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Springfield Schools Would Get More Money With Funding Overhaul

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  Spring is budgeting time for schools in Illinois. Over the past few years, school officials in poorer districts have had to cut staff and programs in order to balance their checkbooks.

Declining state funding, coupled with decreased property values have resulted in a double-whammy shortfall, especially in districts that aren't property-wealthy to begin with.

Many local school districts would be 'winners' under a plan to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois. That includes Springfield District 186.

It's her first week on the job, and Jennifer Gill, Springfield Schools' new superintendent, says she's already feeling the financial crunch from the state. For several years, Illinois has not paid out to schools what it has pledged, and education advocates say schools can't cut any more.

That's why Gill is in favor of a proposal to distribute state aid according to the concentration of poverty in a school.

Springfield schools would get $2.5 million more under the plan. But Gill knows other, wealthier local schools — such as Rochester or Chatham — would lose funding.

"This is something that has to happen," she said. "And I think we feel bad but we also want to fight for what's right for our communities."

Gill points out that Springfield loses out on property tax revenue for schools because all of the state-owned buildings aren't subject to property taxes.

David Lett, Superintendent of Pana schools, will receive an even bigger funding bump. He says this plan is his only hope for stabilizing his ever-shrinking budget. He says class sizes have grown as a result.

"Kids need individualized attention because they're not getting that at home."

The plan is awaiting a vote in the Illinois Senate.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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