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ISBE simulation shows good results for recently introduced school funding legislation

An Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) funding simulation shows a school funding reform plan introduced by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) would provide a major boost to struggling schools across the state, sending more than a half a billion dollars in funding through an evidence based model without increasing costs from the previous year.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1124, is based on the framework developed by the Governor’s bipartisan school funding reform commission. The legislation would create an Evidence Based School Funding System that uses 27 different variables to set individual adequacy targets for each school district, based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics.

Districts would be grouped into four tiers based on how far they are from their adequacy target, with Tier 1 including the schools needing the most help, through Tier 4, which includes schools that already meet or exceed their adequacy targets.

The funding formula contains a base funding minimum or hold harmless that is based on the district’s FY17 General State Aid claims. According to the ISBE simulation, every school district but one would receive funding that matches or exceeds their FY17 funding for General State Aid claims and programs that would be integrated into the formula.

The base funding minimum would total $5.432 billion, allowing the legislation to distribute an additional $531 million to schools through the Evidence Based Model without increasing the total spending level from the current fiscal year.

While the Legislature will continue to make decisions about funding levels for education through its budgeting process, this funding model ensures that every dollar above the hold harmless is distributed through the evidence based model. Additionally, the state would begin with half a billion dollars through the model without relying on increased state spending, which is a significant step toward a more equitable system.

Illinois’ neediest schools – as measured by data and evidence – will receive the bulk of the $531 million flowing through the Evidence Based Model.  For example, the 450 districts contained in Tier 1 would gain $445 million of the $531 million, and the 226 Tier 2 school districts would gain $50.7 million.

Another component of the plan involves means testing, which was designed to provide extra help to struggling school districts that are unable to generate much revenue despite high tax rates. The ISBE simulation confirms that the means testing component succeeds at driving funding to schools that have excessively high tax rates and little, local property wealth (EAV).

Senate Bill 1124 also removes the often criticized and controversial Chicago Block Grant, but is tied to additional legislation (SB2172) that would pay the normal cost of CPS’s pensions.  By doing so, all school districts will be treated alike, providing true parity for CPS as well as for all 851 other Illinois school districts.

A second bill, Senate Bill 1125, would add mandate relief and real parity between all school districts by offering additional management flexibility. These changes include flexibility in Physical Education requirements, including allowing student athletes to opt out of PE to take additional classes and provisions to help districts save money via third-party contracting for certain services. Districts would also be able to hold referendums to discharge certain mandates, not including health, life safety rules, federal mandates, or civil rights protections. The legislation also empowers voters to lower their property taxes through a referendum if their district exceeds 110% of their adequacy target.

The legislation represents one funding system for all of our Illinois schoolchildren, that doesn’t pit one school district or geographic region of the state against the other, and drives resources to districts most in need as demonstrated by facts and data—not by political rhetoric and emotion.

How much money would your school get under this plan? Click here to find out.

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