education funding

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Illinois schools will be able to open on time this fall, despite an ongoing budget stalemate at the statehouse.

Schools not having the money to operate had been a worry, given Gov. Bruce Rauner's condemnation of the spending plan passed by Democratic legislators.

It isn't anymore.

I should begin with a word of warning: This story contains several F-words -- and by that, I mean facts, figures and school funding formulas. These have been known to befuddle the very state officials in charge of understanding this stuff. For example, here’s Curt Bradshaw, a third-year member of the Illinois State Board of Education (commonly referred to as ISBE), thinking out loud at the last board meeting: 

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

 Illinois' longtime House speaker is forming a bipartisan task force to examine a way to fix the state's  school funding formula.  

Michael J. Madigan's office announced Thursday the panel would include lawmakers from various regions of the state. It's scheduled to meet for the first time next Wednesday in Springfield.  

The last major school funding formula overhaul took place in 1997. While there's wide agreement the current formula doesn't effectively distribute state dollars to students across the state, how it should be changed remains under debate.  

Dusty Rhodes

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education held a lengthy hearing this week on a bill that would drastically change the way Illinois distributes state education funds. Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar of Macoupin County, would send more money to schools where property values are low, while decreasing the amount sent to schools in wealthier Chicago suburbs. 

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Education funding was among the disagreements between gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner in a debate this week in Chicago.  Meanwhile, spending on political ads continues to increase.

Both of the major party candidates for governor say Illinois should put more money into education. But neither are ready to embrace a controversial plan that would change how state money is distributed to schools.

There's been an uproar in some Chicago suburbs lately, over a proposal that's already passed the Illinois Senate. Under it, many districts there would see cuts in state funding, because they're in wealthier areas.

Manar Gears Up For Fight Over School Funding Change

Sep 29, 2014

State lawmakers returning to the capitol for the fall veto session could discuss a change in the state's school funding formula.   But it won't happen without a fight. 

State Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill in Macoupin County, has been pushing for approval of a plan that would provide additional aid to districts with a higher number of students in poverty.

Marilyn Escoe and her children — Kayla, Kyla and Kyle Escoe and Kaleyah Wesley — were homeless until November.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For Kaleyah Wesley, thoughts of her family’s life in a Chicago homeless shelter made it difficult to focus on school, particularly in math, the subject she found hardest.

The then-sixth-grader woke at 5 a.m. on weekdays to take a pair of trains from the north side Rogers Park shelter to her school in the North Lawndale neighborhood, which is on the west side. She says she had a negative attitude that rubbed off on her three younger siblings.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn's candidate for lieutenant governor says Republican Bruce Rauner's budget plan would mean bad news for schools in Illinois. Democrat Paul Vallas says Rauner's promises to both put more money into schools while also cutting property taxes is unfeasible.

Vallas says Rauner's plan to roll back the state's income tax to three percent would create a $4 billion hole in Illinois' education budget. Vallas says that translates to nearly 28,000 in teacher layoffs.

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  As students across Illinois begin the new school year their schools are using funds that rely heavily on property tax wealth. But supporters of a new plan say now is the time to change that.

Illinois' school funding formula works like this: school districts collect property taxes from their residents, then depending on how property-wealthy or property-poor an area is, the state pitches in its share. That frequently means poorer districts stay poor because the state can't give enough, and wealthier districts remain wealthy.


Illinois has broken its streak of late grant payments to schools for the first time since 2007.
 State Superintendent Christopher Koch praised the news in a letter to school officials dated July 1.  But Koch warned them not to bank on the same thing
happening next year.
 Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office says timely payments for specialized grants and programs in 2014 are due to an influx of $1.3 billion in revenues the
state hadn't originally budgeted for.  
 Next year's $35.7 billion state budget signed by Gov. Pat Quinn banks on


  The Illinois Senate has passed a plan to overhaul the way schools are funded. But the proposal has a long way to go before becoming law.

After months of negotiations and with just four days left on the General Assembly's spring calendar, the measure was deemed "ready for primetime." The plan would direct state funding to more impoverished schools and divert funding from schools in wealthier areas.

Supporters of the plan, like Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin) say this would help remedy inequity in school funding.

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  While the state's budget for next year is still in flux, Republicans in the Illinois Senate say they have a new plan that would fully fund public schools. They say it's something that would help schools now, unlike a competing Democratic proposal that's still building support.

Illinois has been shortchanging schools for several years. Instead of funding them at the full amount required by law, they've been cutting — it's at 89 percent this year. That's because mandatory spending on things like health care and pensions has been choking out other priorities.

House Speaker Michael Madigan wants voters to weigh in on his so-called "millionaires' tax" at the November elections.

