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Manar: Equity vital to any discussion about school funding in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois must do a better job of prioritizing education funding for students who live in poverty and have special needs, state Sen. Andy Manar said Wednesday during a meeting of the governor’s commission on school funding reform.

Even with the additional investment the state made in K-12 schools this year, Illinois is unlikely to move the needle on better educational outcomes because the state does not drive enough dollars to the districts where they’re most needed, Manar added.

“We invest less in children who live in poverty than those who don’t. We spend billions of dollars without appropriately accounting for the needs of students today,” Manar said. “The result is that Illinois has some of the largest income-based achievement gaps in the nation.”

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is a vigorous advocate for overhauling Illinois’ 20-year-old school funding formula and one of the state’s most knowledgeable lawmakers about the disparities the formula creates. He is one of five Democratic state senators seated on the governor’s commission on school funding reform, which is expected to deliver recommendations to the governor by February.

Manar was invited to address the panel on Wednesday about the importance of equity in developing a fair school funding formula, particularly as the numbers of poor, special-needs and non-English-speaking students grow in school districts throughout the state.

“Illinois is not doing nearly enough to help students who require more resources to be successful. And because of our outdated funding formula, we pour money into districts that have lower rates of poverty and special needs in the classroom,” Manar said.

“The good news is that we’re beginning to recognize that what’s needed in the classroom to achieve the outcomes we want in Springfield is different city by city, district by district. We have to do a better job of focusing our resources on districts with the cost drivers – the at-risk, special needs and bilingual students. The more we do that, the faster we’re going to get to a system that is both equal and equitable over time.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                             — From the Illinois Business Journal

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