Innovative school funding reform plan gets hearing
Every lawmaker under the Capitol Dome believes Illinois needs to reform the way it funds elementary and secondary education. After years of debate, special commissions and studies, the Senate Education Committee heard testimony May 4 on a fairer method to fund schools based on known and unique economic facts of each district.
Senate Bill 1124 is an evidence-based school funding plan endorsed by Senate Republicans. It would reallocate more than a half-billion dollars in funding to help school districts meet financial adequacy targets, without requiring an increase in state funding. The evidence-based approach uses 27 different known variables to indicate a fair funding level for each school district. Under this approach, funding would be based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics. While the legislation removes the Chicago Block Grant for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it is tied to another piece of legislation where the state would pick up CPS’ pension costs, something the state currently does not pay.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently simulated the impact of Senate Bill 1124 should it become law. According to ISBE, school districts would receive either the same amount of funding they are receiving now or more under the legislation.
SB 1124 is based on the findings of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, a group of bipartisan lawmakers who were tasked to provide solutions to fix Illinois’ current school funding system.