Almost two years after Illinois overhauled its school funding formula, educators are still trying to tie up a few loose ends that got overlooked in the 540-page legislation. One of those loose ends omitted funding for about 7,000 students.
Those kids are the ones who need what's called "alternative school," because they've struggled with discipline or truancy, and fallen behind. Many alternative schools are run by regional offices, rather than traditional school districts. And those regional offices weren't incorporated in the overhaul plan.
"They don't cleanly fit into the formula, and so they want some refinement,” says Mike Popp. He’s assistant executive director of the West Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education.
The omission was noted within weeks of the reform law's enactment, but a solution seemed within reach. The 2017 school funding reform law had also created a Professional Review Panel, to refine and recalibrate that new formula as needed, and it took on the challenge of finding a way to fold the ROEs into the formula.
But after more than a dozen meetings, that Professional Review Panel's committee on ROE funding hasn't been able to find a way to fit most of those alternative schools into the plan.
"And so where that leaves us is having to seek assistance directly from legislators as they craft the bill or bills around this topic that we hopefully can get consideration from them,” Popp says, “just as we did on our supplemental appropriation last year."