A bill that would change Illinois’ General State Aid funding formula to direct more dollars to poorer school districts has passed the state Senate but faces an uncertain future in the House.
Senate Bill 231 passed the Senate on May 10 by a mostly party line vote of 31 to 21 with three members voting “present.” The chief sponsor of the bill is state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), who represents Forest Park, voted for the bill.
“The reality is that our current system for distributing funds to our schools is broken,” Lightford said in a statement. “This legislation may not be perfect, but if we don’t act soon, we’re only going to continue failing to provide resources to children who need them most.”
Under an analysis of the bill by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Forest Park Elementary School District 91 would eventually receive less state money if the bill becomes law as written, while Proviso High School District 209 would receive more state money. The ISBE analysis, which some question, projected that D91 could ultimately lose about $820,000 if the Manar bill becomes law as written while D209 could receive as much as $2 million more in state aid.
However the bill is not expected to become law as written.
“I think on its own it would be difficult to get that bill through,” said Steve Brown, the spokesman for powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Brown said that a House committee has been looking at changing the way the state distributes state aid to schools for two years but hasn’t yet come up with a proposal, although one is expected soon.
“I’m sure they’ll look at the Manar bill,” Brown said of the House committee, led by House Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago). “We’ll want to take the good elements of it as best we can and combine it with what the House is ultimately going to propose and see if we can bring some equity into the whole school funding situation. It’s a complicated issue, obviously.”
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said he would rather concentrate for now on increasing state aid for schools and worry about changing the funding formula later. This year, Rauner has proposed fully funding General State Aid to local schools for the first time in seven years.
At an appearance at Lyons Township High School last week, Rauner criticized the Manar bill for directing an additional $75 million to the Chicago Public Schools.
“What I’ve been told is that it has huge new financing for Chicago and some pretty large hits, in terms of reductions, to school districts around the state,” said Rauner at LTHS on May 9. “That would make me uncomfortable.”
Rauner didn’t give a direct answer when asked if he would veto the Manar bill if it came to him in its current form. He did say he wants to work with Manar on eventually changing the General State Aid funding formula.
“I don’t want Senator Manar to give up,” Rauner said. “We should keep working together. Democrats and Republicans should keep working together on a school funding transformation.”
So far no money has yet been appropriated for state aid to schools for the 2016-17 school year. With the legislature’s spring session scheduled to end on May 31, it is anyone’s guess what will happen.
“We’ll see how it all shakes out,” Brown said. “I don’t do predictions as a matter of course and certainly wouldn’t want to do one on an issue like this.”