We already have an overly complicated funding formula that is near impossible to explain to the average Illinois resident. Senate Bill 1 makes our current formula look simple in comparison, while essentially saying we are underfunding our schools by billions of dollars. By passing this new formula, we are setting the pathway for more taxes to fulfill the financial demands from the formula.
Ohio, North Dakota, Arkansas and Wyoming have all had “evidence-based” funding in place, yet according to the National Center for Education Statistics, not only has student achievement on NAEP tests failed to grow at the rate the evidence-based funding model promises, but achievement has been virtually flat.
Inaction is not an option. Illinois has the highest property tax burden in the nation, and our funding for K-12 education leaves poor districts behind. In addition, thousands of families are choosing to leave Illinois each year, many citing the rising cost of property taxes as a significant factor for leaving. Many seniors on fixed incomes are taxed out of their homes because they cannot afford their property taxes.
Both of these problems continue to hurt our tax base, causing us to have fewer resources to help those who need it most.
We need to create a system that provides a per child allowance for students, offers more dollars designated for special educational needs, and a pool system to help poorer districts in the state.
If we eliminate all the special funding categories, special program funding, unfunded mandates, and strange modifications to the formula that are in the current system, we can give local school districts the control they need.
At the same time, we should demand results. If a school district’s academic performance is consistently below required standards, a thorough review of policies and procedures should occur immediately, or parents should be allowed to switch from an underperforming school to a thriving educational institution.
We need to let local teachers, parents, administrators and school boards decide what is best for their students, not the state bureaucracy.
Fixing our education funding formula to benefit students in every region of Illinois is important, and we must seek an alternative to the evidence-based model for one that is simple, fair, and gives control to our local communities.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford