Innovative school funding reform plan gets hearing

Every lawmaker under the Capitol Dome believes Illinois needs to reform the way it funds elementary and secondary education. After years of debate, special commissions and studies, the Senate Education Committee heard testimony May 4 on a fairer method to fund schools based on known and unique economic facts of each district.

Senate Bill 1124 is an evidence-based school funding plan endorsed by Senate Republicans. It would reallocate more than a half-billion dollars in funding to help school districts meet financial adequacy targets, without requiring an increase in state funding. The evidence-based approach uses 27 different known variables to indicate a fair funding level for each school district. Under this approach, funding would be based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics. While the legislation removes the Chicago Block Grant for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it is tied to another piece of legislation where the state would pick up CPS’ pension costs, something the state currently does not pay.

Senate Bill 1124 is based on the findings of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, a group of bipartisan lawmakers who were tasked with providing solutions to fix Illinois’ current school funding system.

The committee also heard testimony on Senate Bill 1125, which would provide schools with significant mandate relief, as well as Senate Bill 1, which is similar to Senate Bill 1124 but provides no mandate relief and contains funding for the Chicago block grant. 

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