Panel calls for massive boost in Illinois school funding

2013-01-23T18:15:00Z Panel calls for massive boost in Illinois school fundingKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
January 23, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | A panel dedicated to figuring out how much Illinois should spend on education is calling for more than $4.7 billion in additional school funding in the coming year.

The massive increase proposed by the Education Funding Advisory Board, however, comes as the state is grappling with rising costs in other areas of government, resulting in the Quinn administration saying last week that spending on schools may have to be slashed by $400 million next year.

The panel acknowledged the wide gap between wish and reality, but urged the governor and the General Assembly to nonetheless find a way to boost funding for schools.

“While EFAB recognizes the dire financial position of the State of Illinois, the lack of adequate funding for basic education is a failure of the state’s moral and fiduciary responsibilities,” the report noted.

The panel was formed to help guide state lawmakers and governors in their budget-making deliberations when it comes to funding for schools. Under state law, the board advises the Legislature where to set the statutory minimum per-pupil funding level.

But the recommendation has been routinely ignored by the governor and lawmakers in recent years as they’ve dealt with a recession and rising state employee pension costs.

In the current fiscal year, for example, state aid to schools is running at about $5,734 per student.

The board said in order to adequately educate each student the state should be paying about $8,672 per pupil, which equates to an increase of about $4.7 billion.

The cuts being projected by Quinn also come as lawmakers are considering a plan that could shift some of the cost of teacher pensions to local school districts, potentially forcing them to raise local property taxes or spend less on each student.

Despite the chasm, state School Superintendent Christopher Koch said he appreciated the efforts of the volunteer panel.

“While the state continues to struggle with an epic financial crisis — and our population of low-income students continues to rise — it remains important for us to analyze and reflect on what resources are truly required to support good instruction and learning so that students are best prepared to succeed,” Koch said in a statement.

A copy of the EFAB report can be found at http://www.isbe.net/EFAB/pdf/final-report-01-13.pdf.

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