News Local/State

Panel Poised To Tweak School Funding Formula

Nakia Hall is a member of the Crete-Monee school board.

Nakia Hall is a member of the Crete-Monee school board. Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

Illinois’ new school funding formula — approved last year — could already be facing revisions. That's because lawmakers had such a tough time agreeing on this new formula, they tried to ensure they'd never have to fight so hard again. So they built in a Professional Review Panel, and empowered the group to recommend recalibrations as needed.

One idea under consideration: Adding a racial equity component, to address the historic underfunding of predominantly black districts.

Nakia Hall, from the Crete-Monee school board, is a member of the panel and says equity funding could help close the racial achievement gap.

"You can look at the data however you want. We can break it down by instrument of test given, which test is given, but you're going to get the same results. And that's why it's a problem,” she says. "I think it's a matter of remembering why we're all here. And that's not to give push-back because we don't personally agree, or, you know, maybe it's not applicable to your situation. We're all in this together.”

Photo Credit: Illinois State Board of Education

T​he previous formula relied heavily on property taxes. Under the new plan, no district lost any state funding, but additional money is being channeled to the neediest schools.

The panel has 27 members, mostly education officials but also four lawmakers who played a role in shaping the new formula. The panel cannot alter the formula, but it can recommend changes to the General Assembly.