The ongoing discussion of how to reform Illinois’ education funding system continued during the week, as State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) introduced legislation to change the system for funding schools. Barickman was joined by the education reform alliance known as “Vision 20/20.”
Under Barickman’s proposal, the current education funding formula would be replaced with an evidence-based model. This plan would take into account the needs of every Illinois school district, leading to individual, need-based assessments for each school. Once in place, lawmakers would then have a scalable method to establish funding levels for each district.
The legislation would also require an Evidence-Based Professional Judgment Panel to update a 2015 study completed in 2010 by the Illinois School Finance Adequacy Task Force that already developed an evidence-based model for Illinois. The Panel would also determine the minimal level of state and local funding for each district, and provide recommendations on how to address the state’s neediest districts first, using a multi-year plan to phase in the adequacy model in an equitable manner. They would need to submit an updated study by Dec. 1, 2015.
The “Vision 20/20” model could be implemented over time by first targeting low-income school districts and implementing best practices as additional funding becomes available. The group is advocating for the proposal to be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year and includes a hold-harmless provision that ensures that no district would fall below state funding levels for the 2014-2015 school year. There would also be adjustments for factors like poverty, transportation, support services employees, and other costs.