funding formula for Illinois schools.

Gov. Pritzker’s proposed funding is a strong signal to the importance his administration places on education. He has long been an advocate for fair school funding and today’s proposal is a step in the right direction toward fully funding our schools.

Now, it is incumbent on the legislature to follow-through on the Governor’s proposals and appropriate the equitable Evidence-Based Funding formula.

Together, we have been fighting for new school funding for years. The work continues today, so let’s redouble our efforts and urge leaders in Springfield to prioritize Gov. Pritzker’s proposal of $350 million in new funding for Illinois schools through EBF.

Download this column as a PDF.

You could figuratively say we “won the lottery” when we got the COVID shot, an unprecedented marvel of science that took just a year to go from discovering a deadly new disease to testing and securing emergency authorization for a vaccine to guard against it. And here we are, living in the country with the most innovative scientists who miraculously developed these vaccines, which we are all privileged to have access to now.

Every Monday from July 12 – August 16, three vaccinated Illinoisans can also literally say they won the lottery. If you were vaccinated in Illinois, you’re automatically in the running for the prize. (And if you aren’t vaccinated, hurry! There are regional drawings today, August 12, with the last drawing coming on August 26, when two grand prize winners will win $1 million each.) Even vaccinated Illinois youth have a chance to win $150,000 scholarships throughout the summer.

This got me thinking about an age-old question that comes up all the time: “Wasn’t the lottery supposed to fund public education?” The short answer: It does, but it’s not nearly enough money. The Illinois Lottery generates about $700 million each year that goes to the Common School Fund. That $700 million is a lot of money but still only a drop in the bucket compared to how much is needed to fully fund public education. The Illinois State Board of Education’s general funds budget is about $9 billion. And that doesn’t even include the additional billions in early childhood expenses that are appropriated through other agencies, higher education costs, or teacher pensions. And of course, keep in mind that none of these things are fully funded at their current appropriation level.

But, of course, there’s a longer answer, too. When the lottery was created in 1974, there was plenty of debate on whether the proceeds should go to education, but in the end, they went to the General Revenue Fund and were allocated for regional public transit. That changed in 1985, when the legislature passed a bill re-directing lottery receipts to the Common School Fund. However, that did not directly lead to an increase in education funding. In the words of the sponsor from floor debate (all emphasis added by me):

“…we will not be adding one penny more necessarily, but it is just the intent of what we…all thought originally might be done, that we will put all of the money in the Common School Fund. As the bill began its process through the legislature years ago, that’s what the public was told and that’s what we will do, but it will not increase the money per se.”

Here’s an opponent speaking up on floor debate:

“…after you pass this bill and you come back here in a couple years, and you begin to get comments from those same constituents at the meeting who say to you, hey, you promised us lottery money, you passed it and we still didn’t get it…. It’s a charade.”

And another floor comment:

“I’m going to support this proposition because if nothing else the public will feel better that they know that these funds are supposedly going to education, but we in the legislature know better, that in fact there’s going to be more bureaucracy, there’s going to be more accounting practices and it’s going to cost the State more than it takes in.”

(I seriously could lose days just reading old floor transcripts… fascinating stuff!)

When I was a lowly budget analyst on the Illinois Senate staff, one of the most basic things we learned when analyzing an appropriation is to note which type of funding it uses:

  • Federal Funds. From the perspective of the State, federal funds are great! We appropriate them in the budget so we can spend them, but the State doesn’t have much discretion over how much we get or how we spend it.
  • Other State Funds. There are about a bazillion “funds” that exist for various dedicated purposes. These are things like licensing fees that go into a fund that pays administrative costs for – you guessed it! – licensing. Or gas taxes that go to the Road Fund. Most “fees” end up in some “other” State fund. When the budget comes together, the legislature might look at whether there are fund balances in any of these accounts to “sweep” into General Funds, but other than that, there’s not a lot of flexibility over where they go.
  • General Funds. Now THIS is the big one. This is the part of the budget that has a lot of discretion in how it’s spent (and on which I spent most of my time analyzing a decade ago). “General Funds” include the General Revenue Fund, the Common School Fund, and the Education Assistance Fund. Individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes, and lottery proceeds are the sources of General Funds.

