A controversial rewrite of the state’s school funding formula is bad for 44th district schools says State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) who voted against the measure on Tuesday, May 27. Brady says that the bill radically redistributes school aid, making some districts in Illinois big winners while others lose out on huge amounts of state funding.
“This rewrite takes an already complicated formula and makes it even more complicated while not really correcting the problem it was intended to address,” said Brady. “Additionally, it hurts area schools. Estimates from the State Board of Education show 44th district schools losing around $1.7 million in school funding. This bill has serious financial ramifications for many districts throughout the state.”
Shortly after estimates were released by the State Board of Education, Brady sought input from area superintendents most of whom expressed opposition to the bill. Those who replied expressed frustration that the bill had been rushed through without proper input from the school districts and relayed fears over how they expected that SB 16 would impact their districts.
“I have real concerns about how this will affect schools and the quality of education our students are receiving,” said Brady. “One superintendent who we spoke with said that continued reductions in state funding would mean cutting some of the programs that support students who are most in need of educational services. Several others expressed that reduced state funding would mean staff reductions and larger class sizes. I fail to see how this ‘reform measure’ is helping to improve education for our students.”
Brady notes that while some amendments were filed to make the bill more palatable, it still continues the controversial practice of “prorating” school funding. Currently, Illinois has a “Foundation Level” of $6,119 per student, which has been established by the General Assembly as the base amount that schools should be provided to educate a student. However, in recent years the state has “prorated” that base, leaving many schools with less than that minimum amount.
Seeking to address this inequity Brady and other legislators recently introduced a back-to-basics approach at improving education funding in Illinois. Their proposal, SB 3664, requires that the Foundation Level grant within the state’s General State Aid formula be funded at 100 percent before any education dollars are directed to any other grant lines or programs. Their proposal would also put an end to proration and ensure that school districts aren’t cheated out of funding by accounting gimmicks.
Brady also expressed concerns that the bill seemed to create a number of special benefits for Chicago Public Schools that are not made available to other districts in the state. While the intent of the bill is to make the allocation of state education dollars more equitable, provisions that guarantee the Chicago Public Schools automatically receive 37% of all Early Childhood Education grant money only reinforce the very inequities the bill was supposed to fix.
Senate Bill 16 passed in the Senate on May 27 and now heads to the Illinois House where it faces an uncertain future.