Rauner signed House Bill 3763, which provides state spending authority for general state aid to public school districts, the backbone of state financial support for public schools.
The bill also contains funding for early childhood education programs, bilingual education and required payments to the downstate teacher pension system.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the bill Rauner signed may have some contradictions.
“There appears to be elements to what he’s approved that are contradictory to his introduced budget as it relates to pension and health care funding that are part of the bill,” Brown said. “We’ll just take a review. That might offer some clues as to what their overall plan is.”
I think what he’s talking about there is the bill’s fully funded teachers healthcare program and pension payments. You’ll recall that Rauner wanted to short both.
Now, [Tony Sanders, CEO of Elgin School District U46, the second-largest district in the state] said, attention will shift to the Illinois State Board of Education, which decides how the money gets doled out. Both the spending plan Rauner signed and the amount he requested in his budget proposal were short of the amount that the state is supposed to contribute to schools, Sanders said.
In past years, the education board has handled the situation by making across-the-board reductions in the state’s payments to school districts. That disproportionately affects less-affluent districts, Sanders said.
* More on that from my old pal Dusty Rhodes…
It’s been years since Illinois funded schools at the proper level. This new budget is a mere 8 percent short of what the state actually owes school districts. That makes it slightly higher than last year’s level, but still lower than 2007, which takes some of the confetti out of the party. This legislation does, however, do more than just authorize funding. It actually changes the way the state distributes the money — setting aside $85 million to go to the neediest districts first, while the wealthiest wait till last.
This concept is known as “fill from the bottom.” It was pushed by a coalition of school officials and community activists called Funding Illinois’ Future. […]
Illinois relies on local property taxes to support schools. In districts that don’t have enough property wealth to reach a minimum funding level — currently $6,119 per student per year — the state is supposed to kick in the difference. But for the past few years, Illinois has shortchanged each district by 11 to 13 percent. That across-the-board reduction has meant that the neediest districts suffer the greatest loss.
“You’ll see some districts who over the past few years have lost $30 per student, and other districts that have lost $1,100 per student and everything in between,” [FIF’s Teresa Ramos] said. “And what you’ll find is districts that have higher percentages of low-income students, students who are English language learners, African American and Latino students, you’ll find that those districts have been losing more.” […]
The education spending legislation Rauner signed effectively caps each district’s loss at $232 per student.