Education panel recommends boosting funding by $3,000 per pupil
Illinois' Education Funding Advisory Board says state-set basic school funding levels are shorting students by more than $3,000 each year. The committee's report, released once every two years to the legislature, recommends increasing the per-pupil foundation level -- the basic amount that should be spent through state and local funds on educating each student -- from its current $6,119 to $9,204 for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July. For the more than 800 school districts across Illinois, that increase would come to a total of $4.6 billion in extra funding.
A majority of suburban schools already exceed the recommended amount for per-pupil spending. If the advised amount were to be adopted -- unlikely in light of Illinois' budget woes -- the extra money would benefit poorer districts throughout the state.
By law, the state must make up the difference if a district cannot get to that foundation level benchmark on its own. Districts are also given money from the state based on the number of low-income students attending classes, and for programs such as transportation, bilingual and special education.
In the suburbs, there's a large disparity in how much money is available for students. New Trier Township High School District 203, for instance, spends $23,571 per student, per year, while West Chicago District 33 spends roughly half that, at $12,169 per student.
The panel also stressed that the state should keep its word in delivering the funding that's promised. For 11 of the past 15 years, the state has failed to fully pay public schools the amount it has promised, a practice known in education circles as "proration."
"EFAB renews its commitment to advocating for the state to end its failure to meet its constitutional responsibilities to adequately fund public education," board Chairwoman Sylvia Puente said in a news release.
Complicating the dynamic is the state's ongoing budget impasse, with Illinois' divided government unable to agree on a full-year spending plan since GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, cognizant of the political danger of not funding schools, have managed to agree upon a school spending plan each year.
The General Assembly and the governor last adopted the panel's funding recommendation in fiscal year 2010.
Board members, in addition to Puente, include Hazel Crest School District Superintendent Sheila Harrison-Williams, Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery.