School Funding Reform Commission announces consensus on what a new school funding formula should look like

State aid to schools is one of the largest appropriations of Illinois’ state budget. The complex formula, which is set forth in Illinois statute and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), includes a wide variety of tweaks and variables. Money that is not provided by federal or State aid must be brought in from property tax levies and concerns about the Illinois school funding formula are increasingly intertwined with concerns about Illinois property taxes and tax rates.

The State of Illinois currently funds 26% of the total cost of Illinois primary and secondary education. It is the Commission’s hope that in the future, the State can be the primary funding source of education. In order to get to that level of funding, the Commission’s framework points to individual “adequacy targets” for each district based on the district’s individual needs, including student enrollment, teacher salaries, low-income students, and English language learners among other factors. This target will help districts and local residents understand how much a school must spend to provide an adequate and equitable education to each student. In addition, the Commission also agreed that any new school funding formula must provide transparency when it comes to local dollars being spent on education in hopes of lessening the State’s reliance on property taxes to fund education.

Following the announcement last week, Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) said this, "After six months of discussion and deliberation, today we concluded the work of the Education Funding Reform Commission. I'm really pleased to be able to say that the group was able to come to a consensus on a framework for a funding reform model, the intention of which is to adequately fund a quality education for each and every student in Illinois regardless of where they live. The framework also addresses the distribution of state dollars which will first direct any new funding to the districts who are furthest from adequate funding. Though we did not include specifics at this time, we will continue to work on providing sufficient state revenue to better balance the funding between state and local property owners to relieve the burden of high property taxes.

"It was very gratifying to see that in the current contentious political climate, we were able to come to a bi-partisan consensus with the singular goal of better funding and educating children in Illinois. I am grateful to have been a part of the process, along with 24 of my colleagues in the General Assembly and numerous representatives from various constituencies."

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