The Education Funding Reform Commission issued its report to the General Assembly Feb. 1, highlighting ideas for how the legislature could craft a bipartisan solution to the issue of creating a new and improved school funding formula. The bipartisan framework issued by the Commission comes after the group of 25 lawmakers from both parties and chambers and five members appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, met for 75 hours over the last six months.
In the report, the Commission says low-income children and those who live in areas of concentrated poverty require additional resources and attention to reach their academic potential. The Commission also concluded that as new money is added to the education funding formula, it will be distributed first to those districts farthest from adequacy targets. They also agreed that district-authorized charter schools should receive adequate funding that is equitable to the funds allocated to district-managed public schools on a per pupil basis and consolidation in certain areas of the state is important, but that the solution to this problem should not be reached through funding formula reform.
Lawmakers agree that more work on the framework is needed, but remained committed to finding a lasting solution.
“This has been a robust, bipartisan and bicameral process,” said Illinois Secretary of Education Dr. Beth Purvis, who chaired the Commission. “I am incredibly thankful that these really dedicated members of the General Assembly and the Governor’s appointees were able to come and have substantive conversations in which children were at the center of the decision-making.”
Over the course of the meetings, lawmakers listened and asked questions to a wide range of experts in the education field. Lawmakers discussed issues such as the “hold harmless” provision or in other words, ensuring no school district loses funding regardless of its make-up, funding distribution models, the relationship between school funding, mandate relief, workforce readiness, and property taxes, reviewing the “evidence-based” approach to funding education, exploring best practices in school funding, and several other topics.