While acknowledging the need for a new state funding formula for education, Senate Republicans, led by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), said the best way to serve Illinois’ students in the short-term is by fully funding the current education formula established to equalize school districts’ property wealth.
Gov. Rauner is seeking to fully fund the state’s Foundation Level for education for the first time in seven years, increasing GSA by $55 million to meet the $6,119 per student Foundation Level. Senate GOP lawmakers noted that under the current formula, schools often receive more or less money from year to year due to changes in local resources, student population and demographics. However, all schools would benefit from increasing the amount of money that goes into the school funding formula than they would if the total funding remained flat, say Senate Republicans.
Fully funding GSA for education is far preferable to the legislative Democrats’ purposely underfunding foundation level funding for K-12, which they have intentionally done for the last seven years. This practice is known as “proration,” and Senate Republicans stressed that Democrats’ proration is just another word for cuts. They noted proration is problematic for all Illinois schools, but it specifically hurts the most impoverished students in the state.
Though lawmakers from both parties agree that Illinois’ education funding formula—which is nearly 20 years old—needs to be updated, Senate Republicans cautioned that it will be a long process, requiring cooperation from both parties in both chambers and valuable input from stakeholders. They emphasized that K-12 schools cannot wait to receive their state funding for the next school year while lawmakers craft a new funding formula.
Senate Republicans underscored that political gamesmanship should not get in the way of funding primary and secondary education. They noted that some Democrat lawmakers, including the Senate President, have suggested that funding for suburban or downstate school districts should be withheld until a more “fair” system is established. Republican lawmakers say this is a political maneuver, intended to force increased state assistance to the fiscally floundering CPS. Republicans say it is unacceptable to hold downstate and suburban schools’ funding hostage in order to force a $500 million state bailout of CPS.