Illinois Supreme Court Case Challenges Education Funding

September 18, 2012

A case before the Illinois Supreme Court is a challenge to the heart of how Illinois pays for education. A group of taxpayers on Tuesday asked the state’s high court to find that Illinois law discriminates against poor school districts.

Every homeowner knows how important property taxes are to most school districts' bottom lines. But not all property is created equal so in order to meet the state’s minimum level of funding for schools, poor districts have to tax at a higher rate than wealthier districts.

Attorney Alexander Polikoff represents a group of taxpayers from less-wealthy areas who say the disparity is unfair especially considering Illinois has imposed penalties on schools that don’t meet the state’s education standards.

"The collective effect of these changes is to erode local control over basic education," Polikoff said.

But the state said local schools maintain a great deal of control. Assistant Attorney General Paul Berks argued that the learning standards are just goals.

"The local school districts continue to hire teachers (and) develop pedagogy (and) methodology to fulfill that," Berks said.

The state said the law doesn’t discriminate -- it actually gives more money to cash-strapped school districts.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio