Historic Education Funding Reform Passes

The new school funding formula moves towards an “evidence-based” model based on practices followed in many other states. Illinois’ 852 school districts will be given positive incentives to work hard to improve their students’ performances. The new formula is contained in SB 1947, as amended in the House. Enactment of the measure followed up on two years of bipartisan negotiations between school advocates from both parties and was a response to the school funding discussion that took place during the summer of 2017.

SB 1947 represents a compromise agreed to by the four legislative leaders and Governor Rauner. Many of its individual features are not perfect from the standpoint of people who voted for the measure. Other features are popular with many Illinois legislators and voters. School mandates are reduced, and school management operational transparency is increased. One feature of the reform bill creates a system of new Illinois income tax credits. This new program is expected to leverage the donation of up to $100 million to scholarship funds to enable the enrollment of low and middle-income students in Illinois private schools. Supporters see the bill as a way to move Illinois toward adequate school funding and to add serious budgeting for results.

The House vote on SB 1947 on Monday, August 28, was 73-34-3. The House’s three-fifths majority carried the bill over to the Senate for concurrence. The Senate 38-13-4 concurrence vote sent the education funding reform package to Gov. Rauner for his signature on Thursday.

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