A task force reevaluating how tax dollars for primary education are spread around the state will kick off later this month and members from both parties are ready to get the conversation started.
Democratic Representative Jack Frank said the current formula is antiquated and designed to fail because many schools are deficit spending anyway.
“We need to blow up our system,” Franks said. “It’s not working for our students and it’s not working for our taxpayers.
There are differing ideas how to fix the current funding formula with some saying money to more affluent districts should be diverted to poorer districts. However, Republican Representative Grant Wehrli said lawmakers should really get into the numbers.
“The disparity is a myth, in my opinion,” Wehrli said. “It can be easily shown with facts and data.”
“When you look at everything within its aggregate, Naperville receives less,” Wehrli said, “and in fact our cost per pupil is much less than the city of Chicago. It’s about being efficient and delivering the services of education where they need to be.”
Meanwhile Franks said there are hold harmless agreements that need to be addressed “that reward areas for actually losing population and we need to have the money follow the students which we don’t have right now.”
“This is an algebraic formula we just need to keep looking at,” Wehrli said, “and make sure we’re delivering services -- financially sound services -- for each and every student in Illinois.”
Wehrli said where a student lives shouldn’t be the only factor.
“Whether they’re Chicago, Naperville, Carbondale, Rockford, it doesn’t matter,” Wehrli said. “Education is first and foremost to every parent and every child deserves the right to a high quality education regardless of where they are.”
Regardless, Franks said “I can’t, and we can’t, allow our property taxes to increase with any change, but the state is going to have to stand up pay a higher percentage of those costs, but we need to do it more equitably.”
There’s agreement among party leaders the formula should be addressed.
A statement from Speaker Michael Madigan says the task force planned for this spring will make “sure that voices from across our state are heard and that all schools and programs are protected throughout this process.”
Governor Bruce Rauner has even said there needs to be funding reform to ensure more funding for all districts.
“And it’s not a Republican or Democrat thing,” Franks said. “It’s much more regional because you have to look at where you live and how kids are getting educated, which if you think about it in this country, is the worst way to do it. We need to fix it and forget the party labels because we just have to come together and make it fair to everybody, which it clearly isn’t now.”