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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In a statement Biss called Illinois’ education funding system “inequitable, outdated and broken.”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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2 Comments

  1. Regressive tax state

    This is something we should all be up in arms about.  Illinois is the worst performing State in paying for education through State funds as a percentage of the overall cost.  A flat income a tax and an over reliance on property taxes to fund education makes Illinois a extrememly regressive tax State.  Both of these  taxes are not based on ones ability to pay them.  This also creates an unfair system where the quality of your childs' education is directly dependent on the value of the real estate in the school district.  The funding disparity is a sad reminder we live in a State of haves and have nots.  Educating children shouldn't be a local responsibility.  

    The Speaker says the funding of teacher pensions will become a local reponsibility now too through the upcoming "cost shift".  The money saved by the State with this maneuver should be dedicated to increasing the State contribution to at least 50% of the cost of educating all of the States' children.  This should help even the playing field  for the ability to receive a good public education.

    An opportunity to correct the way Illinois funds education is upon us.  The real question is will it occur?  The Speaker and President of the Senate are very successful property tax attorneys.  Here in Cook County two thirds of your property taxes go for education.  Is there a conflict of interest in reducing property taxes overall by increasing State funding of education?  Do these two powerful men really want to decrease their ability to earn a living? 

  2. How level?

    If the state pays at least 50% of the cost, how is that level?

    Check the per student cost in Evanston and compare it to a downstate poor district. 50% becomes more money to schools with more money to spend.

    If the state pays 100% and each district has the same amount to spend per student, try to get teachers to live here on what works in central Illinois. 

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