Governor JB Pritzker delivered his Budget Address earlier today. Education is a big focus of his plan this year and he’s calling it “Smart Start” – a proposal that would boost early childhood funding by $250 million! That is a big deal. It means 20,000 more preschool slots, better pay for childcare workers, facilities funds, and a boost in early intervention and home visiting programs.
I’m celebrating that part! I’m less enthralled with the funding increase request for the Evidence-Based Funding Formula for K-12 schools, set at the so-called “Minimum Funding Level” – $350 million. Remember: when we passed this funding formula five years ago, Illinois schools were the least-equitably funded in the country. The formula is working and shrinking those equity gaps, but Illinois is still among the most inequitably funded states. It’s on us to urge our lawmakers to support a $550 million increase for Evidence-Based Funding in this year’s budget. Tell your legislators that this is the year for a $550 million formula increase.
At the rate of $350 million per year, it will be 2047 before we fully fund K-12 education.
We’ve got to speed that up. Without a significant infusion of funds, the kids who will benefit from a fully funded system haven’t even been born yet.
This budget proposal is overall quite strong. The Governor has clearly prioritized education. Going beyond the “minimum” to give another $550 million to Evidence-Based Funding will complete the package.