As you’ve heard at our General Meetings school funding reform legislation, Senate Bill number SB1, has been introduced as a replacement for SB16 from the last General Assembly. Tony Sanders has been very active in lobbying for passage of this bill on behalf of the district.
At its core, SB1 is a reallocation of General State Aid (GSA), which is the main source of state funding for school districts. The current GSA formulas in use have not been updated since 1997. Over the past 17 years, changes in demographics – which significantly influence the GSA formulas – have resulted in large funding inequalities statewide and an over-reliance on property taxes to make up the difference. These inequalities have resulted in Illinois being consistently ranked as the 2nd most regressive state in the country in school funding, meaning that districts in areas of high poverty and low property wealth spend less pupil than wealthy districts – and often have a much higher property tax bill to boot.
Our school district currently spends $1200 less per student than the state average in instructional spending. Passage of SB1 could cut that number by more than half, providing an extra $696 per student on average. The bill accomplishes this in a couple of different ways: by increasing school funding statewide through an Adequacy Grant (GSA payments have been pro-rated the last several years; school districts are only receiving 89% of the money they are owed by the state), and by reallocating funds based on current low income figures – correcting the disparities that have formed over the last 17 years.
SB1 faces stiff opposition from districts, mostly in suburban Chicago, that would face a decrease in GSA funding due to the reallocation. “Hold Harmless” provisions have been written into SB1 to allow districts to phase in those decreases, and caps the decrease per student. This is a major improvement over SB16 from last year.
Following are some resources for you to use when contacting legislators regarding SB1: