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Evidence-based funding falling behind in more ways than one

Monday, Feb 26, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Erykah Nava, the communications strategy organizer at Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, and Beatriz Diaz-Pollack, director of education equity at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, writing in the Tribune

Every fiscal year, Illinois lawmakers work through the state budget and decide what areas of our lives to invest in. As part of that process, the Illinois State Board of Education recommends a funding amount to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for investing in K-12 education, which includes the evidence-based funding formula known as EBF. Pritzker decides if he wishes to accept ISBE’s recommendation or decrease or increase the funding amount. The governor then releases his official budget during his annual State of the State address in which he highlights key areas he will financially prioritize for the year.

For this year’s State of the State address, Pritzker accepted ISBE’s recommendation of investing an additional $350 million into the K-12 EBF, the minimum recommended by law, all while celebrating Illinois’ children.

To the public, this funding amount seems like a large amount of money, and the state very much portrays it as performing a great duty for public school students and their communities. However, this is a gross understatement of the reality of K-12 funding.

Due to minimal investments in the EBF, the New Jersey-based nonprofit Education Law Center ranks Illinois 44th out of the 50 states for equitable school funding and gives the state a grade of “F” for equity. That means that despite the EBF’s intent to direct funds to districts with the highest need, these districts continue receiving less overall funding than those serving high-income students.

National experts and partners in the fight for school funding equity have used publicly available ISBE data and found the current EBF funding gap stands at $4.8 billion in K-12. At the current rate of investment, the EBF will not be fully funded until approximately 2040. Students and affected school communities cannot wait this long.

The evidence-based funding formula became law in 2017. And $350 million in 2017 is $444.5 million today.

So, aside from the arguments above (and they are decent arguments), the EBF formula hasn’t even kept pace with the cost of living.


  1. - City Zen - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 11:42 am:

    ==And $350 million in 2017 is $444.5 million today.==

    Which means the Property Tax Relief Grant today would be $63 million.

    The state might be better off just removing that grant altogether.

  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 11:54 am:

    === removing that grant altogether.===

    Good luck finding the votes for that.

  3. - Juice - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 12:19 pm:

    If you read the rankings that is referenced in the article, it really is remarkable how much progress Illinois has made.

    In 2008, we ranked 37th in funding level. And now we rank 10th.

    For effort, in 2008, we ranked 25th. Now Illinois is 5th.

    Where Illinois has made the least amount of progress is in distribution. And there are three things driving a lot of that, and but expecting there to be the political will to change at least two of those three is probably foolish. 1st, the base funding minimum in the new formula which serves as a hold harmless by design perpetuates the inequity in distribution over the short/medium term. 2nd, reliance on property taxes. The wealthy districts are always going to have the funds they want. Unless we make a significant change in the law that would keep school boards and voters from allowing the levy to go up when there is a desire to get more money to local schools, this will probably always be an issue. (PTELL probably doesn’t help since it disincentives not raising the levy in a given year. Could use EBF to incorporate actual tax rate instead of assumed tax rate maybe.) 3rd, CPS having a relatively low tax rate (partially because the city is wealthy) despite being a high poverty district. But the district has always seemed to want other people to handle their revenue issues for them. Will see if that changes with an elected board. But looking doubtful.

  4. - Frida's boss - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 12:54 pm:

    “That means that despite the EBF’s intent to direct funds to districts with the highest need, these districts continue receiving less overall funding than those serving high-income students.”

    This will always be the case. Unless you make it illegal for local school districts to increase their local levy for their schools or you say for every dollar you increase property taxes the state will reduce your levy and thereby take money from your schools. Neither option is a good one for any elected who represents those areas.

  5. - Frida's boss - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 12:57 pm:

    the state will reduce your levy

    Sorry meant to say the state will reduce your state share……

  6. - OH - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 1:06 pm:

    Everything they say is true. But if they are going to call for lawmakers to “be transparent,” shouldn’t they do the same and point to the specific cost shifts, budget cuts, or tax increases that are necessary to make it happen?

  7. - Jibba - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 1:32 pm:

    ===EBF will not be fully funded until approximately 2040===

    And pensions won’t be fully funded until 2045. We’re so far in the hole that it will take a while to get back to land surface. Have some patience.

  8. - JS Mill - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 1:48 pm:

    =the state a grade of “F” for equity=

    Kinda true and kinda not true. Communities with high poverty get the lion’s share of state funding. CPS, Cicero, Rockford, East St. Louis all get the bulk of their funding from state and federal services. They have artificially low tax rates (maybe not E St Lou). Schools like ours get almost nothing from the annual EBF investment. We are a small rural district (geographically large) with a poverty rate of 40% and we only recieve between $3,000 and $15,000 annually from the EBF above our base funding minimum. we are not wealthy and we have a high tax rate and we are part of the forgotten middle.

    I agree with others, PTELL is a disincentive to reducing the Levy.

  9. - Two left feet - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 2:52 pm:

    We are a Tier 2 district and will receive a .8% increase in state funding. The annual new mandates usually exceed the increase in state funding.

  10. - Shytown - Monday, Feb 26, 24 @ 4:43 pm:

    Anything produced by RYH is an automatic meh for me.

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