Illinois Lawmakers Consider Changing Education Language In State Constitution

Apr 18, 2016

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to change the state constitution so it requires the state to foot the bill for the majority of school funding. House Republicans pushed back some at a Monday hearing over the potential cost.

Credit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

  The constitution currently says the state has the "primary responsibility" to fund early education through high school. However, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled it's a goal, not a mandate. Property taxes pay for most of the public school funding while the state covers about a third of the total.

Madigan said he wants to change the wording so it says education is a fundamental right and it's the duty of the state to provide it.

"If approved by the voters, the state would be required to fund 51 percent of the cost of education," he said. Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said the state would have to come up with billions more to put into education.

Madiagn said the legislature could manage how to make this change from relying on property taxes. But Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said he thinks it would be a challenge to push up its share of state funding quickly if voters approved the amendment.

"Do you think it would be more difficult than the situation we're in today," Madiagn said.

"If we were required to double the educational funding, I would argue that it would put us in a much more difficult situation," Sosnowski replied.

 The committee sent the plan to the full House. If the General Assembly agrees to put it on the ballot this fall, 60 percent of voters would need to go along for the change to occur.