School-funding compromise on its way to Governor

After countless hours of public meetings and legislative debate, a bipartisan agreement to fix the state’s broken school-funding formula is now on its way to the Governor, according to Senator Jim Oberweis.

Passed by the House on August 28 and by the Senate on August 29, Senate Bill 1947 is a compromise that has some provisions many lawmakers and their constituents support, and other provisions many oppose.

“As always, the ‘devil is in the details.’  It’s not a great deal, but it might be the best deal we could get.  It is clearly a Chicago Public Schools bailout, but has several positives as well,” said Senator Oberweis. “It will provide mandate relief.  It will provide an opportunity to expand school choice to low-income students through a new tax credit.  Individuals will receive a state tax credit (not a deduction) equal to 75% of the amount contributed to help a private school.  Several other states have tried similar programs with positive results.”

Senate Bill 1947 replaces the state’s outdated school-funding formula with a new evidence-based model (EBM) that utilizes data and widely-accepted best practices to determine how to send funding where it is needed most and where it will help the most students.  The EBM relies on 27 data sets to determine the actual costs for each school district to provide an adequate education for the students, which is referred to as an adequacy target. Funding is then prioritized to the schools that are the furthest from their adequacy target.

The legislation also includes significant mandate relief for schools to reduce costs, as well as a system to help reduce the burden of skyrocketing property taxes on families. In addition, the bill would help encourage a scholarship program that would offer school choice for low-income students.

“As lawmakers, our goal should be to do our best for all of our students.  Under this plan, each school district will also receive a minimum guarantee that they will receive at least as much state money as they received last year, regardless of the number of students,” Senator Oberweis said. “That means that districts with declining enrollment like Chicago will continue to receive at least as much as last year, and if the new program is successful in moving some kids from public to private schools, those public schools will still continue to receive the same money, again with fewer kids.”

Senate Bill 1947 is now headed to Governor Bruce Rauner, who is expected to sign it into law.

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