School districts across Illinois will soon receive long-awaited funding from the state, after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1947 on Aug. 31, allowing the money to be distributed.
The bill overhauls the state’s school funding formula and could give some districts, including Berwyn South School District 100 and Berwyn North School District 98, additional funding based on student needs. However, no district will lose money this year compared to last year.
Some other provisions in the bill include a $75 million tax-credit scholarship program and fewer requirements for daily physical education classes. Voters in wealthier districts also have the option of petitioning to lower their property taxes, and schools will be able to privately contract driver’s education.
Carmen Ayala, superintendent of District 98, said she is very pleased with the funding bill. She said the district is looking at using the funds to establish all-day kindergarten.
“This was long overdue. We’ve had the current system for 20 years, which had become inequitable and inadequate,” she said. “Now we’ll be able to provide what children in Illinois need. We haven’t received final allocations, but we estimate that we’ll receive an additional $1 million.”
District 100 Superintendent Mary Havis echoed Ayala’s sentiment. She is happy about the passage of the bill, which she said kept many of the components of Senate Bill 1, vetoed by Rauner in August. Havis said she hasn’t received final numbers about how much money the district will receive from the state, but it could be more than in previous years.
“This bill kept SB 1 mostly intact, which we had advocated for. We feel this bill still goes a long way in considering the needs of individual students,” she said. “I think this bill will provide long-term stability and the adequate funding that we’ve been fighting for.”
The new superintendent of J. Sterling Morton High School District 201, Tim Truesdale, said in a statement he was encouraged about the bill’s passage because it will provide more equitable funding to districts across the state.
“It will help us provide opportunities and supports for our students that, under the previous model, many districts could not afford,” he said. “The district deeply appreciates our local legislators’ support of this historic piece of legislation. They have always been strong advocates for our children. We are still awaiting details on exactly how revenue will change under the model, as well as how some other provisions in the bill will impact the district.”
Glenn Schlichting, superintendent of La Grange School District 105, said because his district’s funding relies primarily on local property taxes, he didn’t think the bill will affect the district too much.
“We have the ability to use local taxes to provide for services for our ELL and lower-income students. We have a good property tax base, and we don’t count on the state,” he said. “The piece of the bill that allows residents to petition to include a referendum to lower property taxes has the potential to have a significant effect on our programs, but we have no idea if that would be enacted.”
In a statement, La Grange School District 102 Superintendent Kyle Schumacher said he’s happy to see the funding formula has passed, but he does have some concerns about some of the bill’s provisions.
“I’m disappointed to see the compromises related to voter initiated ballot component and the potential for the loss of revenue to public schools through private school donations,” he said in an email. “Hopefully the passage of this funding formula will create the opportunity for continued dialogue regarding the impact of the components of the bill.”
Lyons Township High School District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea said he still has a lot of questions about the bill, and he is waiting to learn more about its details from the legislators who crafted it.
“We want more clarity so we can further look into how this will impact our district,” he said. “We want to learn more before commenting on the positives and negatives of the bill.”