The following is an opinion editorial written by Sen. Dan McConchie, Sen. Karen McConnaughay, Sen. Tom Rooney, and Sen. Jim Oberweis.
The Daily Herald published the piece on June 28th here.
School Funding Bill Answers the Call for Funding Equity Across the State
Ensuring every student in Illinois has the resources they need to receive a quality education is the greatest investment we can make. That is why Senate Republicans have been committed to fixing the state’s broken school funding formula to ensure every school is treated fairly and equitably.
We reaffirmed that commitment this past spring by working with members from the other side of the aisle to forge a true, bipartisan compromise on a new school funding formula that would treat all school districts fairly and equitably. Unfortunately, our willingness to compromise was not reciprocated. Instead, Democrats passed their own bill, Senate Bill 1, which gave Chicago Public Schools (CPS) hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of poorer children across the state.
To meet the continuing challenge of developing a new school funding formula, we have introduced Senate Bill 1124-SFA 3, which ensures no Illinois school districts lose money and new money invested in education goes to the state’s poorest kids first. In fact, data released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) shows that under Senate Bill 1124-SFA 3, all 852 school districts in Illinois would fare better than they would under Senate Bill 1.
This is accomplished because our plan focuses on agreed-to principles and best practices to create real equity by treating all districts and students fairly under one system, regardless of zip code. As the data from ISBE clearly demonstrates, this is the most equitable plan for all students.
Senate Bill 1124-SFA3 notably treats all schools the same in the actual calculation of the base funding minimum. In contrast, Senate Bill 1 adds hundreds of millions of extra dollars to the base funding minimum for only one school district, CPS. This is money that could otherwise be sent through the evidence-based model to be equitably distributed to all schools.
The ISBE analysis also shows that Senate Bill 1124-SFA3 provides every single school district with more evidence-based tier funding than Senate Bill 1. When including both base funding and tier funding, every downstate and suburban school district would receive more funding through Senate Bill 1124-SFA3 than under Senate Bill 1. Chicago Public Schools would receive additional funding in separate legislation (HB 4065) that calls for the state to pick up the normal costs for Chicago teachers’ pensions.
Another key difference between these two measures is that our plan stands the greater chance of becoming law. Gov. Bruce Rauner recently stated that he would sign Senate Bill 1124-SFA3 if it passes the General Assembly, and he has urged lawmakers to take up the measure during the upcoming special session.
When it comes to school funding, and the two measures currently put forward, it’s clear there is more that unites us than divides us. Our schools and students deserve nothing but our best effort, and they deserve a funding formula that treats everyone fairly and equitably. Senate Bill 1124 is the best way to accomplish that.