Updates and Events

Evidence-Based Education Funding Passes General Assembly

Although the General Assembly sputtered to an unsatisfying adjournment yesterday without passing a FY2018 budget resulting in a bond rating downgrade, there was some significant good news. The General Assembly approved SB1 which fundamentally transforms and improves Illinois' antiquated school funding formula. 

CTBA has supported the reforms contained in SB1 and was actively involved in developing and crafting the legislation.

Through the years, the current state funding formula for schools has become a political formula for distributing money to school districts based far more on the financial situation of the State than on any research or the actual cost of educating students in a specific school district. Coupled with an overreliance on local property taxes and inadequate state funding, this has led to wide disparity in school resources, funding, and outcomes.

SB1 fundamentally changes how Illinois looks at state funding of schools by moving to an Evidence Based Model ("EBM") of funding. In the simplest words, all this means is that state funding for a school district is based on what it costs for that particular school district to educate its students based on practices and models that research has shown will work best.

Under SB1 and an Evidence Based Model, funding is determined by identifying and then costing out the educational best-practices that result in higher student achievement. This is in contrast to the current law which starts with a foundation level grant that is set by the General Assembly at an equal dollar amount for every school district in the state, regardless of the needs of the district's students or what works in that school district. Disparities are further enhanced by the use of categorical grants under current law, which do not account for the wealth of the school district.

SB1 recognizes that all school districts, and their individual needs, are different. The new formula would establish a local capacity target for each district based upon that district's local property wealth, and then discounts some of the local investment made by low EAV, high property tax districts, to provide those districts more state resources, which can support both reaching an adequate level of educational funding, as well as property tax relief.

Because most categorical funding is included in SB1's EBM, categorical grants become based on a district's needs rather than a set dollar amount that is the same for the wealthiest districts and the poorest districts. However, SB1 does contain a "hold harmless" provision to protect school districts from losing state funding under the new formula. Charter schools are also protected under SB1.

SB1 still requires the signature of Governor Rauner. Equally important, however, is that the Evidence Based Model in SB1 needs to be fully funded for our schools to improve. Illinois woefully underfunds its public schools, and CTBA has long advocated reforming Illinois' inefficient system of taxation to provide more equity and the revenue to fund needed public services.

Read more about SB1 on our blog.