Illinois’ school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes. That leaves districts with low land values to make do with about six thousand dollars per student each year, while districts with thriving businesses can spend up to five times that amount.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree Illinois needs to change the formula, but they get caught on the question how.
A plan crafted by Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, won approval in the Senate Tuesday, but lacks bi-partisan support.
Manar's proposal would reduce state funding for both Unit Five and District 87 Schools in Bloomington Normal. Both Unit Five and District 87 Superintendents prefer an evidence based model proposed by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington).
Wednesday, other authors of that evidence-based model, like director of the state Association of School Administrators Brent Clark, said they could merge their plan with Manar's.
"We believe there's a pathway here to bring together Senator Manar's work and our work and do a collaborative approach to not only get us through this year but get into next year," said Clark.
One catch is that Clark's evidence-based model couldn't be implemented until 2018, when it would add money to schools based on the funding they receive for 2017.
Mike Jacoby, director of state school business officials, said his this plan could work with Manar's Senate Bill 231, or with any other proposal.
"We're not necessarily saying that this only works in conjunction with 231; it could work with any model of funding that comes forward. That funding for fiscal 17 just establishes the floor from which this model then moves forward," said Jacoby.
D-87 Superintendent Barry Reilly has told GLT it might be politically possible to merge the two if state aid were frozen at current levels for districts that have healthy property tax bases.
Governor Bruce Rauner's measure proposes adding 55 million dollars to the current amount spent on K-12 Schools, and uses the current funding formula. For Senator Manar that's not a win.
"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.
Other critics of Governor Rauner's measure say that further enriches wealthy districts, while taking money away from the neediest schools.
The state board of education heard three presentations: one from Democratic Senator Andy Manar, who has been pushing a plan focused on fixing the state's deeply inequitable school funding formula, then two presentations touting an evidence-based model.