Schools start to see funding from state

The Comptroller’s office began transmitting on Sept. 7 $541 million in General State Aid to schools throughout Illinois. These payments contain the funds that were due to schools on Aug. 10 and 20. The next $264 million payment, due Sept. 10, is scheduled to be transmitted on Sept. 8. In total, schools will receive $805 million this week.

At this time, these payments will only include the base funding, which is each district’s hold-harmless to prior year funding, for each district until the new “tier funding” levels created through the new formula can be calculated. These calculations, which include many new data points as well as verification of the data, are expected to take some time to complete to ensure schools are being accurately funded.

For now, the Illinois State Board of Education is ensuring that schools get their hold-harmless payments to tide them over until these calculations can be completed. The “hold-harmless” amount equates to what each district received in Fiscal Year 2017 for the following: General State Aid, Bilingual Education, Special Education Funding for Children, Special Education Personnel Reimbursements, and Special Education Summer School. These are the five programs that were rolled into the one, new formula for this year and going forward.

Key elements of Illinois’ new school-funding formula

It has been just over a week since Illinois’ new school-funding formula was signed into law on Aug. 31. The new formula, which was the product of bipartisan negotiations, treats all of Illinois’ 852 school districts fairly and equitably while also prioritizing funding for low-income districts. It’s also important to note that absolutely no school district loses money under this plan.

The legislation also contained a provision to offer a tax credit to individuals who donate to a scholarship program for low-income students in struggling districts. Despite some misinformation that has circulated about this provision, it is not a voucher program and does not divert state dollars from public schools to private schools. The program will rely on private funds to help offer some choices to students who need the most help.

At the heart of the plan is an evidence based-model to distribute money to schools. The key components of the new formula include:

·         Evidence-based Funding Model with 27 Elements to Define Adequacy: Directs new state funds to ensure districts with the largest gap between available resources and adequacy targets receive funding first—helping low-income districts first.

·         Equitable Charter School funding: District-authorized charter schools receive funding that is equal to the funding of district-managed schools, so every child will be treated fairly according to their families’ school choice for their children.

·         Property Tax Relief: Allows districts over 110 percent of adequacy to hold a referendum to reduce property taxes.

·         Mandate Relief: Streamlines the legislative waiver process to give districts more flexibility, allows schools to contract with a third-party for driver’s education with no waiver requirement, and changes physical education requirements and athletic waiver process.

·         Tax Credit Scholarship Program: Provides a 75 percent income tax credit for donations to the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, targeted primarily to lower-income students.

·         TIF Districts: Creates a Commission to study TIF districts in relation to school-funding formula.

·         CPS Pension Parity: Provides that CPS’ normal pension and healthcare costs be paid in the same manner as all 851 other school districts.

·         CPS Pension Liability: Allows the Chicago School Board to raise their property tax that is specifically dedicated to their teachers’ pension liability.

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