More Little Changes To Big School Funding Law

May 29, 2019

Photo illustration
Credit Juan Ignacio Sánchez Lara / Flickr Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When Illinois overhauled its school funding formula almost two years ago, it took so much time and effort that lawmakers built in a provision designed to make changes easier in the future. It shows up near the end of the 550-page law, with the creation of the Professional Review Panel — a group of stakeholders and experts empowered to recommend recalibrations of the law.

 

But a measure moving through the legislature now, would recalibrate the Review Panel itself, by giving Gov. J.B. Pritzker power to appoint a chair and vice-chair.

At present, m​ost voting members of the panel were appointed by former state superintendent Tony Smith. Michelle Turner Mangan, a professor at Concordia University, nominated herself to chair the group, and has requested tens of thousands of dollars to hire a consultant.

State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored the school funding law as well as this proposal. He says the administration requested this change to keep the panel's focus closer to legislative goals.

 

"That's not a critique other than I think it's time for us to assess many components of the bill, which, you know, have been ongoing here all session long, and this is just one of them."

 

This same measure would also correct a snag discovered when the State Board of Education distributed $50 million worth of property tax relief grants promised in the 2017 school funding law. Using the current calculations, a handful of those grants ended up going to school districts that are already sufficiently funded.

 

Manar’s measure would correct the way those grants are calculated and require districts that receive grants to continue abatement into the future.