Tuesday, May 10, 2016 09:18 AM Last Updated: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 12:45 PM
UPDATED 4:34 pm: School funding reform passes Senate on a 31-21 vote.
Tired of seeing the needs of their local schools overlooked by the state, key downstate Democrats rallied Tuesday behind a new classroom funding plan that would begin to reverse years of state neglect for their area schools, students and taxpayers.
“Our flawed school funding formula has been plaguing downstate and rural schools for decades,” said State Senator Andy Manar, whose central Illinois district stretches from Decatur across to Springfield and then down nearly to St. Louis. Manar is the lead sponsor of legislation that would get rid of the status quo funding formula that has plagued public schools for a generation.
Illinois’ current education finance plan is widely considered the worst in the nation at directing resources – in this case taxpayers’ dollars – toward actual educational needs.
Manar’s plan replaces the current system with a new funding formula nearly three years in the works. It would pay greater attention to factors such as special education and bilingual needs and the percentage of local students living in poverty. These factors tend to either drive up local costs or hinder student achievement.
The current system does little to address these issues. Under the new classroom funding plan, the state would target these areas.
At the same time, the new proposal recognizes the political reality at the Capitol. Gov. Bruce Rauner said in his budget speech earlier this year that he supports education reform so long as school districts don’t lose money in the process.
Ironically, the plan the governor later outlined cuts funding for more than 300 school districts, more than one-third of all the public schools in Illinois. In contrast, the reform plan pending in the Senate maintains level funding for every school in the state while sending new resources to those most in need of help.
In short, no one loses.
“With this plan, we have the opportunity to guarantee that no school will lose funding next year," said Manar. "That’s a guarantee that our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve."
Listen to Sen. Manar's remarks during the debate on the Senate floor:
Listen to Sen. Sullivan's remarks on the floor:
Watch the press conference in its entirety here: