Lawmakers are back in Springfield and working on education funding.
The Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee met Tuesday to discuss the State Board of Education’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.
Gov. Bruce Rauner intends to get more money to schools by “investing to end proration in the short term and investing in early childhood, and overall increasing the amount of money in the pre-K through 12 budget,” said Beth Purvis, the governor’s point person on education matters.
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Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar questioned whether full funding of the current state aid formula sufficiently helps the state’s poorest school districts.
As much as he appreciates the governor’s plan as a good first step, Manar said, “We would be doing a disservice if we didn't have a conversation about the fact that a foundation level of $6,119 for a district that has 99 percent poverty shouldn't be the same as a foundation level with a district that has 4 percent poverty.” Manar said. “That is the law today, and that needs to change.”
Purvis and Tim Nuding, the governor’s budget chief, said the governor believes boosting the general state aid formula and bulking up childhood education are two ways to get the most help to the most students in timely fashion.
Furthermore, the administration is worried that a full rewrite of the state aid formula would get tied up in the General Assembly, as it could be seen as taking money from some school districts to send to others.
Democrats also briefly pressed the administration on higher-education funding, which is stalled for the current fiscal year.
“The governor puts a priority on higher ed,” Nuding said. “He wants to fund higher ed, but elementary and secondary education is a cut above everything else right now in his mind.”
In response, Democratic state Sen. Michael Hastings encouraged the administration to add higher-education funding to its list of very high priorities.
“In my perspective, I think education as a whole is a priority, and I would just encourage the governor and staff to include higher education as ... nonnegotiable,” Hastings said.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet next week in Springfield to hear testimony from the state superintendent and chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.