Maybe that’s TMI. But here’s the thing: if we really, really wanted to be 100% sure that lottery proceeds supplemented education funding on top of what was already going there, wouldn’t we categorize it as an “Other State Funds?” That way, any increase in lottery proceeds would be in addition to whatever other General Funds increase was appropriated. The lottery does go the Common Schools Fund and the Common Schools Fund does go to education, but it isn’t directly tied.

Things got even more complicated in 2009. As a part of the capital bill that year, the General Assembly outsourced management of the lottery to a private vendor and authorized internet ticket sales. The hope was that the private vendor would significantly increase lottery receipts to help fund capital projects. The Common Schools Fund would continue to receive the same lottery funds it got in 2009, plus inflation. Any amounts over that would go toward capital. This protected the lottery’s funding for education, but also created even more disconnect between lottery sales and education funding levels.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that even though the lottery’s tie to the Common School Fund wasn’t intended to bring more funding for schools, that $700 million would have to come from somewhere if the lottery didn’t exist. But when you buy a lottery ticket, you might actually be paying for bonds for capital projects.

Remember, August 26 is the last drawing for the COVID vaccine lottery. If you want a chance at $1 million, make sure you get that vaccine! And if you don’t literally win the lottery, you still win because you’re inoculated against COVID and you’ve done your part to stop community spread, keep schools open, and stay healthy.

Download this column as a PDF.

UPDATE: Changes related to this issue have been included in SB 2017, the Budget Implementation Bill that recently passed both houses of the Illinois legislature. The teacher pension provisions of that measure include:

  • Changing the calculation of Final Average Salary to the highest four of the last 10 years, rather than requiring those years to be consecutive. (For “Tier One” teachers (that is, those who started teaching after 2010 and are subject to a lower level of pension benefits already), this would change to the highest eight in 10 years, rather than requiring those years to be consecutive.)
  • Excluding from the 6% cap salary increases incurred as a result of working an overload the year after an emergency declaration. This fixes an unintended consequence that would penalize districts when, for instance, a teacher that always teaches summer school was unable to mid-COVID and now that summer school has been re-added, the salary increase exceeds the 6% cap.
  • Excluding from the 6% cap salary increases resulting from increasing the amount of instructional time beyond the base year of 2019-2020.

Illinois schools are getting a lot of federal COVID-19 recovery funds. That’s good because among the remote learning expenses, learning loss investments, and costs to safely re-open, Illinois schools have a boatload of new expenses. When all is said and done, Illinois schools will have gotten nearly $8 billion in federal funds through 2024 for COVID recovery through three recovery packages enacted that allocated funding to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund.

Most of those funds flow directly to school districts through the Title I formula, which is based on student poverty.

A quick intro to how teacher pensions are funded

The Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) is the pension system for public school teachers and administrators outside of Chicago. Generally, the State of Illinois pays the employer costs of teacher pensions, even though the teachers are actually employed by their local school districts. Those employer costs include the normal cost (that is, the cost to keep up with current pension obligations without paying off or stacking up any debt) and the unfunded liability (which is the large amount of debt that has accrued from many previous years when the State failed to pay the normal cost).

There are some exceptions to this, requiring school districts to pay:

  • A small employer contribution of 0.58% of payroll for all employees covered by TRS.
  • The normal cost rate for employees paid with federal funding.
  • The amount of each pension attributable to raises over 6% in the final years of salary or salary higher than the Governor’s.

Everything in this blog relates to TRS-covered teachers and their school districts. In other words, it’s not relevant for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and their teachers. Since CPS pays for its own teacher pensions, it doesn’t have the same kind of disconnect that other school districts and the State face between who spends the money and who pays the bill.

Now let’s look at a couple of the ways these exceptions get a little complicated in practice. (There are complexities even under normal circumstances, but the infusion of federal funds has amplified the impact.) 

The TRS Surcharge

School districts will be on the hook for paying pension normal costs associated with the federal funding they choose to spend on teacher and administrator salaries. If they used state or local money to pay those salaries, they would only pay 0.58% of salary to TRS. But since they are using federal funding, they have to pay 10% of salary to TRS. It could be worse: four years ago, districts paid the full unfunded liability rate for salaries of federally-funded teachers – a whopping 45%.

