Flawed school funding plan pending in Senate

Downstate and suburban school districts could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid every year under a controversial school funding formula currently being debated at the Capitol, according to data released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

Initial numbers released by the ISBE showed that Senate Bill 231 would have led to losses in downstate and suburban districts totaling upward of $345 million. According to the data from the ISBE, Senate Bill 231 would have pulled nearly $120 million in funding from downstate schools, $121 million from collar county schools, and $102 million from North Cook County schools, all to redirect more than $352 million to the Chicago Public School District (CPS).

On May 4, the Senate Executive Committee held a subject-matter-only hearing on a new amendment to Senate Bill 231 that would still result in losses totaling around $197 million in suburban and downstate districts, while funneling $174 million to Chicago Public Schools.

Senate Republicans criticized the measure as a major step backward in the effort to reform the state’s current school funding formula, noting the proposal appeared to be little more than a plan to funnel downstate and suburban dollars into the bankrupt Chicago school system.

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree the current school funding formula is broken and needs to be fixed, Senate Republicans say Senate Bill 231 is not the answer to the problem. As an alternative, Senate Republican legislators have advocated for continued work to develop a new formula.

In the meantime, they said the state can offer school districts certainty through full funding of General State Aid for the first time in seven years. The sponsor of Senate Bill 231, State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) have resisted that idea, with Cullerton going so far as to suggest that all K-12 funding be held up until Manar’s formula is passed into law.

Republicans have stressed that no schools should be held hostage in order to force a bailout of Chicago Public Schools. 

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