Fully fund Foundation Level to best serve Illinois students, school districts

While acknowledging the need for a new state funding formula for education, 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.

Governor Bruce Rauner is seeking to fully fund the state’s Foundation Level for education for the first time in seven years, increasing General State Aid (GSA) by $55 million to meet the $6,119 per student Foundation Level.

“We need to fully fund the Foundation Level for the children. If we want to help students and we want to help our school districts, then this is the best thing we can do for them while we continue the dialogue on establishing a new system of funding education in Illinois,” said Radogno.

Radogno noted that as lawmakers work together to resolve the issue of education funding fairness in Illinois, the state should finally meet its statutory obligation to fund the foundation level for education—without exception.

“The Senate President has suggested that funding for suburban or downstate school districts should be withheld to force a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools, and that is unacceptable. We’re willing to help CPS get back on its feet, and we’ve put forth commonsense ideas that have not, so far, been considered by our Democrat colleagues,” said Radogno. “However, there is no way we will support a $500 million bailout of CPS. To imply all funding for K-12 education be held hostage until that happens flies in the face of our fundamental goal of ensuring all Illinois students receive the quality education they need and deserve.”

State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) emphasized that under the current formula, schools often receive more or less money from year to year due to natural changes in student population and demographics. Barickman explained that all schools would benefit from increasing the amount of money that goes into the school funding formula.

“Every year there are changes to the amount of state funding sent to individual schools.  Some get more than the year before, some get less.  This occurs under the current formula, but it also happens under every single formula that anyone has proposed. Fully funding the foundation level means more money for our K-12 system, period.  There are no losers in this plan.  Every school district gets more money with our plan than they would if the total funding remains flat.”

Barickman noted that Democrat lawmakers have acknowledged that failing to fully fund the Foundation Level has a particularly negative impact on the school districts that are most reliant on state funding.

“My colleague Senator Andy Manar has said that proration is ‘probably the most devastating thing that has happened, especially when it comes to the inequality between the haves and the have-nots in the state,’” Barickman said. “Remarks from Senator Manar, as well as remarks made by former Senator Kotowski during the education budget debate last spring that acknowledged there are school districts that are ‘disproportionately negatively impacted by the fact that we’re not fully funding schools at the Foundation Level where they should be funded,’ imply to me that many of our Democrat counterparts recognize that fully funding GSA for schools is the best way to help Illinois schools.”

Fully funding General State Aid (GSA) for education is far preferable to the intentional “proration” of education funding that Democrat lawmakers have undertaken over the last seven years, said State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). A member of the Senate Education Committee, Rose said that intentionally prorating, or choosing funding levels lower than GSA claims, specifically hurts the most impoverished students in the state.

“The Democrats talk a good game about the lack of resources being directed to K-12 education, but under the Quinn administration and the Democrat control of the House and Senate, school funding was cut,” Rose said.  “They called it ‘proration,’ but my local school districts call it ‘cuts.’ These reductions were particularly damaging to the most impoverished schools in the state – but make no mistake, the Democrats’ cuts hurt kids at every school in the state.”

“Proration has put a strain on several school districts, teachers, and students in my district,” State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Peru) said. “Whether it’s layoffs, staff reductions, or program cuts, Springfield must start holding up its end of the bargain. If we’re serious about helping students and making education a top priority, fully funding the foundation formula is the place to start.”

Barickman noted at the same time school funding was prorated at its worst levels, Illinois collected nearly $30 billion in additional revenue due to the 2011 income tax increase.

Republicans acknowledged the need for a new funding formula for education, but cautioned it would be a work in progress, requiring cooperation from both parties in both chambers and valuable input from stakeholders.

In the interim, State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles) explained that fully funding the current formula is not only the best way to serve Illinois schools during that process, but will enable lawmakers to look at the issue from a new perspective, one that is not tainted by intentional proration.

“Fully funding the statutory Foundation Level under the current formula will give the General Assembly valuable insight into where the formula continues to fail school districts, and we can draw on that information as we begin crafting a new funding formula for education,” said McConnaughay.

“There are naturally ebbs and flows to the formula, as local resources increase or Average Daily Attendance (ADA) fluctuates, for example,” Radogno explained. “These are changes that will result in some districts receiving potentially more or potentially less state funding, but are a perfect example of the statutory funding formula working as intended. By fully funding the formula, we ensure that no matter what, school districts in Illinois will be better off.”

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: