Jesiel: It is Time to Act on School Funding Reform

By State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor)
It is time to act on school funding reform before the regular legislative session ends on May 31.

For years, multiple legislative commissions and committees have studied the obvious inequities of Illinois’ school funding system. I served on the two most recent incarnations. What we know for certain, Illinois has the most inequitable school funding system in the nation. Due to this, students are essentially forced to play a zip code lottery that determines whether they learn in a classroom equipped with an iPad for every student or one where students share decades-old textbooks. This zip code lottery is essentially determined by the property wealth of the school district, creating a huge disparity in the quality of education between the property-rich and property-poor districts. The challenge needs to be tackled by the legislature, and there is bipartisan agreement that it must happen soon.

We have a diverse state. Within Lake County alone, a school in Gurnee will not have the same needs, property values or student demographics as a school in Zion. This diversity is not appropriately recognized in our current system. That’s why under our new bipartisan proposals, a new school funding formula will look at each school district’s needs based on their demographics as well as their ability to fund education when determining the allocation of education dollars.

There have been countless hours spent in the last year around this bipartisan solution to our school funding problem. We cannot, however, take our eyes off of the goal. Our goal is to develop a system that works for every student in this state. We also need to be sure that we are requiring the state to contribute a more appropriate funding level in order to relieve the very high property tax burden that far too many communities in this state are forced to bear. I believe getting this crucial reform passed is within sight.

We have come a long way. I am encouraged by the hard work that has been done on school funding reform and I will continue to work for a bipartisan, fair solution for every student in Illinois. We cannot continue with the broken patchwork of a system that fails the students, families and taxpayers of this state.

Now is the time to pass school funding reform and to make the tough decisions to get it right, so each and every child has the opportunity for a bright and prosperous future.

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