Four years ago, we wrote “An Education Funding No-Brainer” about this issue. Because federal funds are heavily directed toward areas of high poverty and to fund special education, the State was disproportionately using funding designated for our most vulnerable children to pay down pension debt. HB 656 was enacted in 2017, bringing the federal funds rate from the unfunded liability rate (then 45%, and now 50%) to the normal cost rate (10%).[1]

For clarity, here are the four different rates we’re talking about:

  • School district contribution rate for state- and locally-paid teachers: 0.58%
  • School district contribution rate for federally-funded teachers: 10%
  • Unfunded liability rate: 50%. (This would be the rate a school district would pay for a federally-funded position if HB 656 hadn’t passed. It literally means that if a district hired a teacher at a salary of $50,000, it would have to pay TRS $25,000 as the pension contribution.)
  • Teacher’s employee contribution rate: 9%.[2]

The upshot here is that the $8 billion in federal funds won’t stretch quite as far for school districts as it would if it was state money. School districts will still probably weigh their options and maximize their accounting expertise to pay for salaries with state and local money, while buying materials with federal funds.

We fought hard against the unfunded liability rate because it was a tremendous inequity, so some have wondered whether it’s fair to charge the 10% normal cost rate, as opposed to the nominal 0.58. After all, it still charges local districts more if their money comes from federal sources based on poverty than if it comes from local sources driven by property wealth.

It is still an inequity – just like the overall teacher pension funding system, where better-off districts rack up more pension costs to be paid by the State than poorer districts. But continuing to charge the normal cost rate is the responsible policy decision here. Federal funds going to schools can be budgeted for this purpose, and digging the state’s pension funding hole deeper is not a wise decision in the long-term. We can fix the inequity by integrating pension funding with the Evidence-Based Funding Formula, or by gradually shifting pension costs for locally-paid employees to the local districts while increasing Evidence-Based Funding proportionally. (But this is an issue that lives to fight another day…)

The 6% cap

This one is trickier and I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution. In 2005, the legislature imposed the “6% cap” as a way to crack down on golden parachutes. That is, some school districts had gotten into the habit of bargaining for large end-of-career pay spikes for teachers, whose pensions would increase proportionally for life – with the State being on the hook for paying for it. That’s the disconnect between having local employers setting salaries with the State picking up their tab for the pensions.

So the 6% cap was a creative response to discourage this sort of behavior, and it has pretty much tamped down on the egregious pay spiking as intended. But ever since then, there have always been exceptions – like a school district in the midst of a teacher shortage that needs a current teacher to teach an overload, or a teacher taking on a new after-school tutoring responsibility. Those cases might necessitate a raise over 6% without any intention to game the system and spike a pension.

There are a few ways the pandemic will impact the 6% cap:

  • First, with the infusion of federal funding for learning recovery, school districts should be ramping up programs for high-quality tutoring, summer school, enrichment, social-emotional support, extended school days and school years, and other programs. If we want those programs to be effective, we are going to depend on licensed teachers who have the expertise to best support students. And if we want those teachers – many of whom just came off the most stressful teaching year of their career – to sign up to teach and tutor and enrich and support and otherwise significantly extend their work hours, they are going to need more than a 6% salary increase to do it.
  • Second, even without the federal funds, school districts may bump up against the 6% cap in the cases of teachers who used to coach or teach summer school before the pandemic started – but took a pandemic-related pause on those extras. Now, when they get back into the swing of things, they will return to getting the stipends they used to get. Except now, it will trigger the 6% cap.
  • And third, coupling the above considerations with the prospect that school districts may be in a position to provide increases across the salary schedule for teachers who have just completed an exceptionally challenging school year since there will be funding available, the chances of busting the 6% cap is even greater.

So… what’s the policy solution? The intention of the 6% cap was to curb end-of-career salary spiking, not to create barriers to getting great teachers to fill desperately-need positions to make up for learning loss caused by a global pandemic. By the time the bill becomes due (a one-time payment right after the teacher retires), in most cases, it will be past the deadline to spend those federal funds and the school district will have to dip into their state and local resources to pay it. 

