Chi Trib: Illinois school funding raises its (troublesome) head again


A Dem wants a redo on school aid (state to local districts), but Gov. Rauner has already scotched the idea.

Democrats are “screaming ‘Crisis! Crisis!'” when “they created it,” he said.

It’s a long-standing issue, of course. A Democratic position in the matter is laid out by a high-ranking Illinois senator in this excerpt from my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, :

Another CLAIM [parent] questioner [in a 2013 meeting at Oak Park’s Percy Julian middle school] raised the long-standing hot-button issue of state funding of public schools . . . setting up a haves-vs.-have-nots give and take.

[Sen. Karen] Lightford complained that the formula for allocating school funding — $4 billion in 2013 — was based on forty-to-fifty-year-old poverty figures. She was to co-sponsor a bill two years later that sought to alter that formula, taking from the wealthier districts and giving to the poorer ones. . . . .

“Is it fair?” she asked, that Oak Park gets as much as it does, “considering its lower-than-average poverty rate?” State aid (to Oak Park schools) “may be” less, she said. Which was sufficiently ambiguous for the occasion. Then she launched into numbing detail about the process of deciding how funds are apportioned.

[Oak Park’s Sen. Don] Harmon ignored her allegation of unfairness — no need to ruffle feathers — but agreed that the formula is “complicated.” He took note also of the long-standing teacher pension subsidy for non-Chicago school districts — featuring highly publicized retirement bonanzas for suburban administrators — as further complicating the matter.


Illinois Blues is available at as paperback and ebook.

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