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State Settles Suit Over Discriminatory School Funding

Updated 6:55 pm

The Chicago Urban League has reached a settlement with the Illinois State Board of Education in a lawsuit that accused it of discriminating against minority children in the way public schools are funded. 

The tentative agreement released Friday requires the board to devise a new way to distribute money in lean times, but does not fundamentally change Illinois’ school funding system.

The state board plans to vote on the matter Wednesday. Neither the state nor the Urban League would comment before it’s approved.

The settlement comes just days after Chicago Public Schools filed its own discrimination suit against the state arguing children of color in the city are not getting their fair share of state education money, especially as it relates to teacher pensions.

The Urban League suit, filed in 2008, initially took aim at what it called “the state’s failed school funding scheme” and sought to have the current funding system tossed out.

This settlement, though, only deals with one narrow issue. It says the state must devise a new way of handing out money to school districts when the General Assembly falls short of making its promised payments.

That has happened frequently in recent years. It’s a practice known as proration. In 2014 and 2015, for example, lawmakers shortchanged schools by $1.1 billion, according to the state’s Education Funding Advisory Board, which sets a baseline level of funding for all Illinois public schools.

Students in low-income school districts took the biggest hit in those years because those districts are heavily reliant on state funding. Those districts often serve mostly black and Latino children. That was widely seen as unfair because the state reduced payments at the same rate across the board.

This lawsuit settlement does not affect the case just filed by Chicago Public Schools, said spokeswoman Emily Bittner. But the district applauded the Chicago Urban League for raising “critical and complex issues," and for "challenging the State's regressive methods of funding public education and its impact on the poor.”

Illinois Settles Suit Over Discriminatory School Funding by Chicago Public Media on Scribd

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

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