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Local News

Advocates of state funding reform bill say it would give more to Joliet, Plainfield districts

Addie Fierro (center) and other fifth-grade students play a card game based on decision making Feb. 21 at Reed-Custer Intermediate School in Braidwood.
Addie Fierro (center) and other fifth-grade students play a card game based on decision making Feb. 21 at Reed-Custer Intermediate School in Braidwood.

JOLIET – A state bill that aims to make public education funding more equitable would give Joliet and Plainfield school districts between $1 million to $5 million, according to advocates of the legislation. 

An analysis of the effects of Senate Bill 1 by Funding Illinois’ Future “shows potential funding increases for local school districts,” according to a statement from state Sen. Pat McGuire, who voted in favor of the bill that passed both chambers as of last week.

Funding Illinois’ Future is a coalition of more than 200 school districts, officials and organizations, according to its website. 

“[SB1] means kids would have an equal chance to succeed based on their effort rather than being shortchanged from the start because of their zip code. I urge [Gov. Bruce Rauner] to sign this measure into law as soon as he receives it,” McGuire said. 

Rauner has promised not sign SB1. His administration has said the bill is not “consistent with the framework” of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission that studied and made recommendations this year on the state’s education funding system, which has the widest spending gap between low- and high-income districts in the nation. 

Rauner and Republican lawmakers have claimed Chicago Public Schools would receive more than its fair share under SB1.

According to Funding Illinois’ Future analysis of the bill, the overall gain in estimated funds from SB1 would be $8.7 million for Joliet Public School District 86, $1.6 million for Joliet Township High School District 204, $5.8 million for Plainfield School District 202 and $98,640 for Lockport Township High School District 205. 

The analysis is based on figures from the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Human Services and Advance Illinois and reflect a simulation for fiscal 2017. 

District 202 spokesman Tom Hernandez said it was early to comment on the impact on SB1. He said the way the state has been funding education has been broken for years. 

“Ultimately, Illinois needs a new funding system for public education that is equitable and fair for all districts,” he said. 

When asked whether the district was favorable to SB1, Kristine Schlismann, District 204 spokeswoman, said in an email that district officials support an “educational reform that is fair and equitable for all school districts.”

State Democrats with districts in Will County were favorable to the bill, while state Republicans opposed it.

State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said the state needs school funding reform but SB1 is not it because it’s more favorable to CPS and argued it would require $660 million in new funding before any district other than CPS receives additional money. 

“People are tired of sending their own money away from their own districts to Chicago,” McDermed said. 

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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