In advance of the state’s budget negotiation process slated to begin on February, the Illinois Board of Education is asking lawmakers in Springfield for an additional $1 billion in funding next year.
The board and its president, Gery Chico, say the money is needed simply to keep local school districts afloat in tough times. They point to the fact that the state has been spending less than a recommended $6,119 per student, and has seen three straight years of reductions in state aid for education.
Negotiations over the state’s spending are slated to begin with Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address in February. The state faces additional challenges over spending of all types, due to the pending expiration in January 2015 of the state's temporary income tax increase from 3 to 5 percent.
The Board voted unanimously to request $7.7 billion, nearly one third of the state’s overall budget. The bulk of the $1 billion increase—$879 million—is tied to the board's push to fully fund the base level of funding for the state's 2 million public school students.
In a statement, board member Jim Bauman said the additional dollars are needed to address a changing student demographic, in addition to offsetting lower revenue from a decline in property values.
“More than half of our students are from low-income families who are counting on their schools to prepare them for success in college and careers,” Baumann said. “This is a request that will help support our schools, which have already seen dramatic cuts to their teaching staffs and the elimination of vital academic and extracurricular programs.”
Such requests for additional funding may begin to fall on deaf ears in the future, should Republicans regain control of the governor’s office in 2015.
At a Thursday forum sponsored by Illinois Public Broadcasters and the League of Women Voters, all four Republican candidates addressed issues surrounding education funding.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he's in favor of individual districts having more local control over how tax dollars are used, while State Sen. Kirk Dillard said Chicago Public Schools have too much clout in Springfield.
Businessman and perceived front-runner Bruce Rauner said the current school-funding formula needs to be more equitable between rich and poor districts as well as urban and rural districts.
However, State Sen. Bill Brady has said he wants to eliminate the state board of education, and has made the idea one of the centerpieces of his campaign. He says the move would cut bureaucratic spending and provide more money directly to the classrooms.