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Illinois advocates make another push to fully fund schools

Illinois education advocates say next generations of public school students will continue to attend underfunded schools unless the state increases funding by about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years to fully fund schools by 2027.

The Partnership for Equity and Education Rights Illinois – a new coalition of several education advocacy programs – and the Education Law Center said in a press release that they found that 1.7 million students of 83% of Illinois school districts still attended an underfunded school. By placing only $350 million into the state’s evidence-based funding formula—the minimum amount recommended by law—the state will not be able to fully fund school districts by 2027, a new report from advocacy groups has found.

At a Tuesday press conference ahead of budget hearings the Illinois Board of Education is expected to begin holding next week, advocates urged state officials to increase funding for the next year. school.

Naoma Nagahawatte, advocacy director for Raise Your Hand Illinois and a Chicago parent, said time is running out to fully fund schools to ensure that students who attend schools with high concentrations of poverty can receive the same education as children. students from wealthier districts.

“Generations of future Illinois students in low-wealth districts will continue to seek far less funding and resources for their education,” Nagahawatte said, “while districts like Dolton-Riverdale will continue to pay unfairly more local property taxes to offset the money that the state of Illinois is obligated to put into their school districts.

When the state legislature created the evidence-based funding formula in 2017, it expected schools to be fully funded by 2027, with at least $350 million added to the formula each year. However, there has been no new funding for 2021 – a fallout from the financial blow the pandemic has inflicted on the state. The state board of education recommended adding more than $350 million to the evidence-based funding formula for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, but lawmakers stuck to the $350 million minimum. provided for by law.

At the end of the legislative session in April, state lawmakers approved an additional $350 million for the funding formula, which now stands at $7.9 billion. The overall state budget for education is approximately $9.7 billion. As part of the increase requested by advocates, the evidence-based funding formula would top $15 billion by 2027.

Sincereuray Gordon, whose children attend Zion District 6 in a northern suburb of Chicago, said children with disabilities are also affected by insufficient funding. In Sion, students often have to be moved or bused to another school to receive services, but places are limited.

“I believe that every child has the right to appropriate resources and services in the school building they are in, rather than having to move out,” Gordon said at the press conference.

In Chicago, where schools are funded based on enrollment, programs have been scaled back despite securing additional state funding, said Brighton Park Neighborhood Council member and Chicago parent Brenda Delgado. Chicago lost about 25,000 students at the height of the pandemic.

“My children are students in a school that has suffered many cuts due to per capita budgeting. It’s not fair,” Delgado said. “Our children deserve to have a library in their schools. counselors and nurses. They deserve programs.

Partnership for Equity and Education Rights Illinois wants state legislators to be required to invest more than $350 million in additional state funding formula and ensure school districts deliver the money directly to public school classrooms and students, Nagahawatte said.

Education advocates across the state have raised concerns that the minimum won’t be enough with rising costs and a 40-year high rate of inflation. However, even as Illinois finances begin to rebound, neither the governor nor the legislature has indicated they will add more to the funding formula.

The state professional examination board released a report last year noting that full funding would not occur until 2042 if the state continues to increase funding from the minimum of $350 million.

A spokesman for Governor JB Pritzker said the governor understands more work needs to be done to increase funding for schools in the state.

“The administration remains committed to working with our partners in the legislature to expand evidence-based funding levels and provide schools across the state with the resources needed to thrive,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement.

The State Board of Education will hold virtual and in-person hearings the whole month of October. Virtual hearings will be held on Tuesday, October 4 and Monday, October 24 at 4 p.m. An in-person hearing will be held in Springfield on Thursday, October 6 at 4 p.m.

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering state school districts, legislation, special education, and the state Board of Education. Contact Samantha at [email protected].

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