While in my opinion, there’s no perfect way to handle this, here are some thoughts for reasonable solutions for this year:

  1. Pause the 6% cap for the year for salary increases tied to additional work responsibilities related to summer school, extended day and year, and other learning recovery-related duties. This could be strengthened with guardrails clarifying that any increase disproportionally targeting end-of-career teachers would not be exempt so as not to open doors to golden parachutes. And heck, might as well make it for 2 – 3 years, because the federal funds are available 2024 and no one wants to see a mad scramble to spend all of it immediately without thoughtful implementation over time.
  2. Allow districts to pre-pay any estimated 6% overage, which would enable them to use the federal funds for that purpose. (Of course, this creates another hiccup because no one really who all is going to retire when, so any pre-payment would be an estimate.)
  3. Appropriate the minimum funding level increase of $350 million in Evidence-Based Funding, because one-time federal funding is nice, but it won’t last over the long-term.
  4. For school districts, consider whether the work you prioritize with your recovery funds is eligible for TRS credit. Extending the school day and year? Those salary increases are pensionable; teacher licensure is required to teach. But what about tutoring? Are districts requiring licensure for tutors? If not, that salary isn’t eligible for TRS. (Apparently this is a frequent subject of audit. If a teacher works the football game for $100, that $100 shouldn’t actually be reported to TRS. But people do it all the time.)
  5. At a minimum, before criticizing school districts for hitting the 6% and paying some overage, consider the extenuating circumstances this year and give everyone a little grace.

Stand for Children would support any of these ideas. We are especially partial to #3, which should happen regardless of any of this. Perhaps #1 may be the most practical concept to work with. As the budget gets crafted over the next two weeks, minimizing the unintended consequences of the 6% cap would certainly be an appropriate inclusion in any budget implementation bill.

[1] This is seriously a big deal. It’s the kind of structural change that advances equity and changes lives. We appreciate the sponsors and legislators who voted to make it happen.

[2] Yes, I know I didn’t actually mention this rate anywhere else, but it is worth mentioning that teachers also contribution a substantial chunk of change from their own paychecks toward their pension benefits. Sometimes districts agree to pick up some or all of that cost through their contract negotiation process; other times, teachers pay the whole thing.

Three years ago, education advocates flooded the state capitol with petitions, calls, and in-person visits fighting for evidence-based school funding. Thanks to your efforts, we won! Evidence-based funding has transformed classrooms across Illinois in districts that had long been deeply underfunded. 

What have your efforts gained? Updated curriculum. More social workers, school counselors, and classroom teachers. Modernized technology. Stronger relationships with families. Improved classroom achievement. Better supports for students and teachers. Lower property taxes.

Three months ago, we visited many of these schools so we could share with you the results of your advocacy. While the footage was shot before the pandemic, the stories remain relevant and the need for evidence-based funding remains critical. Indeed, the need is more vital than ever.

As difficult as it has been for schools and students to endure COVID-19’s brutality, imagine how dire the situation would be without evidence-based funding. My mind reels thinking about the enormity of weathering this storm without the most basic of technology, social-emotional supports, and educator supports made possible by the new school funding formula.

Grab your popcorn – and possibly some Kleenex – for your personal movie premiere of “Evidence-Based Funding Works! You’ll be transported inside five disparate districts across our state with one thing in common: evidence-based funding has made a world of difference for their students. Whether or not your school is featured, you’ll identify with their stories. After all, you helped make them possible by supporting this smart way of spending.

The story doesn’t end here. You’re probably reading about Springfield’s work on the education budget. We’ll be in touch soon with other ways you can take action. Until then, enjoy the show and thank you.

Libraries, arts, safe and proper learning facilities, and engaging extracurricular activities. These are a few things that most parents and teachers would say all schools should have.

I agree. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts – including the need for strong extracurricular activities – at a recent budget workshop at Corliss High School in Pullman. I was joined by other Stand parents and educators, as well as a number of other parents from across the city.

The meeting had a community feel to it. Everyone was there with ideas on how to make funding our schools work better for Chicago’s students.

A priority of mine is making sure students have access to engaging activities during and after school. These are important to give the kids something to look forward to and help keep them out of trouble. Not only that, but tutoring services would help them achieve more in the classroom.

I heard plenty of other good ideas from parents and teachers. Things like adding librarians, music, and arts classes. Others mentioned the need for fun and safe facilities like gyms for sports and PE classes.

Another strong sentiment that I shared with most everyone there was the need for funding to be equitable and spread across the city, not focused in one specific area.

There were so many strong ideas discussed at the workshop. I encourage you to read more about them in this recent Chalkbeat article. I spoke with them about my ideas, and so did a few other Stand parents – see if you can spot us!

