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K-12 funding reform solution still elusive

Thursday, Dec 22, 2016

* Dan Petrella

Illinois’ top leaders aren’t meeting to discuss the state budget, but a group that includes rank-and-file lawmakers from both parties has been meeting more frequently in recent weeks to come up with a plan to overhaul the way the state funds public schools.

Despite the standstill over the broader state budget, members of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education funding reform commission say they’re optimistic that the group, which has been meeting since summer, will be able to come up with at least the outlines of what a new school funding formula should look like.

* But

A recent report from Advance Illinois, an education advocacy group, notes that under the current formula, Illinois spends 81 cents educating students from low-income families for every dollar it spends educating kids from wealthier ones.

“That is just upside-down from what we know needs to happen,” said Ginger Ostro, Advance Illinois’ executive director.

So far, however, long-term proposals aimed at fixing the problem haven’t been approved because they would either take money away from wealthier districts or vastly increase state spending on public education, both of which are politically challenging.

The full Advance Illinois report is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:18 am:

    Yes by all means let’s avoid solutions lest they damage anyone’s political career.

  2. - JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:28 am:

    =Illinois spends 81 cents educating students from low-income families for every dollar it spends educating kids from wealthier ones.=

    That number is inclusive of local dollars.

    State funds are definitely concentrated on high poverty districts, especially those with large ELL populations.

    No matter what money the state sends to wealthy schools, they will always spend as much as they choose/can to educate their students. That is their choice and even under the true Evidence Based Model(EBM), they can continue to do that. They generally get a very small amount of state and federal money.

    You can make the argument that high wealth schools should not get any state money, I am not sure that is totally right but it can definitely be argued.

    The commission is highly politicized (duh) so are the stakeholder groups. The EBM is being manipulated to drive even more dollars to the schools in high poverty areas (primarily high poverty urban or quasi urban poverty districts like CPS, U46, East StL) to the detriment of the districts in the middle, especially central Illinois. That is a genuine problem.

    If you are in rural Illinois you do not have an advocate out there and will lose out in this process.

  3. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:33 am:

    The State needs to increase their share of school funding, but that is going to be tough to do. Especially since I saw a article today in the SJ-R quoting Munger as saying the State needs a 7% to 8% income tax rate just to pay the bills and pay down the backlog. Add increased school funding on top of that and you’re talking a 9% to 10% rate if you keep a flat tax.

    That tells me the only way the State can correct the budget / revenue imbalance is a grand bargain where the schools get new funding only when / in exchange for a graduated income tax that also closes corporate loopholes and taxes some level of retirement income. Nobody will want to vote against increasing school funding but nobody will want to vote for new taxes. The only way to get it done is to bundle the two together. Do it right and you can include local property tax relief.

    Structured correctly and properly explained, the only people who won’t like it will be the 1.4%.

  4. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:35 am:

    Most Americans believe in the concept of equal opportunity. Yet providing less money for the poor than for the affluent not only perpetuates inequality, it aggravates it. Courts in other states have declared such funding inequity unconstitutional. So the funding disparities in Illinois are not inevitable.

  5. - illini - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:37 am:

    Yesterday, while driving, I happened to be listening to a local news report.

    The long and short of the report was that unless a budget is agreed to and funding provided within the next 10 days that school districts will no longer be funded by the State for Special Education or for transportation. Can not remember the source, but, if true, the only result will be that, and in those districts that are able, additional reserves will be drawn down to provide these services.

    “If you are in rural Illinois you do not have an advocate out there and will lose out in this process.” Exactly.

  6. - East Central Illinois - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:53 am:

    Amen to what JS Mill said at 10:28

  7. - JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:02 am:

    =Courts in other states have declared such funding inequity unconstitutional.=

    Some “poor” districts are not spending the funds they receive. Cicero 99 has, during proration, run annual surpluses in excess of $10 million.

    We have cut 18% of our staff over the last four years and will continue to cut through attrition.

