Manar, others detail proposed changes to education funding in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The statewide effort to transform Illinois school funding is continuing at the Capitol.

State Senator Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, and Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, joined supporters to announce updates to last year’s need-based reform proposal and called for increased overall school funding during a press conference Tuesday.

Manar introduced the School Funding Reform Act of 2015 as an amendment to Senate Bill 1. It replaces Senate Bill 16 from last year and the previous General Assembly. The announcement follows the Illinois State Board of Education’s call for a 10.7 percent increase in school spending last month.

“There’s an obvious need to make school funding more fair and transparent, but there’s also an undeniable need to increase funding as a whole. These updates are grounded in the basic principle that we should give help where it is needed,” Manar said.

Davis introduced identical legislation in the House.

“Through it all, we listened to what has been said and heard the concerns. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and including the need for more revenue,” Davis said.

The proposal replaces the General State Aid formula and a web of complex, opaque grants with a single, need-based funding formula that improves accountability and transparency.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time. Equity in education funding is essential for leveling the playing field, so that talent and hard work, not zip code, determine a child’s chance to succeed. I’m happy to support the Governor’s call for $729 million of new education funds, but this bill is essential with or without the increase,” Mitchell said.

“The time to change Illinois’ school funding formula to provide equity is now. It’s time to send funds to kids based on their individual needs, not their zip codes,” said Tony Sanders, CEO of DuPage County’s U-46 school district.The updates to last year’s proposal include a method of comparing regional costs, a more accurate way of measuring poverty, improved reporting for bilingual education and sends additional funding to districts with higher-than-average rates of students with special education needs.

The new provisions also expedite a study to determine the base level of funding needed for student growth, and it protects districts from losses that are not spending adequately.

ISBE is in the process of projecting how these changes will affect individual school districts.

School Funding Reform Act of 2015

The School Funding Reform Act of 2015 is a reintroduced version of last year’s Senate Bill 16, a proposal to replace
Illinois’ dated General State Aid formula with a new, need-based system.

Background
Illinois has the second most regressive public school funding system in the country: Districts with significant low-income
populations in Illinois get less combined funding from state, local and federal sources than districts with more affluent
students. Last year’s proposal passed the Senate and was designed to alleviate this disparity and increase transparency
in the system.

The School Funding Reform Act is based on the findings of the bipartisan Education Funding Advisory Committee that
was created to study this problem and recommend changes to a funding system that hadn’t been updated or reviewed
since 1997.

SB 16 would have:

• Created a single, need-based funding formula (Primary
State Aid); replacing GSA and an outdated grant-based
system

• Prioritized state resources to help school districts and
students who most need them

• Increased transparency by requiring individual schools to
account for how they spend state funds, replacing the
old district-by-district reports

• Included Chicago in the new, need-based formula—
eliminating the Chicago Public Schools block grant

Updates

School Funding Reform Act of 2015 (SB 1) has evolved based on discussions with more than 400 local superintendents
and statewide town halls involving parents and educators.

The new bill includes the following improvements to SB 16:

Regionalization: Considers regional differences when determining state aid for districts. The new legislation uses the National Center for Education Statistics’ Comparable Wage Index to measure variation in salaries and cost of living from district to district.

Low-income calculation: Calculates the low-income population of a district based on the number of students receiving services from the Illinois Department of Human Services (generally students below 200 percent of the poverty line). This replaces the number used under SB 16, which was based on the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch (generally students below 185 percent of the poverty line).

Adequacy study: Expedites a study that will analyze the adequate amount of funding for education and develop a base level funding for adequate student growth. The study will consider how student characteristics, tax rates and preschool expansion should be factored into the funding formula.

Adequacy grants: Provides additional funding for districts that are collecting taxes at or above state averages but are spending below a calculated adequacy target — the Education Funding Advisory Board’s adequacy recommendation weighted for each district. This would protect underfunded districts from losses under SB1.
ELL reporting: Requires school districts receiving state funding for English Language Learner (ELL) programs to report their revenues and costs related to bilingual education.

Special education flexibility: Ensures that districts with above average special education needs will be funded based on their number of special education students, rather than the statewide rate of 13.8 percent.

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