State superintendents call for equitable K-12 school funding

Superintendents from across the state gathered June 8 at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield and urged legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner to end the status quo and find an equitable solution to the K-12 education funding crisis by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. 

The superintendents said that the current system has penalized students for decades by shortchanging property-poor districts throughout Illinois and cheating them of the high quality education they deserve.

Participants were all members of the Funding Illinois’ Future, FIF, coalition representing school districts from throughout the state.

The FIF coalition represents more than 230 superintendents, education reform advocates, child welfare advocates and other education leaders fighting to change the way Illinois funds its schools.

“Our current funding system is not equitable for urban, suburban, rural, and downstate communities alike,” said Dr. Jennifer Garrison, superintendent of Sandoval School District 501.

The coalition contends that Illinois has the most regressive school funding system of any state in the entire nation. 

Coalition members said in a news release that “for every dollar spent to educate a non-low-income student, only 81 cents are spent to educate a low-income student. 

“This is despite research showing that students living in poverty need additional resources in order to succeed. 

“But, instead of giving them those resources, the state shortchanges students with the most need, creating a system where wealthy districts in Illinois can spend as much as $30,000 per student, while the poorest barely spends $6,000.”

“We need long-term structural reform to our education funding system now,” said Mike Gauch, superintendent of Harrisburg School District 3. 

“We must invest in all students across the state, especially those who have been shortchanged access to the resources they need for many years,” Gauch continued. “Waiting any longer is not an option.”

The coalition said that “the current education funding system is a web of complicated formulas that result in less than half of all state education dollars going to school districts based on a local district’s ability to pay for local schools. 

“More than half of state education dollars go to districts regardless of their wealth, shortchanging poor districts with students who have greater needs. 

“School districts across the state with high populations of low-income students are in dire financial straits due to the unfair funding formula and will not be able to open this fall or stay open for long.”

“When our children’s future is at stake, we cannot put politics first,” said Dr. David Lett, superintendent of Pana School District 8. 

“The education of all Illinois children should be a bipartisan issue,” Lett continued, “and we urge lawmakers and the governor to find an equitable solution to K-12 funding that drives more state dollars to Illinois’ neediest districts.”

The Gazette-Democrat

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