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State legislators eye school funding reform

Published: Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 7:15 p.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said she doesn’t believe the newly introduced School Funding Reform Act of 2015 is a way to solve school funding inequity across the state.

“The funding formula is so convoluted that nobody knows what it means to their school district,” McConnaughay said Thursday during a meeting with Kane County Chronicle editorial staff. “It also still continues to maintain Chicago block grants and does nothing about unfunded mandates.”

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, earlier this month introduced the School Funding Reform Act of 2015 as an amendment to Senate Bill 1. It is a new version of Senate Bill 16, which made it out of the Senate last year but died in the House.

State Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, who also met with Kane County Chronicle editorial staff members, stressed the importance of the discussion.

“It’s an issue that really needs to be addressed so that every child in the state of Illinois gets the quality education they deserve,” she said.

McConnaughay was one of the legislators who had opposed Senate Bill 16. At the time, she said the bill generally would favor Chicago and downstate communities and would reduce state distributions to many suburban school districts.

McConnaughay said the Illinois Vision 20/20 initiative to improve public education does a better job of addressing the school funding problem. The proposal would tie school funding to educational outcomes and district costs.

The plan was developed by the Illinois Association of School Administrators in partnership with the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.

“It is put together by people who actually understand what goes into educating children, and what goes into educating children successfully,” McConnaughay said.

The proposal makes several recommendations, including allowing districts that meet certain criteria to opt out of mandates and regulations, adopting an evidence-based funding model that would take into account geographic conditions and student needs, and incorporating technology in state learning standards. Manar has said he will work with those legislators who are advancing the Vision 20/20 proposal, according a news release.

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