public school funding

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois State Board of Education filed the paperwork Thursday requesting extra money for all 852 public school districts in the state. It’s the first dose of cash appropriated above last year’s funding level, and is calculated to channel money to the neediest schools.

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrany

Gov. Bruce Rauner has claimed his top accomplishment of last year was transforming the way Illinois funds public schools. But the dollars pledged by that new law haven’t been distributed. Instead, Rauner and state agencies have been focused on implementing and expanding a tax credit program for private schools, added to the bill at the last minute to get the governor signature.

Carter Staley/NPR Illinois

Illinois’s new school funding plan — approved in August and hailed as a historic change — relies on the legislature to give every school the same state aid it got last year, plus push another $350 million through a new formula. That $350 million is crucial because it’s the part designed to address the inequity that has plagued Illinois schools for decades.

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, wants to make sure lawmakers don't skip that step. She filed a measure Monday tying it to a tax break for those who provide private school scholarships.

One promise heard repeatedly during debate over the state's new school funding plan was that no schools would get less funding than before. But lawmakers siphoned $300 million from a fund that schools and local governments rely upon.

It was part of a separate action implementing the state budget. Vic Zimmerman is superintendent of Monticello schools. He says that fund represents 40% of his budget. 

"We certainly now have huge red numbers because of the divergence to CPPRT and the estimate for this year compared to last year," Zimmerman said.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner put his signature today on a bill that redefines how Illinois public schools are funded. But it also will send overdue money to schools starting up the academic year.

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