Representatives from two religious coalitions in Illinois urged support for a new school funding formula that would provide more state money for lower-income districts.

“As it stands, Illinois public schools are the most regressively funded in this nation,” said Pastor T. Ray McJunkins, president of Gamaliel of Illinois. “That means disadvantaged students who need the most receive the least. This is not acceptable.”

Data from The Education Trust show that Illinois school districts with the greatest number of low-income students receive approximately $2,540 less per student than districts with the fewest number. Additionally, districts serving the largest number of minority students in Illinois receive about $2,000 less in state and local funding per student than districts with the fewest.

This disproportionate spending can also contribute to rural poverty, according to Pana School Superintendent David Lett, who said he recently had to cut 20 percent of his teaching staff, 25 percent of his administrative staff and 15 percent of his support staff.

“The reason we need to see that happen is because it’s an issue of equity,” Lett said. “If we don’t fix equity first, adequacy is never going to be there. And the problem is, if we continue to dump money that we don’t have into the existing formula, it’s only going to widen the divide in this state.”

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1, which would address the regressive nature of the current funding system. He said he believes it could be a part of a final budget deal that would meet Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval.

“We have been complacent with failure when it comes to school funding, and that’s what the bill is designed to do,” said Manar, who has been pushing his funding reform proposal for the past couple of years. “It’s phased in over time. It’s not a complete shock to any system. We phase it in over four years, and we call for many reforms in terms of how school districts spend money.”

Manar stressed that any school funding reform plan that does not address the equity concerns is going to be a failure.

Read the full article at the State Journal Register