(Heartland Newsfeed) — The new education funding reform model passed by the General Assembly last week will be a positive paradigm shift in how the state handles and funds its schools, Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) contended during Senate debate.
“What we have before us today is a dramatic change in our priorities in terms of the flow of public dollars to public institutions that teach our children in elementary and secondary grades,” Righter said. “In terms of what a government can do through the allocation of public dollars, this is an improvement over what we’ve had in the past.”
Senate Bill 1947 is a 500-page product of bipartisan negotiations that replaced SB1 and is meant to provide money to schools across the state equitably via an evidence-based funding model. A hold-harmless clause means schools will receive at least the same amount of money as they did the year prior. State aid will be prioritized to schools that are most in need.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will also receive roughly $450 million more than expected from previous education proposals, and the bill contains a provision to give $75 million in tax credits to donors to scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools.
Many lawmakers found the $75 million dollars tax credit to be troublesome, with some Democrats asserting that no provisions are in place for transparency with the credits. Others argued that the credits are another tax break for the rich.
Righter took issue with the criticism and lawmakers who pulled their support for fear of a “voucher” program.
“To those of you who want to demonize or criticize this bill or vote no on the bill because we are going to provide some limited avenue for kids who are trapped in failing schools … [the program] is going to give students an avenue to access a reasonable education,” Righter said. “What is not right about that? What is not right about that? All of us stand up and make speeches about education and helping poor families incessantly on this floor. That is exactly what this bill and this program offer.”
SB1947 passed the Senate, 38 to 13, a day after the House approved it, 73 to 34. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill into legislation on Thursday, effectively giving Illinois its first education funding reform in two decades.