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What You Need To Know About Illinois’ School Funding Overhaul

With the stroke of his pen Thursday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner ended the political impasse that has been holding up vital funding to schools all over Illinois.

Legislative leaders in the General Assembly finally reached a compromise this week and passed an overhaul to the state’s school funding formula. Advocates have worked for years to change the way Illinois doles out money to local school districts — a method that has disadvantaged poorer districts.

But the 550-page bill that Rauner is set to sign into law also touches on a lot of other stuff, from tax increases to gym class. Here’s a summary of some key provisions.

  • Allows the Chicago Board of Education to further raise property taxes in the city by up to .567 percent to help pay for teacher pensions. That could mean a roughly $125 million property tax hike, according to Chicago Public Schools. If the board votes to raise taxes to the limit, an owner of a $200,000 home would see their annual property tax bill jump by $83 a year, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
  • Outlines the new tax credit scholarship program, which teachers unions and many Democrats have slammed as a back-door school voucher program. Donors can contribute money to private school scholarship funds while receiving 75 cents on the dollar in state tax breaks. The private school scholarships could be awarded to students whose families earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $74,000 a year for a family of four. And students could keep their scholarship as long as their families earn less than 400 percent of the poverty level, or around $98,000 a year for a family of four. But the bill requires that designated “scholarship granting organizations” prioritize lower-income kids or students in struggling school districts.
  • Creates a “Tax Increment Financing Reform Task Force” to examine how the special taxing districts - known as TIFs - are used throughout the state, how TIF money is spent, and the “interaction between TIF law and school funding.” During the school funding fight, Rauner and some fellow Republicans criticized cities’ use of TIFs because they divert tax money away from public schools.
  • Allows for the state to pay for parts of Chicago’s teacher pensions.
  • Allows local school boards across the state to decide how frequently students between seventh and 12th grades should have physical education class, with a minimum of three times per week.
  • Allows local school districts to hire private companies to teach high school driver education.
  • Requires districts to give charter schools nearly the same funding they give the rest of their schools, which is not currently the case.

Editor's note: This story was updated Thursday, Aug. 31, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill

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