Suburban winners, losers under new school funding proposal

Suburban school districts would be among the biggest losers and biggest winners under a proposed school funding plan a downstate senator is pushing.

Elgin Area School District U-46 would have seen the biggest jump in state aid outside Chicago if the plan had been in place this year, with $36.3 million in additional state funding, according to Illinois State Board of Education numbers.

Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 would have taken the hardest hit, losing $12.3 million of the $15.8 million in state money it's set to get this year.

State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, has been pushing his proposal to redistribute the state's school money for two years, but it has yet to gain traction with many suburban lawmakers. His new plan assumes $500 million in new state spending for schools, which could be hard to come by in Illinois' tough budget situation.

In fact, Illinois House lawmakers Tuesday approved a 2.25 percent cut to school spending for this year to plug immediate budget holes in other areas.

“In present form, it isn't something I would support because of the detrimental amount it takes from school districts I represent,” said state Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Schaumburg Democrat.

“I don't think it's in its finished condition,” she said of the proposal.

The proposal, in large part, would put more state money toward downstate school districts that have difficulty funding education through local property taxes because of low real estate values.

State officials have fought over how to fairly pay for local schools for decades. Suburban schools with valuable property in their districts often can raise the tax money to spend far more per student than school districts elsewhere, which supporters of the plan say is unfair.

But even among suburban schools, a gap exists.

“The time to provide fair and equitable funding for Illinois schools is overdue,” U-46 Chief Executive Officer Tony Sanders said. “State reductions in General State Aid disproportionately affects districts with higher poverty levels.”

The Illinois State Board of Education this week released numbers showing how schools would do this year if Manar's plan were in place.

Naperville Unit District 203 would see a $9.6 million cut in state funding.

Among the other suburban school districts that would lose money under the proposal are Palatine Township Elementary District 15, which would lose $9 million, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, with an $8.2 million decrease in state funding, and Northwest Suburban High School District 214, with a proposed $7.7 million cut in funding.

Discussion on Manar's bill continues, though some lawmakers are still skeptical of its potential outcome.

“We're still taking resources away from middle income communities with higher property tax values, shifting what little the state currently offers in contributions to the cost of education,” said Sen. Karen McConnaughay, a St. Charles Republican.

East Aurora District 131 would see a $19.7 million boost and Round Lake Area Unit District 116 would get $11.5 million more under Manar's plan.

A previous, similar proposal that came to be known as Senate Bill 16 sparked controversy in the suburbs last fall before the November election, prompting suburban Republicans in particular to express their disapproval and hold town-hall meetings on the topic.

Deemed incomplete by Democrats, it never won a vote in the Illinois House.

The new plan differs by adding provisions to try to help ease the cuts of some schools that would lose money. Still, at least some top suburban districts would lose a similar amount under the new plan compared to the previous version.

Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this report.

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