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Education Desk: 2017 School Funding Fight Could Set Base For The Future

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 that Illinois needs to change the formula, but they get caught on the question of how.


A plan crafted by Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, won approval in the Senate yesterday, but lacks significant bi-partisan support.


Today, the authors of an evidence-based model  --  like director of the state association of school administrators Brent Clark -- told the Illinois State Board of Education they could merge their plan with his.

"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," Clark said.


Here's a longer discussion of the various school funding formulas.

Mike Jacoby, director of state school business officials, said the evidence-based 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,” he said. “That funding for fiscal ‘17 just establishes the floor from which this model then moves forward."


One catch: 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. In essence, it would enshrine whatever funding model lawmakers adopt for the coming year.


There are two dueling plans for the next school year: Manar's measure, which is intended to erase inequity, and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s push to add money using the current formula. Critics say that further enriches wealthy districts, while taking money away from the neediest schools.

After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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