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Manar: Legislation will be true measure of school funding commission’s success

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SPRINGFIELD – The governor’s school funding reform commission completed its work on deadline today, but fair and adequate education funding remains out of reach for too many children across Illinois, Senator Andy Manar said.

“If we can get a bill in front of lawmakers this spring, then that will be the true measure of success for the governor’s commission,” said Manar, a longtime advocate for school funding reform and the Senate’s point person on the issue. “But forgive me if I’m not ready to unfurl the mission accomplished banner just yet.”

During the summer, Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed a 25-member commission tasked with studying Illinois worst-in-the-nation school funding formula, which creates winners and losers among students and school districts across Illinois because of its overreliance on local property taxes to fund schools.

The commission met 18 times between August and today. Its final recommendations include moving Illinois to a new funding formula, a hold-harmless clause to prevent districts from losing state funds, more local control and greater transparency about spending, mandate relief for school districts, additional money for English learners and low-income students and more.

The bipartisan commission also recommended an increase of at least $3.5 billion for school funding.

“The commission should be commended for its work the past six months. I am pleased that we have a new level of awareness of the state’s school funding crisis because of this bipartisan, bicameral discussion,” Manar said.

“But in terms of a product, that work yielded another report on Illinois’ already well-documented school funding reform problems. We have a loose framework – a guide – for moving forward. What we do not have today is a piece of legislation to debate in the General Assembly. That has to be the next step.”

Manar commended Beth Purvis, Rauner’s secretary of education, for her leadership role with the commission and said he looks forward to the governor’s staff translating the recommendations into a bill that will be introduced in the Legislature this spring.

“The commission’s work was substantial, but what happens now is up to Gov. Rauner,” Manar said. “The goal has always been and should continue to be permanent reform that guarantees fair funding for all Illinois schools.”