Illinois’ Manar Brings Forth Education Funding Plan

(Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Illinois state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is introducing what has become his annual legislation aimed at overhauling the manner in which Illinois public schools are funded.

His latest iteration, which he filed on Wednesday, addresses criticism of his previous versions and explain statements made by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) about education funding, writes Dan Petrella, reporting for Pantagraph.

The new bill would ensure that no school district will be getting less funding for the next school year than it did for this academic year. Manar calls this the “hold harmless” provision, and it is not making wealthier districts in the state happy. The provision would eventually be taken out of the bill over four years.

Manar’s proposal is attempting to send more money to districts that need it the most, especially those that have a sizable number of kids from low-income families, children with disabilities, and students learning English as a second language.

Currently, the system relies to a large extent on local property taxes, allowing some districts to spend a whopping $30,000 per student while other districts scrape by paying $6,000 per pupil, said Manar.

The bill would add Chicago Public Schools into the same system as other districts across the state and would allow the state to pay the employer portion of Chicago teachers’ pensions, which it already does for the rest of Illinois.

Dusty Rhodes of Illinois Public Radio quoted the senator:

“If you’re a district that has a 90 percent poverty rate, it’s gonna take a little more resources to produce the same outcome as a district that has a 5 percent poverty rate,” Manar says. “Now, I’m not making this up. Every expert, every scholarly work of writing will tell you that.”

Manar added that the measure included every concept that the governor has discussed as he has traveled across the state to school districts over the last two months.

Rauner had already asserted that he supported the general concept of the bill, but he did not want to “pit school districts against one another.”

Manar will be introducing his revised proposal, but a House task force continues to hold hearings concerning changes to the formula. The House task force’s hearing is slated for April 12, reports the Rockford Register Star’s Doug Finke.

The new effort to rewrite the state’s school aid formula comes after years of concern that school districts with a diminished ability to raise property tax money fall further behind districts that are property tax wealthy.

Manar said the proposal was meant to “erase and correct what is undoubtedly the worst and most regressive system for funding public education” in the nation.

A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said the manner in which the state funds schools means that Chicago’s lowest income students, mainly minorities, are not getting enough funding to get an education.

But Republicans called the bill a “bailout” for the economically-challenged CPS. And House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said through his spokesperson that the pick-up of additional pension costs was concerning. That statement does not bode well for the bill’s success in the House, where Democrats are busily creating a funding proposal of their own.