    Although we are not a “poor” district we have 39% poverty (by free/reduced lunch count) and 33% poverty by DHS count and our enrollment has been steady with small increases over the last two years yet we have lost more than $1.2 million in General State Aid compared to what we received 5 years ago. All together, in that 5 year period we have lost $4.5 million dollars in GSA and another $1.8 in MCATS. Transportation is the biggest non-GSA loss. That adds up to almost 60% of our current annual budget. We have nearly exhausted our fund reserves.

    The greatest loss has been in the last two years, accounting for nearly $3 million of the roughly $6.3 million.


  8. - JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:10 am:

    Sorry, hit “say it” and cut myself off-

    The point is the inquity that gets a lot of attention- urban poor- is not the only inequity out there. Rural districts are getting hit pretty hard and there has been no voice for us because we are not poor enough. Manar’s bill would have cut even more money from our budget as well as those around us.

    When people decry the “inequality” they are right in doing so, but they need to look outside there narrow perspective and understand that communities like Chicago, Cicero, and Elgin are getting twice the amount or more per pupil than districts like ours.

    I understand the challenges of educating students in poverty first hand, but two things occur to me- 1) at some point there has to be a limit to what the state send to poor districts 2) there are certain minimum standards of opportunity that EVERY student regardless of geography rural, urban, suburban deserve and funding must be adjusted regardless of “formula” and politics.

    It is the politics that I am disgusted with right now.

  9. - walker - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:14 am:

    Pay attention to what JS Mill notes above. The state funding already favors poorer districts, while the local funding goes the other way. Unless we decide the state can limit what local communities are allowed to spend on their own schools, which will never happen, perfect equity will not be attained.

  10. - DuPage Dave - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:14 am:

    The Advance Illinois document is very well done and quite interesting, but they are playing fast and loose with their language. “Illinois spends” implies that the state policy and state budget result in more state funds going to wealthier school districts, when everyone knows that is not true. The wealthier school districts are spending their own local tax dollars at a high level, not state funds.

  11. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:16 am:

    I would love to see Senators Barickman and Manar work together and meld their proposals. Each proposal has its own strengths and weaknesses. Both men are similar enough and have the right intentions, so coming together and hammering out a decent compromise would be a worthy and perhaps even attainable goal for the 2017 session(s). I would also hope that a Barickman-backed proposal - even with some or half of Manar’s ideas - would meet Governor Rauner’s smell test. Make it happen gents!

  12. - Federalist - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:29 am:

    @ JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 10:28 am:

    Extremely insightful post that most will ignore because it makes too much sense.

  13. - JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:47 am:

    @TS- the inside politics would contradict your thoughts on Manar. I am told by people inside the process that Manar actively blocked progress on legislation that Barrickman was a part of and was different than his bill. There is no love lost between these two men.

    Equality of funding shouldn’t be the goal. Under current and foreseeable conditions he state cannot generate enough revenue to equalize spending by every district. The rate would be huge in a flat tax scenario as RNUG posted earlier.

    What do we want for kids? What Standards, experiences,and outcomes do we want? That should be our goal.

    Tip of the hat to Federalist and Walker.

  14. - City Zen - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 11:59 am:

    ==Illinois spends 81 cents educating students from low-income families for every dollar it spends educating kids from wealthier ones.==

    The salary schedule in the wealthy district’s teachers contract indicates where most of that extra 19 cents is going.

  15. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 1:03 pm:

    JS Mill - you are correct but hence why I said that I would love to see and not that we will see. Not that we are going to see it, but I would like to see them work together. I wish they could mend fences. They are going about their attempts via different channels and policy ideas/ideals but they both want to see change. I also wonder if Manar is starting to burn bridges. He is driving hard bargains with everything he wants to accomplish and his little “no executive campaigning” stunt may have set him back.

  16. - JS Mill - Thursday, Dec 22, 16 @ 2:09 pm:

    @TS- Thanks for clarifying, I don’t disagree with you in principle.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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