Education Desk: New No-Frills Plan Would Give Schools Most Of The "Meat & Potatoes" Kids Need

May 24, 2016

A new plan to fund public schools was filed yesterday. Its goal is to ensure that all school districts have 90 percent of the resources needed to provide a no-frills, meat-and-potatoes "adequate" education. It would also have the state pay teacher pensions in the Chicago Public School District (the state already pays pensions in all other districts). To learn more about this legislation, go read the bill or just listen to one of its authors, Diane Rutledge, explain it.

State Representative Will Davis, a Democrat from Hazelwood, is sponsoring this particular plan. The basic concept, however, has been discussed for more than a year, touted by Republican State Senator Jason Barickman and promoted by the Management Alliance — an umbrella organization that encompasses all the school superintendents, board members, and other upper-echelon education officers. They refer to this measure as the “evidence-based funding formula."

Most educators and lawmakers agree that the current funding formula needs a complete overhaul because it’s the most inequitable in the nation. Some districts have just about $6,000 per student per year; other districts spend four or five times that amount. But with the state's finite pool of cash, how do you get more money for the poor districts without taking some away from the wealthy ones?

Rutledge, who helped write this new plan, says it avoids that problem.

No one can say how much this will cost. That’s because it wouldn’t go into effect until the 2017-18 school year, which is in fiscal year '18. And remember, the main selling point is that no district will lose money. That means that — assuming lawmakers pass some sort of school funding plan this week — districts will be held harmless at that level.