As Illinois struggles with public school funding, state officials received some expert advice today:
You have a rare opportunity; don’t mess it up.
That was the message the State Board of Education heard from Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. Roza said states typically overhaul funding once every two decades, so Illinois needs to make sure its new formula is flexible enough to adapt to changes. Her recommendations included canceling certain tax subsidies and channeling teacher pension payments through districts. This would enlarge the base amount each district receives, and inspire local officials to control pension costs.
“So what you’re essentially trading, sometimes, is flexibility, even for a cut," Roza said. "School districts like flexibility."
Roza also proposed establishing a fund to match property taxes, so that poor districts with high tax rates would receive more equitable funding.
ISBE had asked Roza to analyze Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Macoupin County). Roza said the bill as currently drafted would "dramatically advance funding equity in Illinois," but should be improved.
The board meeting began with a seminar for new members on the current funding formula. It provided a primer that could be useful to anyone interested in how Illinois funds schools. Click HERE to see it for yourself.