Lawmakers Push For School Funding Changes
By Hannah Meisel
Illinois ranks last in the nation when it comes to how much money the state kicks in for public education. This has to do with the complicated formula that determines school funding. There is a move to change how that's done.
This year, Illinois is only paying 89 percent of the money it's supposed to send to schools. Currently those cuts are applied across the board, hitting wealth and poor districts alike.
A group of lawmakers is looking at ways to change how schools are funded. But, with the expiration of the temporary income tax increase at the end of this year, Illinois could have to make drastic budget cuts.
“I don’t think the time to try to totally revamp your school funding formula is when you have no money,” said Ben Schwarm with the Illinois Association of School Boards. “Some adjustments have to be made, but at some point you have to look forward and at a more comprehensive way to improve funding.”
Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Simon said she wants to make sure schools districts with more impoverished students aren't left behind.
“Cutting back the same percentage of everyone—those districts that are the most in need, it has really the opposite effect of what we would want to have happen,” Simon said.
Schwarm said regardless of the formula, the state needs to put more money into schools.
“How do you fix school funding by spending less money is really the charge of this committee, and that can’t be done,” Schwarm explained.
Early projections show next year, Illinois is likely to make even deeper cuts to education. Schwarm said poorer schools could be safeguarded by focusing cuts on districts that are less reliant on the state for funding.