The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday said it could take as much as $7 billion to properly fund all public schools in the state.
The state is required to contribute $350 million annually to boost kindergarten through high school funding under a 2017 law that changed Illinois’ education funding formula. The latest state budget — and the first under new Gov. JB Pritzker — approved $375 million for this “evidence-based” funding formula.
The formula determines how far each district is from a funding level needed to provide all its students an adequate education based a variety of research-backed variables.
The State Board of Education on Wednesday discussed the progress of funding the state’s school districts. It would take about $660 million annually — up from the $350 million required now — to get all districts to 90% funding adequacy by 2027, or between $4.8 billion and $7 billion, according to Robert Wolfe, chief financial officer for ISBE.
“We have 655 school districts that are less than 90% of adequacy, which represents 77% of our districts and 81% of all students within the state,” Wolfe said.
He said 89% of new money since 2017 has gone to the poorest districts, which resulted in just a 2.3% increase in funding for those districts from 2018 to 2019. He said all but two Illinois counties had at least one district below 90% funding adequacy, and those two counties only represent three school districts.
Melissa Figueira of Advance Illinois, an education nonprofit, told ISBE members that the funding gap between low-income and non-low-income students is shrinking, but it isn’t closing as fast as it could be.
That’s because there has been a rise in English learners and low-income students, Figueira said. She also said while the state invested $300 million in new money in the 2018-19 school year, that was $50 million less than the funding formula goal.
“While the per-pupil funding gap is closing, especially between our low-income and non-low-income students, we’re still just about an average of 70% of adequacy statewide,” Figueira said. “So we have a ways to go.”