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Illinois senator amends education funding bill

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:42 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, testifies April 8 during a Senate committee hearing at the Capitol in Springfield. Manar has revised an education funding reform proposal in the hopes of gaining more bipartisan support. His proposal would require state school districts to demonstrate need before receiving money.

SPRINGFIELD – An Illinois state senator has revised an education funding reform proposal in the hopes of gaining more bipartisan support.

Bunker Hill Democrat Andy Manar’s legislation has been amended to cap the amount of state funds given to the poorest schools to ensure money can be spread around evenly to districts with average amounts of poverty. The measure is aimed at streamlining the state’s school funding formula by requiring districts to demonstrate need before receiving money.

Manar says he incorporated the thoughts of Republicans into the legislation, which he filed late Monday night.

The current school funding method has been in effect since 1997. It factors in a district’s poverty for some types of state aid but not others, leading critics to charge that the poorest districts are often left hurting the most during the toughest budget years.

Under the plan, 92 percent of total state education funding would be distributed by factoring in districts’ poverty levels, accounting for low-income students using a weighted formula. The legislation also uses the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches to determine who qualifies for additional low income dollars, which Manar says is in practice with most other states.

Only specialized programs for special education and early childhood education would be exempted from the formula. And, for the first time in decades, funding for Chicago Public Schools would be treated under the same formula as the rest of the state.

Despite the amendment, Republican critics say they’re still not sold on the proposal until they receive more details on how schools across the state would be impacted.

Republican state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld called the legislation “an attempt to address some of the issues” GOP lawmakers raised in a recent three-hour committee meeting on the subject.

Still, he said, “until we see the numbers, it’s hard to give (support),” Luechtefeld, of Okawville, said.

Those district-specific numbers are expected in the coming days.

Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the State Board of Education, said Tuesday the board “may be able to provide the Senator with preliminary information tomorrow.”

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