Illinois’ method of funding public education is broken. On this, almost everyone agrees.
We rank 15th in the nation in K-12 spending, but only two states show greater disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest districts. While the cost of education has continued to rise, ISBE has maintained the same foundation level of support for school districts -- $6,119 per pupil -- for the last eight years.
Charleston CUSD #1 receives nearly half its operating budget from the state. Since 2009, however, Springfield has adopted a practice of proration where the amount distributed to school districts has routinely fallen short of what was promised. Charleston alone has lost roughly $3.4 million to proration, forcing deep cuts to programs and services that will take years to correct.
Just as both sides see the problem, they also agree on the solution: an evidence-based funding formula.
Evidence-based funding means that schools are evaluated based on the quality of service they provide, rather than what ZIP code they’re in. This allows school districts with the greatest need, like Charleston, to receive a greater proportion of new state funding.
With an evidence-based formula, schools can start down the path to providing smaller class sizes and instruction coaches, school psychologists and vocations counseling, gifted and special education, tutoring and mentoring. A total of 27 research-based practices will determine how new resources are distributed.
In March, an evidence-based bill cleared a House Appropriations committee by a vote of 15-1. Later versions of the bill included provisions for Chicago teacher pensions, which is how the emerging consensus devolved into a mudfight.
The hour is too late for partisan games. It’s time for our leaders to step up and do what is needed for our kids -- fix the formula and put educators back to work.
Matt Titus, Charleston