The referendum would ask if income greater than a million dollars should be taxed an additional three percent, with the money going to schools.

Earlier this year, Madigan tried to put this before voters as a constitutional amendment, but he says there wasn't enough support in the House.


  An Illinois House panel Wednesday signed off on a budget for the state's public school system.

The $13 billion dollar appropriation is almost a billion more than this year's budget, reversing the state's trend of cutting funding for K -12 education.

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  Spring is budgeting time for schools in Illinois. Over the past few years, school officials in poorer districts have had to cut staff and programs in order to balance their checkbooks.

Declining state funding, coupled with decreased property values have resulted in a double-whammy shortfall, especially in districts that aren't property-wealthy to begin with.

Many local school districts would be 'winners' under a plan to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois. That includes Springfield District 186.


Springfield District 186 is endorsing a change in state funding that would benefit the district.  Area Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat, is pushing the idea to re-work how the state doles out money to schools.  Manar says it would provide more equity between wealthy and poor districts.

Springfield public schools would receive nearly 6 percent more under the change. A statement from District 186 says an increase in funding would allow teaching positions to be restored and technology upgrades. It also says it could help avoid future budget cuts.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the Illinois General Assembly girds for what everyone hopes will be the final month of its spring session, the spotlight is on a handful of high-profile issues, topped by crafting a budget for the 2015 Fiscal Year that starts July 1.

Key to budget-making, of course, is whether lawmakers heed Gov. Pat Quinn’s call for keeping in place current income tax rates, now scheduled to roll back on January 1. Allowing the rates to drop dramatically would lead to “extreme and radical cuts” in education and other core state services, the governor warned in his March budget address.


  Members of the General Assembly this spring are grappling with whether to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. With just a month of session left, the plan's sponsor is altering his strategy, in hopes Republican opposition will fade into bipartisan support.

Senator Andy Manar wants schools to receive state money based on the needs of their students ... not the wealth of local property taxpayers. So, the Democrat from Bunker Hill has proposed an overhaul of Illinois' complicated school funding formula.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois lawmakers are considering a major change to the way local schools get money from the state. But information about how individual school districts would fare in the new system won't be ready until just before the end of the spring legislative session.

Illinois' schools are primarily funded by local property taxes, which means that there's a big disparity in how much money is spent on a student depending on her zip code.


  New data suggests just how big a hit most school districts would take if Illinois' income tax rate rolls back as scheduled at the end of the year.

Illinois' budget could play out a lot of different ways. But under one scenario -- the one Gov. Pat Quinn says will be the case if tax rates aren't kept at five percent -- kindergarten through high school classrooms across Illinois will get $450 million dollars less from the state.

This week, a proposal for a state constitutional amendment on voting rights, a proposal for a graduated tax rate, and suggestions for a pension change for the city of Chicago.

Amanda Vinicky


Critics of the way Illinois funds schools say it's wrong that the quality of a child's education is based largely on her zip code.

That's because schools are mostly funded by local property taxes. While Illinois takes that into account when determining how much state money to give each district, it's not the predominant factor.

A new proposal, backed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would make local need the number one test.

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  All four of the Republican candidates for governor have said they will make education funding a priority if elected, but they face an uphill battle finding the money to send to schools. Each of the contenders has an unique solution for fixing education funding in Illinois.

First, some background: Illinois is ranked last in the nation when it comes to how much the state kicks in to public education.

State Senator Andy Manar (D - Bunker Hill) is in his first term serving the 48th District.  It stretches from Springfield and Decatur south into Madison County.

Before he was elected, Manar spent time as Chief of Staff to Senate President John Cullerton and served as Chairman of the Macoupin County Board.

Manar sat down with WUIS' Sean Crawford to talk about some of the issues facing state government, including public pensions, tax incentives for ADM, education funding and how he was considered as a possible running mate to former gubernatorial candidate Bill Daley:

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

After years of state budget cuts, Illinois schools will get roughly level funding under legislation signed into law Thursday. But Governor Pat Quinn says it's still not enough.

Earlier this year, Quinn said Illinois' budget problems meant the state had to reduce school spending. But lawmakers decided not to cut the education budget, in part because Illinois collected more taxes in April than it anticipated.

The extra money will go to elementary and high schools, community colleges, and public universities. It also funds MAP grants for needy college students.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Can Illinois finish in the money in Round II of Race to the Top?

The answer could hinge on budget decisions that state lawmakers will make in coming days.

At stake is as much as $400 million to underwrite efforts to improve Illinois schools under Race to the Top, the education centerpiece of the Obama administration.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.

— The Illinois Constitution, 1970