Illinois School funding formula

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This week, a proposal for a state constitutional amendment on voting rights, a proposal for a graduated tax rate, and suggestions for a pension change for the city of Chicago.

Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

    

Critics of the way Illinois funds schools say it's wrong that the quality of a child's education is based largely on her zip code.

That's because schools are mostly funded by local property taxes. While Illinois takes that into account when determining how much state money to give each district, it's not the predominant factor.

A new proposal, backed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would make local need the number one test.

A group of Democratic lawmakers Wednesday introduced a long-awaited piece of legislation that would dramatically change the way schools are funded in Illinois for the first time since 1997. The sponsors call the measure the most comprehensive way to ensure equity across the state but say there's still work to do in gaining broad support on the regionally divisive issue.

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  All four of the Republican candidates for governor have said they will make education funding a priority if elected, but they face an uphill battle finding the money to send to schools. Each of the contenders has an unique solution for fixing education funding in Illinois.

First, some background: Illinois is ranked last in the nation when it comes to how much the state kicks in to public education.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Many people are aware that the Illinois Lottery helps fund schools. But just how much do the proceeds actually help? Well, that's what we aimed to find out:

    

Most of the money for the state's public schools K-12 come from local sources, like property taxes. The state contributes a large portion as well, and the lottery profits are part of that, but just how much? To find that out, our first stop is the Hometown Pantry at the intersection of Edwards and MacArthur in Springfield.

  Illinois schools have seen state funding cut again and again in recent years. A Democratic lawmaker wants to change how that money is distributed. But it remains to be whether they can get more money in the system.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) says inequality is basically guaranteed by Illinois' complicated education funding laws. That's because it's based on property taxes, so schools in impoverished areas can struggle to get by.

  Illinois ranks last in the nation when it comes to how much money the state kicks in for public education. This has to do with the complicated formula that determines school funding. But it also has to do with the amount districts are being prorated.

This year, Illinois is only paying 89 percent of the money it's supposed to send to schools. Currently those cuts are applied across the board, hitting wealthy and poor districts alike.

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says she wants to make sure schools districts with more impoverished students aren't left behind.

Governor Suspends Charter School Group's Funding

Oct 18, 2013

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has again suspended state funding to the United Neighborhood Organization, the state's biggest charter-school operator.  
Quinn spokeswoman Sandra M. Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times the final $15 million of a $98 million state school-construction grant the Illinois Legislature promised UNO in 2009 is being withheld.  
Quinn previously suspended funding for UNO in April, after reports the organization gave $8.5 million of business to companies owned by the brothers of then UNO executive Miquel d'Escoto.  

ISBE Warns Of School Funding Cuts

Oct 18, 2013
flickr/LizMarie_AK

School administrators in Illinois are being warned to prepare for even less state funding for the next fiscal year.  
The Springfield Bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/16g1Hjd ) the Illinois State Board of Education is telling school districts to prepare to receive about 85 percent of the normal general state aid payments.  
This year, the qualifying districts are getting 89 percent of the money.  

State Senator Andy Manar (D - Bunker Hill) is in his first term serving the 48th District.  It stretches from Springfield and Decatur south into Madison County.

Before he was elected, Manar spent time as Chief of Staff to Senate President John Cullerton and served as Chairman of the Macoupin County Board.

Manar sat down with WUIS' Sean Crawford to talk about some of the issues facing state government, including public pensions, tax incentives for ADM, education funding and how he was considered as a possible running mate to former gubernatorial candidate Bill Daley:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Officially, it’s “Sec. 18-8.05. Basis for apportionment of general State financial aid and supplemental general State aid to the common schools for the 1998-1999 and subsequent school years,” in the statute books.

More familiarly, it’s known simply as the “state aid formula.”

By either name, it’s the prescription by which the state doles out billions of dollars each year to public school districts across Illinois to help pay education costs for more than one million children from kindergarten through high school.

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

After years of state budget cuts, Illinois schools will get roughly level funding under legislation signed into law Thursday. But Governor Pat Quinn says it's still not enough.

Earlier this year, Quinn said Illinois' budget problems meant the state had to reduce school spending. But lawmakers decided not to cut the education budget, in part because Illinois collected more taxes in April than it anticipated.

The extra money will go to elementary and high schools, community colleges, and public universities. It also funds MAP grants for needy college students.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

President Barack Obama’s promise in his State of the Union speech to push for universal, voluntary preschool invigorated early childhood advocates nationally and across Illinois. Could it help the state regain lost ground in building a system of preschool for all?

“Very, very much,” predicted Theresa Hawley, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development. “We don’t know a lot of details, [but] what they’re thinking about at the federal level matches well with what we have set as our priorities here in Illinois.”

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Can Illinois finish in the money in Round II of Race to the Top?

The answer could hinge on budget decisions that state lawmakers will make in coming days.

At stake is as much as $400 million to underwrite efforts to improve Illinois schools under Race to the Top, the education centerpiece of the Obama administration.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.

— The Illinois Constitution, 1970

Rochester needs a new junior high. State officials won't argue with that. They even agreed to pick up more than half the tab. Still, they never said anything about putting the project on layaway.

Three years after putting up $8.3 million in local money, voters in this central Illinois town had to step up again, this time to shoulder what has been an empty promise from the state.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

What does a sewer back-up have to do with education? Or for that matter an electrical short? Or a boiler malfunction?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

One school superintendent tells our Statehouse reporter Pat Guinane her district has had to cancel classes because of sewer back-ups. "We're kind of in a low area," says Ruth Schneider of the Stewardson-Strasburg district, "and when it rains real hard we get sewer back-ups — and sometimes even when it doesn't rain. The lines are just old and crumbling and need to be replaced."

Construction paper isn’t in much demand in Carlinville’s schools because elementary students can no longer take art. The teaching staff was cut by more than 17 percent, forcing class sizes to climb at all elementary grades. The average fourth-grade class size is now 29.

The district has had to take several such steps over the past three years to reduce its budget deficit. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 in suburban Chicago spends about $13,600 a year on each student — nearly twice the average per-pupil spending in Illinois. And under a proposal in Gov. George Ryan’s fiscal year 2003 budget — which would take money from 22 categorical grants and redistribute it — that one-school district would get $1.3 million more each year.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's springtime in Illinois, and one can see signs of the season blossoming across the state: daffodils, tulips, forsythia, school referenda.

School referenda?

Yep. Local school officials pleading with local taxpayers for desperately needed dollars has become as much an annual springtime ritual as green beer for St. Paddy's Day and high hopes for the Chicago Cubs.

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