Illinois School funding formula

ALLEN CHASTAIN

In the November elections, Christian County went solidly for Donald Trump. It's not the kind of environment where taxes for public services are popular. Nevertheless, the Taylorville School District is asking voters to raise their own property taxes, and the district has put everything on the line.

The district hasn’t had a tax increase in 38 years, and is now operating with a $1.3 million annual deficit. If the referendum fails, the district will eliminate all extracurricular activities and all elective classes.

Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner prides himself on robust funding for elementary and secondary education, and in yesterday's budget address, he promised a $213 million increase for k-12 schools. But State Sen. Andy Manar says only a fraction of that money will reach Illinois’ poorest school districts.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to equalize school funding in Illinois have gotten a lot of publicity lately, since the bipartisan commission he established concluded by issuing a report earlier this month. But another group of lawmakers was simultaneously tackling the same issue. It was lead by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). What conclusion did that group come to?

State Rep. Will Davis filed a school funding reform package last week that promises to makes school funding in Illinois more equitable. How much will it cost? How much will each school district gain or lose? Is Davis even going to call the bill for a committee hearing? All good questions with no firm answers.

Andy Manar with reporter mics in front of him
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Last week, the School Funding Reform Commission wrapped up six months of work trying to fix the state's notoriously inequitable support structure for public schools by producing a report calling for new dollars to go first to school districts that have been historically underfunded. However, the commission stopped short of proposing its own legislation. Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill who has already proposed three school funding reform packages, is calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration to come up with a piece of legislation that would carry out the concepts endorsed in the commission's report.

Beth Purvis headshot
Courtesy of Beth Purvis

This is the second part of our conversation with Beth Purvis, Illinois Secretary of Education. She led a 25-member commission over six months of meetings, trying to cure the state’s notoriously inequitable school funding structure. The commission concluded its work last week by issuing a report, but stopped short of crafting actual legislation. Purvis rarely talks to the media, but on the day the commission adjourned, she spoke for about half an hour with NPR Illinois.

Beth Purvis made her first appearance as Secretary of Education at a School Management Alliance/Vision 2020 event.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Beth Purvis serves as Gov. Bruce Rauner's Secretary of Education, and she headed the 25-member commission he tasked with finding a way to make Illinois' school funding more equitable. After six months of meetings, the bipartisan panel adjourned yesterday releasing a report meant to guide lawmakers toward drafting a reform measure. Shortly after that final meeting, Purvis talked to me about the novel test she used with the commission, and why the panel stopped short of endorsing a specific plan.

Last summer, Governor Bruce Rauner tasked 20 lawmakers and a handful of educators with the job of changing the way Illinois funds public schools. That bipartisan commission produced a “framework” today, but no actual legislation.

That is despite the group’s continual focus on a plan favored by Rauner.

School Funding Commision meeting
Chicago Tonight | WTTW-TV

Full program includes:

  • School Funding Reform Commission Delivers Report, Legislation TBD
  • Senate Negotiations on ‘Grand Bargain’ Budget Continue
  • Report: Outdoor Cats Are Killing Billions of Birds

 

KENT KRIEGSHAUSER / GALESBURG REGISTER-MAIL

Who has been hurt the most by shifts in the Illinois economy?

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

For the past 20 years, school funding in Illinois has relied heavily on property taxes, which means schools near prime commercial or residential areas thrive, while others struggle to get by. Since August, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of lawmakers has been meeting regularly to try to come up with a better way to fund public schools.

Courtesy of Sen. Karen McConnaughay

On Wednesday, state senators filed a package of bills designed to break the partisan logjam that's led to the state going more than 18 months without a budget. The first of those bills deals with changing the school funding formula, and the commission charged with accomplishing that task appears headed toward a compromise.

Video monitors of commission meeting
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

More than any other state in the country, Illinois relies on property taxes to fund public schools. As a result, districts in prosperous areas can spend a lot more per student than districts in low-income or rural areas. A group of lawmakers charged with revamping this scheme has been meeting since summer, facing a Feb. 1st deadline. But the group isn’t moving fast enough for State Sen. Andy Manar. He’s the leading Democrat on the commission. He’s also considering running for governor.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the formation of a 25-member commission, and gave them six months to rewrite the state’s school funding formula. State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) is one of 20 lawmakers on the bipartisan, bicameral commission. We asked him for an update on the commission's progress.

