Legislators look for solutions to school funding challenges

As the debate about how to best fund Illinois’ schools continues, focus has shifted to Senate Bill 16 (see related story “School Funding Legislation Would Hurt Homewood Schools”).

The legislation would reduce state allocations from wealthier districts and redistribute the monies to poorer schools. The Homewood Chronicle solicited comment from legislators representing Homewood in the Illinois Legislature.

Below are comments from 40th District Senator Toi Hutchinson, representing Homewood and Flossmoor; 15th District Senator Napoleon Harris, representing Homewood; 38th District Representative Al Riley, representing Homewood and Flossmoor; and 30th District Representative William Davis, representing Homewood.

Sen. Toi Hutchinson:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding your concerns with education funding in Illinois. As a mother of three children, all of whom attended public schools in the Southland, I am keenly aware of the issues facing families, homeowners and school districts in Illinois as it relates to school funding.

Senate Bill 16 is a proposal that passed out of the Senate in May to overhaul how Illinois funds public schools, better addressing student needs and equalizing state funding between school districts that have a plethora of local resources and those who have little. While the proposal deals with some key issues surrounding equity in school funding, the proposal is by no means perfect and will not become law in its current form.

The proposal has, however, started a debate we are having now on how to better educate all of our students and prepare them for the future. It is my belief the quality of a child’s education should not be contingent upon the ZIP code where they live. Students across the Southland and this state come to school with varying needs and abilities, requiring an array of different tools and resources for each student to succeed. Sadly, the current distribution of these tools and resources do not reflect the current needs of students and teachers.

Sen. Napoleon Harris:

Although SB16 is not a perfect bill, it does start the real conversation that needs to be had on how we fund education.

The bill has other flaws. In the eyes of many, there will be winners and losers. Some poverty stricken districts will increase while wealthier districts will lose.

SB16 supports the goal that each child will receive the same high quality education.

I support this bill because its purpose is to drive state funds where they are most needed. Therefore, districts with less resources and greater need will receive more support from the state. It also allows the state to fund education in a more consistent way.

Rep. Al Riley:

First of all, I will vote “No” on SB 16 if it comes up for a vote in the House. 

However, the upcoming veto session will be full of other important measures that we will be dealing with. 

In addition, Sen. Andy Manar (the bill’s chief sponsor) may not call it, or it may not come out of the House Rules Committee for various reasons.  Having said that, please understand that my no vote does not mean that I don’t agree with Sen. Manar’s contention that education funding is inequitable in this state.  I do.  We all know many schools in the Southland who are inadequately funded.  His bill just does not fully address all of the concerns of funding equity. 

One of the problems with SB16 is that it tries to “reshuffle the existing deck” of school funding, without considering generating additional revenue.  This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problems in the school funding issue.  Education funding reform has been an issue that I have been directly involved in since 2007. 

Over the years, I co-sponsored HB/SB 750, SB 2288 and HB 174; all designed to make funding more equitable while also providing property tax relief. I am currently working with other legislators and research based tax and budget organizations to develop a more equitable bill, much in the spirit of the aforementioned measures.

To be done right, this or similar bills need more time.  Therefore, this should be an issue for the 99th General Assembly whose session starts in January of 2015. 

Rep. William Davis:

SB 16, in its current form, will not pass. Democrats have been meeting over the summer to massage SB16 so that hopefully it will pass.

I know from constituent and board member comments that the bill now shortchanges districts in the south suburbs.

My premise is that the way we fund schools is wrong.  The property wealth of a district should not determine how much money schools receive. SB 16 looks at how to redistribute resources to school districts.


Related story: School funding legislation would hurt Homewood schools, public meeting planned Nov. 5 in Harvey


More information: Illinois State Board of Education SB 16 fact sheet ISBE SB 16 overview Everyone Deserves a Great Education


Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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