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posted: 6/12/2017 1:00 AM

School funding bill is true, fair reform

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  • Sen. Melinda Bush

    Sen. Melinda Bush

 
By Melinda Bush
Guest columnist

In the few cases where I've disagreed with the Daily Herald's editorial opinions, I've done so understanding the arguments made and the clear reasoning behind them.

In the case of the recent editorial on school funding reform (this year's Senate Bill 1), I have to admit I am mystified as to how the Herald reached the conclusion that this version of school funding reform is nothing more than a bailout of the Chicago Public School System.

The Herald attacked supporters of funding reform for going along with a plan that would supposedly benefit Chicago at the expense of our districts. This could not be further from the truth.

(1) The formula is evidence-based and distributes funds in a fair and equitable manner.

(2) The legislation is written so that no school district will receive less money than it has received under the current funding formula.

(3) The reform will support our neediest districts. The largest share of new funds will be delivered to districts furthest from the adequacy target, according to the model published by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

(4) The $70.8 million going to Chicago, according to the ISBE model, is going to a school district with almost 500 schools and more than 390,000 students, based on numbers from the Illinois Report Card.

Zion Elementary School District 6, which has a comparable number of low-income students (based on DHS calculations) and similar progress toward the adequacy target will receive $1.6 million for its 2,773 students, according to numbers from ISBE.

Similarly, Round Lake Unit District 116 will receive an additional $5.5 million in funding for its roughly 7,297 students.

(5) The organization Funding Illinois' Future reports that the school funding reform passed reflects the core principles of the Governor's School Funding Reform Commission. If Gov. Rauner vetoes this legislation, he will be acting against the recommendations of the bipartisan commission he formed.

(6) Chicago does not gain the most per pupil from this funding reform. In fact, 268 school districts gain more per pupil than Chicago Public Schools, according to the ISBE model.

At its most basic, the legislative intent of this bill is to remove the politics from education funding. The prior formula was simply not equitable, nor based on evidence. This bill bases education funding on a formula that evidence shows is equitable.

This formula, and indeed this legislation, is supported by hundreds of superintendents, school districts, community organizations and churches from all corners of the state of Illinois.

As a lifelong resident of Lake County and a parent of a child who went through the Lake County school system, I can finally see progress with the way the state is funding education in my district. This is real reform that moves the needle toward ensuring every student in Illinois gets a quality education regardless of their ZIP code.

State Sen. Melinda Bush is a Democrat from Grayslake and a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

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