Education Funding Lawsuits May Show What’s ahead for Illinois


Illinois has the widest gap between total state and local money spent per student in its poorest districts compared with its wealthiest, according to a 2015 study from The Education Trust.

As a bipartisan commission that Gov. Bruce Rauner assembled works on a proposed funding overhaul, these court decisions offer a glimpse of what could be in store for Illinois if the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the Republican governor fail to reach an agreement.

“I think you would only logically come to the conclusion that Illinois is primed for that type of a decision,” said state Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, a leading voice for Senate Democrats on education funding reform. “Because if it’s bad in Kansas, it’s awful in Illinois in the eyes of a court. … That’s why we ought to try to proactively address the issue as a Legislature.”

The possibility of a court decision in Illinois isn’t purely hypothetical. A lawsuit from the Chicago Urban League challenging the funding formula has been pending since 2008 in Cook County Circuit Court.

But members of the governor’s commission, including Manar, say the group has been finding common ground on an issue that can divide lawmakers along both partisan and regional lines.

“Whether or not this translates into an actual piece of legislation remains to be seen,” Manar said. “But I think there is broad consensus that distribution of state funds — the formula — should recognize the unique needs of every school district, which we don’t do today. … And recognition of that is a victory.”

Read more…(The Southern Illinoisan)

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