Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in Rockford to tout a new school funding framework.
The governor paid a visit to the Barbour Two-Way Immersion School, which provides instruction in both English and Spanish. After touring several classrooms, Rauner said he would double down on funding schools more equally.
“We are going to change the way schools are funded in Illinois, improve it, get more resources overall, and especially more resources for lower-income schools that don’t have access to the same advantages as higher-income schools," he said.
The framework, developed by a 25-member bipartisan commission, aims to address the gap between schools in areas which generate high property-tax revenues and smaller, more rural districts. Rauner says part of that involves increasing K-12 funding overall.
"We set a record level of school funding last year, another record of school funding for this year," he said. "We’re ending proration of K-12 schools, and we want to increase state support for schools every year going forward."
Education Secretary Beth Purvis accompanied the governor. She says the framework measures a district’s "adequacy" using a variety of factors, including low-income students and concentration of poverty.
"We also need to take a look at what percentages of English languages learners are served, what are the needs of students with disabilities," she said. "We need to look at the regionalization factors that have to do with the cost of running schools, and it also has operational elements. What does it cost to run the school buildings on a day-to-day (basis)?"
She says Illinois ranks 16th overall in terms of average school funding, but has one of the largest monetary gaps in funding between rich and poor districts. To address this inequity, the framework prioritizes poorer districts. However, Purvis says it also would ensure that more well-off districts aren’t deprived of state money.
“There is a provision in this that we call the hold harmless/base funding minimum, that says that we should look at what districts are currently spending on a per-pupil basis, and there should be every effort made to make sure on a per-pupil basis that no district loses state funds.”
Following the Governor's visit, Harlem Federation of Teachers (IFT Local 540) President Brad Sweet released the following statement:
"Governor Rauner has forgotten that he is the governor of all of the citizens of Illinois. Those citizens deserve to have a government that considers all of their needs when taking on the challenge of school and social service funding. To hold any of these programs -- and subsequently their recipients -- hostage to his personal political goals shows the indifference he has for the hardworking citizens of the great state of Illinois."
The framework requires accompanying legislation for any changes to take effect.