In what has been a “perennial occurrence,” as noted by reporter Dan Petrella of Lee Enterprises, State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) unveiled another attempt to re-write the school aid formula on April 5. Republicans, however, say the measure is designed to bail out the already severely broken and fiscally mismanaged Chicago Public School (CPS) system.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree Illinois must address the state’s school-aid formula, Manar’s proposal gives hundreds of millions of dollars more to bail out CPS’ fiscal challenges, without input from key stakeholders, including taxpayers, parents, teachers, administrators, communities, legislators, and scholars.
For a decade, Democrat majorities in the Senate and House authored budgets funding elementary and secondary education, resulting in cuts to schools across the state. In 2013, Illinois’ top Democrat, House Speaker Madigan proclaimed downstate and suburban schools were getting a “free lunch” and more state funding should be directed to CPS. This year, Democrat Senate President Cullerton has threatened to withhold all school funding until there’s a new formula.
In the meantime, Republicans are pushing to fully fund General State Aid for schools, something that hasn’t occurred in Illinois in the last seven years. This would ensure a base level of funding for every Illinois student and stop the funding cuts in the most disadvantaged school districts. Republicans say fully funding General State Aid for K-12 is the most effective way to help Illinois school districts until a new formula is crafted.
Once the state fully funds its schools, lawmakers could then take the steps necessary to rewrite the state’s education funding formula in a bipartisan fashion that incorporates input from the public and other interested parties.