Neediest Schools Still Waiting For New Funding
The debate over school funding dominated much of the legislative session, and concluded with a compromise plan designed to send more state funds to the neediest districts. But so far, those districts haven't gotten any extra funds.
All school districts are still receiving the same state aid amount as last year, thanks to a hold-harmless provision in the new plan. But that money only perpetuates the inequitable funding structure that has plagued Illinois schools for decades. The whole point of the new plan was to address that inequity, and legislators approved spending an additional $350 million to be parceled out based on evidence of the true needs of each district.
So far, that money hasn't been disbursed.
Jackie Matthews, spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education, says the new plan involves collecting new information from districts, and that takes time.
"It won't take this long for every year, but we just want to make sure that for this first year of the formula — which is really the base year for all the years to come — that the enrollment data's correct and all the districts have had a chance to verify their data,” she says. "We are collecting new data for the purposes of funding that we haven't ever used in the past, and so we want to make sure that we have the structures in place to be able to go through this data verification with districts, then everyone gets the right amount of money that they should be receiving."
She couldn't say when schools might see the new cash, but said the agency is working as quickly as possible.