Newest school plan wouldn't cut suburbs' funds immediately

The latest push to change how the state pays for schools would keep some of the suburbs' wealthier districts from losing money in the first year and phase in a potential decline in revenue after that.

The new proposal unveiled Tuesday by state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, continues a yearslong effort to try to send more state money to schools that don't have the property values to generate as much local tax revenue as in other districts.

Previous versions have been decried by some suburban leaders whose schools had been projected to lose millions per year by the shift in funding, and Manar's new model is a nod to that.

"The challenges you see in Lake Forest are different than the challenges you see in Decatur," Manar said.

He says the plan could cost about $600 million in the first year, a number that could seem big to some lawmakers who remain deadlocked over a state budget that was due last year, with another spending plan due in the coming months.

Under Manar's plan, schools next year would be guaranteed not to lose state money even as other schools take in more based on their need. Under the new formula, though, some schools would see reductions phased in over four years, Manar said.

Specific numbers are still being calculated by state education officials.

How the decades-long battle over school funding might fit into the budget battle remains unclear.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, for example, has called for a "clean" school spending plan to be sent to his desk soon in an effort to keep districts' state money from being caught up in the budget stalemate.

Last year, the governor signed Democrats' education budget, avoiding the possibility some schools might not open at the beginning of the current school year.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said Monday formula changes shouldn't hold up approving a schools bill.

"We're willing to look at it after a budget has been negotiated and passed," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said.

Among the students appearing with Manar Tuesday was Allison Holloway, a senior at Larkin High School in Elgin.

"Do students in my neighborhood deserve less than what they need?" she asked.

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