Illinois schools will soon begin receiving state aid payments through a school funding formula that sends education dollars where they are needed most, thanks to legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) and signed into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
"This is truly a historic moment for Illinois, for our schools and most importantly for our children," said Senator Barickman. "This represents a historic shift toward a new education funding system where the quality of a child’s education will no longer be dependent on where they live. Today is an opportunity to show how we can come together in a divided government to accomplish great things and to find a way to build on that success."
The new formula was the result of years of negotiations between the education community, lawmakers, and other stakeholders. It utilizes an evidence-based model to distribute funding to schools, a requirement of the recently passed budget. The legislation was signed into law during a ceremony in Chicago attended by Senator Barickman and other lawmakers from both parties, representatives of the education community, and the Governor.
“I represent roughly 40 school districts in my Senate District, and there are more than 800 in the state of Illinois, and we finally have a system that understands their differences and funds them accordingly,” said Senator Barickman. “This moves us to a system where data and best practices determine where money goes instead of arbitrary political decisions.”
Senator Barickman introduced the evidence-based school funding model to the General Assembly in 2015. The legislation was an attempt to fix the state's woefully outdated funding mechanism with a system that sends dollars to where they are needed most, and where the funding has the best chance of ensuring the success of students. He remained an outspoken advocate for this type of system and helped shepherd it through the Governor’s School Funding Reform Commission which eventually led to the new legislation.
“We now have a funding system that offers a new level of transparency for taxpayers, that will allow lawmakers to see what funding levels actually mean for individual schools,” said Senator Barickman. “This also marks an end to the devastating effects that proration had on our schools. This system is scalable and will make the best use of the funding levels that are set by lawmakers.”
Schools will now have significant mandate relief, a particular cause championed by Senator Barickman, so they can save money and put more resources into in-classroom learning. In addition, it also creates a mechanism where taxpayers can, via referendum, initiate property tax relief in overtaxed districts. The new law also contains a system to help families with children in struggling districts to have an opportunity to send their children to a school of their choice.
"This is a win for the families in every single school district across this state," said Senator Barickman. "Historic levels of funding will now be headed to their schools through a more equitable and adequate funding mechanism. I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to get us here. This has been a worthwhile fight."