Illinois Schools Get Important Funding Boost

Illinois has long held the distinction of having the least equitable funding system in the country, ranking last in providing funding for its neediest students. That’s about to change. 

Yesterday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a historic bill that fundamentally re-writes the way the state allocates education funding. The bill – referred to as the Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act – is a significant step toward addressing the state’s most pressing issues: funding equity for the districts and student populations that need it most, and overall funding of the system. 

Related: A Step In the Right Direction

School funding reform was a necessary step to reducing the inequities that exist for many Illinois students, remedying a decades-old and deeply flawed system. Under this new legislation, state aid is distributed to where it is needed most – where the gap between the resources required to provide an adequate education and the local revenues available are the greatest. This evidence-based model of funding uses 27 components to calculate how much a district needs to provide a higher quality education to its students and by doing so, it acknowledges that children may require different resources to support success. 

TWEET IT! The Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act is a big step in addressing the state’s most pressing issues

“We applaud Illinois’ new, more equitable school funding formula that puts kids first and ends an era of the state having the most inequitable school funding system in the country,” said Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois. “The new formula drives dollars to the neediest districts first, setting schools on a path toward giving low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities the fair and adequate funding they need to be successful in school.”

Why this is important:

  • State funds will be allocated more equitably. Districts that have been historically underfunded will now have more resources and a greater ability to provide students with a higher quality education. 
  • The budget uncertainty that has faced systems across the state for years – limiting the ability to plan for the future, hire teachers, create stable working environments, or even have confidence in the start and end of the school year – is gone or at least greatly reduced. 

Key parts of the legislation:

  • CPS will gain more than $340M state dollars over the amount they received in FY17. In addition, the state will release an estimated $540 million in General State Aid owed to schools for the month of August.
  • The state will start contributing into CPS teacher pensions ($221M), just as they have historically done and currently do for other school districts. Legacy pension costs are accounted for and embedded in the formula – a victory for CPS and Chicago taxpayers. 
  • The funding floor has been raised for charter schools. While districts were previously able to allocate charters as little as seventy-five cents for every dollar spent on a non-charter student, districts will now have to allocate at least ninety-seven cents. 
  • Up to $75 million in tax credits to those that support private school scholarships targeted at enabling more low- and middle-income parents to send their children to private school.

What’s next?

Beyond the specifics of the bill, an evidence-based approach to school funding can inform greater improvements in education. With more equitable funding, we can compare how systems allocate these funds and which approaches have a larger impact, increase accountability for results now that funding will be less of a driver of district differences, and challenge systems to incorporate highly effective approaches into their day-to-day work.

While there were compromises on both sides of the table, A Better Chicago celebrates this win and congratulates our Republican and Democrat leaders who came together to pass a bill that is evidence-based, solves a problem that plagued Illinois for years, and opens up greater opportunities for students in Illinois who need it most. 

We also recognize that there is still much to do. As money flows back into the system, we hope to see districts allocating funds based not on old habits, but on where the data and research says it can make the most difference for students. That will be the true measure of success of this landmark moment. 
 
Go here for a PDF version of the legislation >