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updated: 4/8/2014 6:10 PM

Republicans want more information on schools fix

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  • Matt Murphy

    Matt Murphy


SPRINGFIELD -- State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, complained Tuesday that a plan to change how Illinois pays for its schools is moving forward before it's clear how local districts would fare.

The complicated proposal from state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, would generally try to send a bigger share of state education dollars to poorer school districts. Relatively wealthy suburban districts might not fare as well under the plan.

Murphy agrees the state system has to change but argued it's "a little irresponsible" for lawmakers to vote before knowing how their schools would do under the plan.

"How do I know whether this is the right thing to do for people who sent me here?" Murphy said at a Senate committee hearing.

Manar said that in the end, how districts fare will depend largely on how much money Illinois has to spend on schools. "That's the biggest variable, and that changes every year," Manar said. He wants to change how that amount is distributed in order to make resources more equal.

In the end, a Senate subcommittee approved the plan by a 2-1 vote, sending it along for further debate.

It faces a long road. Another committee could hear about the plan as early as today. After that, it's on to the full Senate and House, where success is far from guaranteed.

School funding in Illinois has been controversial for decades as dozens of plans over the years have sought to lift up poorer districts that have far less money than wealthy ones.

An Illinois State Board of Education official said in the hearing the agency is working on running the numbers to see how each district would be affected.

Knowing the specifics could quell concerns from some lawmakers but could make it difficult to stomach for others. If numbers show most of the school districts represented by a lawmaker wouldn't fare well, for example, voting for the plan could get more difficult.

Wednesday's hearing had contentious moments as chairwoman and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, criticized Murphy over his insistence on district-by-district numbers.

"Just don't keep beating a dead horse," Lightford said.

Murphy replied: "I haven't even started beating this dead horse."

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