News Local/State

Education Funding Reform Bill Passes State Senate

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) in 2014

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) introduces an earlier version of his education funding reform bill in 2014. (Amanda Vinicky/IPR)

The Illinois Senate voted 31 to 21 with three voting present to approve a big change to the way Illinois funds schools Tuesday, but that doesn't ensure anything will change.

The legislation (SB 231) is the third iteration of a plan crafted by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). It overhauls the formula used to distribute state aid, sending more to districts with high concentrations of poverty.

Among local lawmakers, Democrat Scott Bennett of Champaign voted for the measure. Republicans Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Jason Barickman and Bill Brady of Bloomington and Dale Righter of Mattoon voted against it.

Republicans decry the plan as a bailout for Chicago schools. But Manar says his legislation is about equity.

"This ought not be a Democrat or Republican issue,” said Manar. “This should be a conversation about how we change the system, that has been just ... very difficult on downstate districts that have seen a growth in poverty, unchecked, unchecked by state government."

So far, the only other school funding bill is the plan filed on behalf of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. It would increase state spending on schools, but continue to distribute it by the current formula, which even Rauner describes as woefully inequitable.

Manar told reporters no matter what becomes of his own bill, he would not support Rauner's.

"Why should I vote for spending 55 million more dollars that doesn't deliver an ounce of equity to my district or any other struggling school district in the state?” said Manar.

The legislation now moves to the Illinois House, where indications are that it will be bottled up by Democrats who control the chamber. Meanwhile, a House task force heard about a third education funding proposal, touted as an "evidence-based model."