Illinois Gov Rauner, Lawmakers Spar Over Education Funding

(Photo: theHCD)

(Photo: theHCD)

The Illinois State Board of Education has released its analysis of Governor Rauner’s education funding proposal — a plan that calls for increasing school funding by $120 million, which would fully fund the general state aid instead of prorating it as has happened for the past seven years. The total budget for schools would be just over $10 billion for the fiscal year beginning on July 1st.

Under Raunder’s plan, the money would be allotted unevenly across school districts for K-12 education. For example, according to the website Fox Illinois, Christian County would lose money, whereas the Ball Chatham district would get upwards of $600,000 more. One of the biggest losers would be the Rockridge school district, which would see a decline in state funding of 13.6%. To generate these figures, Governor Rauner employed an existing formula to appropriate funds, which has sparked controversy.

Senate Democrats are advocating for a new formula that would reportedly make the distribution of money fairer. “He’s acknowledged that the formal is broken, and he’s putting more money into that system. We have right now a system where money is redistributed from poorer school districts to wealthier ones, and that’s unfair,” says Democratic Senator Andy Manar.

Similarly, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers Dan Montgomery lambasted the plan for using “the same broken formula” that has underpinned the state’s education policy. “Let’s be clear: the Governor has not put forth a real education funding reform plan. He merely suggested putting slightly more money into the same broken formula without addressing the core need for fairness or adequacy. His proposal further demonstrates the flaws of the current system where students in dire need would face more cuts if nothing changes.”

Using the formula, as reported by Eric Timmons of QCOnline, increases or decreases in state funding for districts would be tied to school enrollment levels, the number of students in a district that live in poverty, and changes in property values. A detailed breakdown of districts’ would-be gains and losses can be found at Daily Herald.

State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said in a statement that all school districts would do better under the governor’s plan. The statement pointed to the funding levels of East Moline, a district in which 74% of students are from low-income backgrounds; funding to the district would be slated to increase by 4.8% under the governor’s plan.

Further irking the Chicago teachers unions, the governor would cut $74 million in state funding from Chicago Public Schools. The CEO of the CPS, Forest Claypool, said the plan amounts to a “reverse Robin Hood” that gives richer districts more money and poorer districts less. The governor’s office countered, however, that Chicago schools stand to lose more if the current funding arrangement continues without some sort of intervention by the state. In other words, they will be losing less under the governor’s plan. This back-and-forth comes amidst ongoing, tense negotiations between Chicago teachers unions and the city government.

It remains unclear whether the proposal will clear the Illinois State legislatures.