Illinois State Capitol

High property taxes drive school funding inequity. But for every 2 districts that over-tax, there is at least 1 under-taxing district out there.

The Evidence-Based Funding Formula identifies a target property tax rate for every district. The model calculates how much each district needs to be funded adequately. It then specifies a local capacity percentage (LCP) based on how much property wealth each district has. A district with lots of property wealth will have an LCP of up to 90%. That means if a district’s per pupil adequacy target is $12,000 and its LCP is 75%, the formula expects the district to raise $9,000 per pupil locally. From there, we can back into an “implied” tax rate for each district.

Most districts tax themselves higher than their implied tax rate. (Those are all the orange dots above the blue line in the chart below.) But 310 districts (the orange dots below the blue line) actually tax themselves lower than that rate. A rate freeze would impact these districts across the board. Freezing undertaxed districts would guarantee that those schools will never reach adequate funding. (And inflationary increases compound quickly, so lots of the 543 districts that are “over-taxing” now would fall under the blue line after a few years of increased adequacy costs and frozen levies.)

Addressing property taxes in the formula was a sticking point during the school funding negotiations. Should the formula recognize districts’ whole property tax levy? If they are over-taxing themselves, that could push the districts into a higher tier and further solidify their reliance on property taxes. If they are under-taxing themselves, that could knock them down a tier and put them in line for more state funding than other deserving districts that have put forth more local effort.

On the other hand, should the formula ignore actual rates and just use the implied rates? That would completely disconnect the question of how districts tax locally with how much state funding they get for their schools. There would be no incentive to under-tax, but no disincentive to over-tax.

The Evidence-Based Formula decided to use the best of both worlds: for districts that were under-taxing (the orange dots below the blue line), the model assumes they are taxing at their implied rate (the blue line itself). For districts that are over-taxing themselves (orange dots above the blue line), the model recognizes a portion of their overage in order to encourage them to reduce their rates. How much depends on how much property wealth a district has. The overage is multiplied by the district’s LCP, thus wealthier districts will be penalized more for overtaxing and therefore, incentivized further to lower their levies.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • An under-funded district trying to compensate locally. North Chicago SD 187, a property-poor district that is expected to raise just 10% of its funds locally. That gives the district a $5.5 million target levy. However, North Chicago is so underfunded, it taxes itself almost twice that much, $5.1 million more. Because the district’s LCP is 10%, just 10% of that over-levy will “count” against the district in the formula.
  • An above-adequacy over-taxer. The property-wealthy Bannockburn SD 106 is expected to raise $1.8 million, which is 90% of its adequacy target. But the district brings in $5.5 million, $4.7 million more than the model expects. The formula will recognize 90% of Bannockburn’s $4.7 million overage.
  • An almost-adequate under-taxer. Rockdale SD 84 in Will County is expected to raise 60% of its adequacy target from property taxes. But it only brings in 24% of that total. Its implied tax rate is 3.2%, but its actual rate is just about 1.2%. The formula assumes that Rockdale raises its full Local Capacity Target. It would hardly be fair to the rest of the districts to reward Rockdale’s under-taxing with more state money. But it would be equally unfair to Rockdale to freeze its levy where it is, so far from its expected rate with a formula that assumes it has access to those resources.

In the statewide aggregate, there are over $3 billion in property taxes levied by school districts above what the formula expects them to bring in. About $2 billion of those are for school districts funded below adequacy. There are about $1 billion in property tax over-levies in over-adequacy districts. Finally, there are $670 million in uncaptured property tax receipts, almost all in districts that are funded below adequacy.

Finding the right balance between providing property tax relief and moving toward adequate school funding is a challenge. If it was easy, someone would have done it. But it’s worth it to wade into this complex territory because this is such a critical issue. Let’s just make sure we acknowledge that it is complicated and will require more than a one-size-fits-all solution.

You probably wouldn’t know it, but I’ve been in a movie.

My non-existent IMDb page will be no use for you, and I never appeared in a Hollywood blockbuster.

What I did star in was Stand’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recipe video that we released last fall. See if you can spot me in my starring role!

I’m not sending this around to highlight my acting career, but to make sure you have a good idea of what is in Illinois’ school accountability plan.

