- Published: Tuesday, February 04, 2014 11:25 AM
Illinois’ education funding system is so broken that the state is now sending school districts nearly random amounts of money. For the last three years, aid to schools has been prorated across the board, which is among the least thoughtful and most regressive ways of dealing with a budget shortfall.
Recently, the Education Funding Advisory Committee released what I believe is a very important and encouraging report. You can read it here. I’m thankful to the members of the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee for spending the last six months thinking through some of the most complex questions we face and listening to those who directly experience the effects of haphazard state aid.
The committee has made a number of recommendations designed to repair the funding mechanism. They include:
- Creating a single funding formula through which 96 percent of state K-12 education dollars would flow
- Giving additional weight in the formula to high-need students (socioeconomically at-risk, English language learners and students with special education needs)
- Requiring greater transparency from school districts about how state funds are spent, not just at the district level but in each individual school building
- Reforming the “PTELL adjustment” used for tax-capped districts so we do a better job accounting for each school district’s true ability to pay for education using local resources
I’m very encouraged by the committee’s recommendations. Rolling most types of state K-12 funding into a single formula is the best way to give local school districts the resources they need. Changing the formula that distributes money to school districts will never be painless or easy. But the committee’s recommendations are a firm step in the right direction, and I’m excited about supporting and assisting the committee this spring as we work toward a formula that does what it was intended to do.
Finally, any formula is pointless unless we fully fund it. Once we come up with a formula we believe in, we must devote enough state dollars to make it work. Adequate state funding for education must be a primary consideration as we address the state’s budget and tax structure.