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Panel Poised To Tweak School Funding Formula

Dusty Rhodes

Illinois’ new school funding formula — approved last year — could already be facing revisions. That's because lawmakers had such a tough time agreeing on this new formula, they tried to ensure they'd never have to fight so hard again. So they built in a Professional Review Panel, and empowered the group to recommend recalibrations as needed.


?One idea under consideration: Adding a racial equity component, to address the historic underfunding of predominantly black districts.

Nakia Hall, from the Crete-Monee school board, is a member of the panel and says equity funding could help close the racial achievement gap.


"You can look at the data however you want. We can break it down by instrument of test given, which test is given, but you're going to get the same results. And that's why it's a problem,” she says. "I think it's a matter of remembering why we're all here. And that's not to give push-back because we don't personally agree, or, you know, maybe it's not applicable to your situation. We're all in this together.”

T?he previous formula relied heavily on property taxes. Under the new plan, no district lost any state funding, but additional money is being channeled to the neediest schools.


Credit Illinois State Board of Education
Illinois State Board of Education

The panel has 27 members, mostly education officials but also four lawmakers who played a role in shaping the new formula. The panel cannot alter the formula, but it can recommend changes to the General Assembly.


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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