Op-Ed: School Funding Reform Must Be Fixed

School funding reform is an issue important to all Illinoisans. Our current system does not work. School districts are overly dependent on local property taxes making a student’s educational benefits and often their success dependent on their zip code. Under the Illinois State Constitution, Illinois’ state government must provide the majority of education funding for public schools. The State of Illinois failed our children.
This session Democrats and Republicans worked together toward the unified goal of adequate public school funding for every school district in our state. Those discussions found an evidence-based education-funding model is the best way to ensure students in the most vulnerable areas of the state receive a fulfilling education.
There is a trap in the budget, once again holding families, children, and schools hostage.  The budget provides schools receive no funding unless the General Assembly implements an evidence based school funding formula. Now, the legislature is fighting over evidence based funding bill because it contains a Chicago Public School pension bailout.  Speaker Madigan is insisting on Senate Bill 1 as the evidence based funding formula. Senate Bill 1, amended in the House, secured a pension bailout for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) by attaching the bailout to an evidence based school funding reform bill.  Under SB 1, Chicago receives 64% of all new money allotted to K-12 education in the budget when Chicago only has 19% of the students. Chicago classrooms will not even see these funds because the money bails out Chicago’s mismanaged pension system.
Under SB1, the 79th district loses over $2.4 million in funding to Chicago. I will not support a bill allowing Illinois’ other 851 school districts to receive less money just to bailout CPS pensions. School districts all over the state are struggling to provide quality education.
Under years of democratic controlled leadership, Illinois is the worst and has the most inequitable school funding system in the country. The victims are our students, especially students in low-income school districts. For the first time in years, there is a real opportunity to reform and equalize school funding.
Time is of the essence. School funding is in limbo and schools do not have peace of mind in planning for the upcoming school year. We cannot and should not wait until the last minute to address school funding. I am calling upon Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, and the bipartisan members who worked tirelessly to address school funding to come together and work on a genuinely fair solution. Please visit https://www.illinois.gov/gov/SitePages/SchoolDistrictFunding.aspx to compare school funding bills showing the difference in funding between SB 1 with CPS bailout and our plan without CPS bailout.
Lindsay Parkhurst
State Representative – 79th District