Senate panel studying state education funding

Aug 20, 2013

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s. But on Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update. IPR'S Brian Mackey has more.

State education officials spent nearly 30 minutes detailing the formulas Illinois uses to decide how much money the state will pay each school district. It's based on poverty rates, property values, student attendance, and a host of other factors.

The amount of money Illinois says should be the minimum per student has remained flat several years in a row. And the state isn't even paying the full amount. Money is so tight, it could only pay 89 percent last year. 

"That is a problem," says Ben Schwarm, with the Illinois Association of School Boards.

"The number of teachers that have been let go over the last two years is amazing," he says. "That does not help education."

Schwarm was addressing a bipartisan Senate panel that's supposed to study the issue and come up with some ideas for improvement by February. Senators say their focus is not on how much Illinois spends on education, but rather how that money is divvied up among Illinois' 862 school districts.