Last week, in the run-up to Election Day, the state released the new Illinois Report Card. This updated format features new ratings and an increased level of data transparency at the school level. It also reflects the ideas featured in our recipe video – something that’s really a win for Illinois parents.

One piece that the Report Card highlights is how schools are funded compared to their funding adequacy target. This compares to the target set in last year’s school funding formula revamp.

My colleague Jessica said it best when she spoke with Chalkbeat Chicago last week: “This changes the conversation from one that blames schools for shortcomings and instead lets families see that, well, we’re not doing great in our school but we only have 60 percent of funding we need.” Go read the entire article; it’s quite comprehensive but still easy to digest.

And when you’re all done with that, I would appreciate if you checked out our recipe video again. It’s the only movie I’ve ever (or will ever, honestly) starred in. See if you can spot me.

Illinois state capitol

The Governor signed the budget today (yay!) and we’re all praising the legislature for adding another $350 million towards the evidence-based funding formula enacted last year.

Let’s break down that $350 million a bit more.

$300 million of that figure will be equitably distributed first to the school districts that are the most under-funded (i.e., furthest away from adequacy) and just like last year, no district will lose money.

The remaining $50 million will be “swapped” for property tax relief, with those funds rebated to homeowners in the form of grants.

If Springfield had allocated more than $350 million, the remaining amounts would be handled in the same manner as the $300 million.

This is the first time in history that these property tax relief grants have been funded. It’s uncharted territory, but here’s how it works:

  • School districts with the highest property tax rates can apply for a grant.
  • By August 1 of each year, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will estimate what tax rate school districts must have in order to be eligible. It all depends on how much money is put into the fund, since more funding means the state can afford more grants.
  • School districts can apply until October 1 for grants worth up to 1% of the “equalized assessed value” of property in the district.
  • By December 1, ISBE will publish a list of districts that qualify, based on the total number of applicants and the threshold tax rate for relief.
  • Qualifying districts will receive their grant payments by January 15.
  • School districts, in turn, rebate the amount of the grant to their property taxpayers.

One of the facts that became abundantly clear during the examination and re-write of the formula is that school funding isn’t just inequitable for students. It’s also inequitable for property taxpayers. Those who live in the poorest areas pay the highest property tax rates. For example, at the lower wealth end of the spectrum, one elementary district in the south suburbs has a tax rate of 9.8%, but it is still only 59% funded. At the other side, one of the wealthier elementary districts – which is funded at 288% – has a rate of just 1.5%.

So in August, you might take a peek at the ISBE website to see what tax rates might qualify. If your school district has a higher rate, ping your school board about going for a grant. It’s a new program and it’ll take some work to get it going, but what a great opportunity to reduce the reliance on property taxes without costing our schools those needed resources!

Advocates march at the Stand for Children rally in Washington, DC on June 1, 1996.

In our office are photos taken over the last couple of years of Stand members holding rally signs with messages like “Our Students Our Future” and “Illinois Kids Need Fair Funding.”

Nearby are pictures taken 22 years ago today of Stand for Children Day, the largest rally in support of children’s rights in the history of the United States and the event that started this organization.

The juxtaposition of these images reminds me that great things can happen when everyday people stand together.

Thanks to advocates like you who stepped up over the years and let Springfield know how important fair funding is for our schools, Illinois just took another important step in the direction of equity.

Yesterday, the General Assembly approved a budget package for the upcoming fiscal year that includes another $350 million for the school funding formula enacted last year. By adding more funds to the formula, the school districts that are the most under-funded receive new money first and no district loses money. That’s good news for students in every corner of the state.

What could Illinois do with that new $350 million in school funding? That decision is up to the school districts, but the possibilities are exciting to think about. $350 million could hire about 4,000 more teachers; that’s at least one for every school. It could go a long way in providing high school students with more guidance counselors – Illinois has the second-worst guidance counselor-to-student ratio in the country, and this needs to be addressed.

Illinois still has work to do to get every district to funding adequacy, but these new resources are an important boost to districts across Illinois.

We at Stand will remain focused on amplifying the voices of students, parents, and families who are fighting for equal and high quality public education, just as we have for 22 years.

Please help us celebrate 22 years of impact and consider a gift to ensure we can continue for at least another 22.

Give $22 today in honor of Stand’s 22nd Anniversary!

I’m proud to be standing with you as we continue that journey.