Back to School: IL schools funded, but question formula

Kids across the Local 6 area are getting ready to head back to the classroom.

Back in June, Illinois lawmakers approved a deal to open and fund schools despite the state not having a budget. 

After months of worrying and waiting, Sherrie Smith says she and her kids are excited knowing they’ll be back to class in the fall. "There were lots of parents and kids that were very concerned," said Smith.

The school nurse and mom of three says they’re relieved that lawmakers passed funding for schools at their highest rate in seven years. Vienna High School junior Steven Eldridge says with college entrance exams this year, he is glad to be getting ready for school again but can’t believe it took so long. "But I do hope that the budget in the future, schools will get the money they need in the future," said Eldridge.

Superintendent Joshua Stafford says they’ve been underfunded for nearly a decade. He is glad the state is finally paying them the minimum again but says it is not enough. "It’s better news than we have had in the last eight years and we should be thankful for that and we are. We need to be looking at the actual needs of educating kids and get it to where it is adequate," said Stafford.

For the last eight years they have dealt with leaky ceilings, aging buses, and staff reductions to function under the $7,000 – $8,000 the district get per a student. Wealthier districts get three to four times that. Stafford says that funding inequality needs to change. "The money given to your education is dictated by where you live and really, it’s discriminatory," said Stafford.

"Because if you don’t have the money, they’re going to be behind some of the other students that are applying for that same place in college," said Smith. She wants to make sure her children are on the same playing field as others, something the district now says they have a better change of accomplishing.

Illinois lawmakers and administrators are pushing to overhaul the state’s current funding formula which relies heavily on property taxes, leaving wealthier districts getting three to four times as much money as lower income districts.

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