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Is School Funding Reform Tied to Extending the Income Tax Hike?

Updated: Tuesday, April 22 2014, 12:20 AM CDT

Rewriting the formula used by the state to determine funding for schools is a major undertaking, and could be a controversial vote for many lawmakers.

The debate is happening right now at the statehouse, and there is one controversial issue that could derail the process.

The bill is largely based on the recommendations of the education funding advisory committee, which state Sen. Andy Manar co-chaired with Republican Sen. Dave Luechtefeld. It changes how the state determines what schools get how much, but it doesn't deal with the total amount of funding available.

"Obviously the best scenario is we put something on the table that no losers exist," Sen. Andy Manar (D - Bunker Hill) said. "I don't think that's realistic. I don't think that's realistic, given the budget environment we're in, but we do believe that this gets us moving in the right direction."

One major issue is that some districts will receive more funding, and some will get less. Lawmakers may not want to vote for a proposal that cuts funding to their schools.

"This is not so much a Republican/Democrat thing," Luechtefeld said. "It's a regional thing, and many legislators will look at it and say 'does this help me and my schools,' and therefore may not vote for it, or vote for it."

Manar's bill has no effect on the total amount being spent. It just tries to distribute it more fairly.

Meanwhile, Quinn wants to extend the temporary tax hike, which could raise the total amount going into the formula.

"He talked about, over the next five years, wanting to invest over $6 billion toward classrooms in Illinois," Abdon Pallasch of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget said.

So while the new formula could cut some schools' share of funding, more total funding might mean they get at least the same as last year.

But Manar said he doesn't support extending the income tax hike, and believes the budget issue is a separate conversation.

"Both conversations are equally important, and as those budget conversations begin, or continue, in earnest, right now we want to focus on how we spend the money we have," he said.

Currently, no one knows for sure what school districts would get more or less funding under the proposed new formula. The state board of education is working on the numbers, and hopes to have that ready by mid-May.

But sponsors of the bill tell us they don't believe the Chicago Public School District will get any more of the total state funding than they get now.

Currently, state school funding is broken up in several ways. 44 percent goes to general state aid, which is distributed based on need. Then there are grants, such as poverty grants and a Chicago block grant.

Manar's formula brings 92 percent of the funding into a formula that will distribute the money solely based on need. Is School Funding Reform Tied to Extending the Income Tax Hike?

Is School Funding Reform Tied to Extending the Income Tax Hike?

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