The Illinois Senate Tuesday approved a resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) to form an advisory committee to come up with a new model for funding education in the state.

In a statement Biss called Illinois’ education funding system “inequitable, outdated and broken.”

He described how the current process works:

  • A panel recommends a per-pupil minimum spending level, which the legislature has ignored since 1997, instead setting a level that now lags behind the recommendation by more than 25 percent.
  • Supplemental grants assist high-poverty districts but benefit low-income students to different degrees depending on where they live.
  • ‘Hold harmless’ provisions and a separate formula for tax-capped districts complicate matters, producing winners and losers.
  • Most distressingly, this byzantine system is then subjected to a blunt 11 percent cut across the board, because Illinois can no longer afford to fully fund even this inadequate formula.

“The funding process is so absurdly illogical that we might as well be sending school districts completely random amounts of money,” Biss added.

He says two-thirds of Illinois school districts engaged in deficit spending this year and that the schools have to rely too heavily on local property taxes.

“Our constitution gives the state primary responsibility for financing public education, but Illinois is last in the nation in the percentage of funding schools actually receive from the state,” Biss said.

He said he hopes that, if the advisory committee proposal is also approved by the state House that the panel will come up with recommendations for a more equitable system that will ultimately win approval from lawmakers.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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