Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed increased funding for elementary and secondary schools. But Democrats don't want to add money to a formula they say is fundamentally inequitable. Instead, they're proposing a new way to calculate how much state aid flows to each school district.
The current funding formula relies heavily on local property taxes. That means school a district that encompasses an airport and an upscale shopping mall can support schools more generously than a districts that has just a couple of grain elevators and a Dairy Queen.
State Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Macoupin County, has been working to change the formula for years. He's proposing a measure that would distribute state aid based on each district's needs.
"If you're a district that has a 90 percent poverty rate, it's gonna take a little more resources to produce the same outcome as a district that has a 5 percent poverty rate,” Manar says. “Now, I'm not making this up. Every expert, every scholarly work of writing will tell you that."
Some districts would get less state funding, but those losses would be phased in over a four-year period.
Republicans point to the bill’s provision for the state to pay normal pension costs for Chicago Public Schools, and call the measure a “bailout.” The state already covers pension costs for most other school districts. Manar’s bill would also take away the major block grant that Chicago schools currently receive.