SPRINGFIELD — An effort to rewrite the state’s school funding formula is back on the General Assembly’s blackboard for 2015.
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, on Wednesday said his bill to do that will be in the legislative hopper before the week is out.
The bill is similar to his funding reform act that made it out of the Senate in 2014 but died in the House.
It seeks to revamp the school funding formula, which Manar says has gone virtually unchanged since 1997.
Some Republicans say while the school funding formula certainly needs work, they want more evidence of how well or poorly school districts are doing before they move money.
Manar says today’s formula only distributes about 44 cents of every dollar on the basis of a school district’s need. The remaining 56 cents are distributed by a grant system that Manar calls unfair and archaic.
His formula seeks to run more revenue through a single formula and distribute about 92 cents of each dollar based on district need.
Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said she opposed the bill in the last session and expects to do so again.
Ives said she thinks addressing funding first is backward; she wants measurements of results or efficiency before the state effectively takes from one district or gives to another.
“I believe they’re starting the discussion wrong,” Ives said. “Specifically, I want to know the efficiency and the effectiveness of every dollar used.”
Some public schools — even with high poverty rates — do better than others, she said.
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said while he thinks Manar’s bill s good in concept, “it’s not really taking us in the direction we’d like to go.
“We’d like bipartisan legislation that is more evidence-based before simply moving money around.”
Manar argues the current distribution is unfair on its face, as it essentially ties the state’s investment in a student’s education to that student’s address.
“It’s critical that we change the formula because the gaps between the haves and the have-nots has never been greater in Illinois and, absent a change, it’s going to become worse,” he said.
Manar said the current formula simply doesn’t help produce the results that lawmakers and public expect from public schools.
Moreover, many areas with high tax rates but poor property tax bases are getting doubly hit, as they tax aggressively but still have little to spend on education, Manar said.
If the state formula makes no correction, the hole only gets deeper for poorer school districts, he argues.
“We’re going to try to build a coalition to pass a bill and send Governor Rauner a bill he can sign,” Manar said.
Mark Fitton is a reporter for the Illinois News Network.