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Education Desk: School Funding Commission Working Toward Consensus

Courtesy of Sen. Karen McConnaughay

On Wednesday, state senators filed a package of bills designed to break the partisan logjam that's led to the state going more than 18 months without a budget. The first of those bills deals with changing the school funding formula, and the commission charged with accomplishing that task appears headed toward a compromise.

A bipartisan, bi-cameral group of lawmakers has been meeting regularly since August, tussling over the very thorny question of how to give poor districts more state aid without decreasing funds for wealthier schools. This isn't the first such commission -- Illinois has a notoriously inequitable school funding formula, and lawmakers have been trying to adjust it for years. But this group appears to be working toward consensus. State Sen, Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, says they're are following the direction of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (Lemont), to look for common ground.

"We all love this state, we all want to do the right thing, and we just are tired," McConnaughay says. "We're tired of the impasse. We're tired of going home and trying to explain why a group of adults cannot work out their differences."

The commission has reached tentative agreement on a few key elements. For example, there appears to be general agreement that whatever aid the state can afford will be distributed to the neediest districts first.

McConnaughay says there's a shift in mood that hasn't gone unnoticed by her colleagues.

"You know, somebody had made a joke yesterday that I thought was hilarious. It was like, 'Oh wow, all the kumbaya in the Senate, I swear I thought you were all braiding each other's hair.' "

The commission plans to have a final framework by the end of the month.



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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