Public schools were singled out in Governor Bruce Rauner's budget address yesterday as one of the rare state services he’s happy to fund. In fact, he said increasing education funding is the one thing that he will not back down on.
Illinois' public schools receive state aid through a complicated formula. It’s meant to ensure that every school can spend at least $6,119 per student every year. But for the past few years, state government hasn’t met that obligation.
Rauner said he wants to fund 100 percent of the state aid formula for the first time in seven years.
But State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Macoupin County who’s advocating a rewrite of the formula, says the governor's written proposal doesn't match his public pledge.
Manar says the state board of education recently estimated it would cost an extra $312 million to fully fund the formula. The governor’s only committing only an extra $55 million.
"There's a big difference between $50 million and $312 million, according to my math, and we need a full explanation for that,” Manar said.
The current formula involves more than a dozen metrics such as enrollment, daily attendance, and property values -- none of which, Manar said, channeled resources toward the poorest kids. That means every year, some schools get less than they did the previous year.
"Just because the foundation formula is funded at what we describe as a full level doesn't mean that there won't be districts that lose money,” Manar said.
Rauner called Manar’s plan, which attempts to shift money from some districts to others, a “cynical strategy” that pits communities against each other.