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Could Illinois’ state funding of education be worse? Yes…

State Superintendent Christopher Koch said yesterday that the proposed nearly $1 billion in cuts to K-12 education would be “devastating.”

According to Koch, “22 percent of our school districts that have a hundred days’ cash or less on hand. We could have districts simply not make it through the school year.”

The reason for the proposed cuts couldn’t be clearer: the looming revenue collapse due to the end-of-year expiration of current income tax rates.

No school district would be spared from the cuts, as the Fiscal Policy Center recently pointed out.

And, it’s not as if Illinois currently does a good job funding our public schools. The state’s share of pre-k through 12th grade funding is the worst in the nation and hasn’t reached more than one-third of total funding since 1987. This despite Article X, Section I of the Illinois Constitution that gives the state “primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

The General Assembly provides grossly inadeuqate funding for General State Aid, the largest form of state education funding to local school districts. The Education Funding Advisory Board recommended that the foundation level — the minimum amount of funding per pupil from state and local resources — be set at $8,672 for fiscal year 2014.

However, the General Assembly has refused to raise the level, instead leaving it at $6,119 per pupil — the same level as in fiscal year 2010. In the last three years, the General Assembly didn’t even appropriate enough to fund even this low foundation level, which forced the state to prorate funding to school districts. 

EFAB vs foundation level 2


Advance Illinois points out the inevitable consequences:

With state funds limited, school districts increasingly rely on local property taxes to pay educators, buy instructional materials and keep the school doors open. School districts in affluent areas have the ability to raise more money, and do. School districts in impoverished areas can raise less. As a result, districts with the least wealth and greatest number of poor students fall furthest behind. 

To fund the recommended foundation level for each student would require nearly an additional $5 billion additional annual funding. The looming revenue collapse will only put Illinois and its students further behind.  

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