Some lawmakers want school funding formula retooled

Published 01/13 2014 04:16PM

Updated 01/13 2014 05:48PM

SPRINGFIELD -- School districts in our area say they don't get as much state funding as they should, so a group of lawmakers is trying to make a change. The state uses a formula to determine how much money each district gets, but critics say it's outdated and unfair. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels keeps us Connected to the Capitol.

They say it's unfair because Chicago schools always end up getting more money than downstate schools. Districts are already struggling because of state funding cuts, so they say they need the extra money.

As the fifth-largest state in the country, Illinois has a lot of kids to put through school. But, some argue the way the school districts here share state money isn't fair.

"The current funding formulas are out-of-date and so, children from some communities are treated different than others."

Senator Jason Barickman (R) says that's a big problem.

"Right off the top, the City of Chicago, shares a disproportionate amount of the dollars that are available which, as a result, leaves less money for everyone else."

He says, with early childhood education for example, Chicago schools get 40% of total funding even though it has less than 40% of the student population. Downstate schools have to share the rest of the money.

"I think everyone agrees, whether you're a child in Champaign, Bloomington, Watseka, Chicago or elsewhere, that we ought to treat all those children the same."

That's why Barickman and other state lawmakers are trying to come up with a different solution.

"It's critical for downstate schools."

That's because budget cuts have already reduced many districts to the bare bones, so redistributing general state aid could save struggling schools and put more dollars back in the classroom.

The group is still working on specifics of the new proposal. They should have it finalized next month.

A closer look at districts in Vermilion County shows a problem keeping a balanced budget with less state aid. The Bismarck-Henning School District is about $100,000 in the hole this year; Catlin's is about $300,000. Both superintendents say teachers and administrators have had to take on more work because of those cuts.

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