Funding for Illinois school education under fire - Dallas News |

Funding for Illinois school education under fire

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago, the suburbs and downstate fight fiercely over school funding every year in the State Capitol. However, they all agree on this: it's a lousy way to divvy up the money. Also, it may be worsening the education crisis that has helped push Chicago and Illinois to the Tipping Point.

It was an astounding admission by the experts at the State Board of Education. They needed weeks to figure out which school districts might win more money and which might lose under a proposal to change Illinois's current, hopelessly confusing school funding formula.

It's so complicated, people in every part of the state suspect they're getting the short end.

"I think we all agree that the current formula is complex, convoluted and, quite frankly, broken," said Curt Bradshaw, an ISBE Member from Naperville.

The State Board of Education tentatively endorsed pending legislation to radically simplify the school funding formula. Money would be apportioned based on the number of students enrolled in each district, with extra dollars going for students in poverty, English Language Learners, those with special needs and those needing transportation.

While the state's goal is $8,700 per student per year, it's currently paying just under $6,000 a year.

"A lot of school districts, in fact 2/3rds today, are spending in deficit to operate their systems. And that's not a good place to be," said Gery Chico, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Local school boards who want to eliminate deficits face strange obstacles. State law requires that any layoff notices to teachers had to be sent earlier this month. However, Springfield won't decide until June or July how much state aid it will send to Elgin district 46, for example, which could lose $24 million if Gov. Quinn's worst-case budget comes to pass this summer.

"We can't budget from year to year what we're actually supposed to budget for. So, we don't know until June, July, August what our state aid is actually going to be for the school year. And that comes four months after we've reached our deadline to actually layoff staff," said Tony Sanders, Chief of Staff for the Elgin School District 46.

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