Brent Clark, Illinois Association of School Administrators
Courtesy of IASA

When it comes to equity in school funding, Illinois ranks last among all 50 states. So over the summer, various groups of lawmakers have been meeting with stakeholders, trying to come up with a plan that will send state dollars to the school districts that genuinely need help. Brent Clark has been attending all those meetings.

When it comes to school funding, Illinois has been ranked as the worst in the country because our system is so inequitable. Basically that means some schools offer a lot of advanced placement courses and have fancy science labs and swimming pools, while other schools can’t afford new math books and have to cut their band programs. The fight over how to fix this has gone on for years.

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he was creating a bipartisan commission to change the way Illinois funds public schools. That commission held its third meeting yesterday. But there’s another commission tackling the same topic, and its founder claims her group is getting more work done.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner established a bipartisan commission to find a way to fix the state's method of funding schools. Beth Purvis is the governor's Secretary of Education and she chairs this new group. When she opened the first meeting with scores of lawmakers and stakeholders in both Chicago and Springfield, Purvis spoke bluntly by reminding participants why Illinois needs a new plan.

“We are ranked 50th, or received an F, by almost everyone who ranked us in terms of the difference between what we spend on our students who live in our, what we consider our wealthiest districts, and those who are in our poorest," she said.

Jim Broadway publishes the Illinois School News Service. It’s a subscription-based online newsletter for educators, documenting policy as it’s crafted and implemented at the state level. He recently wrote a roundup of education bills that came before the 99th General Assembly, and talked to Illinois Edition about some that became law, and some that didn’t.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

When Gov. Bruce Rauner announced today a new legislative commission to fix Illinois’ school funding formula, the first question from reporters attending the press conference was: Why should we get excited about yet another task force? Groups of lawmakers have been trying to change the state’s notoriously inequitable system for at least the past 10 years. The difference this time, Rauner said, is that the situation has become critical.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A state labor board declined to rush the Rauner administration's request for a speedy decision on a dispute with state employees, while the AFSCME unions seems to be readying for a strike. We'll also talk about what last week's stopgap budget means for schools and universities.

Courtesy of Stand for Children Illinois

A big chunk of Illinois school funding is distributed through a complicated formula known as the "poverty grant." We asked a numbers interpreter to untangle it for us.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

Illinois lawmakers left Springfield a month ago fractured, indignant and without a budget. They'll return Wednesday for another try at a compromise. With just days left before the new fiscal year starts July 1, there are signs there's reason to be optimistic. 

nprIllinois

Illinois lawmakers are expected to vote on a short-term budget on Wednesday, when they'll be back in Springfield for the first time in a month. There's no budget plan in place for the new fiscal year that starts Friday, which could create even more disarray after a year-long stalemate.

This past year has been rough, thanks to not having a state budget. But at least Illinois has funded schools.  For the upcoming fiscal year, that's not guaranteed.

 

You might think all we have to do is turn the money faucet back on. But it’s not that easy.

Courtesy of Rock Island Schools

Thanks to the ongoing budget impasse, school districts around Illinois are scrambling to figure out how to open without state funding. Schools that operate year-round will be the first to face their day of reckoning.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he and his administration have done "heroic" work to keep Illinois government running. But time and money are catching up with that effort, and that will cost taxpayers for years to come.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois legislature adjourned last night with no budget for education -- at any level.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As the clock ticks down on the General Assembly, lawmakers are struggling to avoid the debacle of public schools not opening in the fall. But they’re having a tough time coming up with a school funding formula that pleases both parties.

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).

School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn www.flickr.com/photos/dcjohn/

Illinois' leaders are divided over school funding as ever, even as superintendents continue to sound the alarm about fears education funding will get caught in the political stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase how much Illinois sends schools overall, by $120 million.

Even then, some districts -- including the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools -- would see their state funding drop. Senate President John Cullerton Monday nixed that as a viable option.

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