News

For Immediate Release
January 23, 2013

Education Funding Advisory Board: Double education investment by $4.7 billion; current resources a `failure of the state’s moral and fiduciary responsibilities’


New report highlights funding gaps and growing low-income population, now half of all students

SPRINGFIELD – The Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) submitted its recommendations for adequate education funding in a report to the General Assembly that calls for more than $4.7 billion in additional funding. The report also recommends further study of current state funding formulas.

“We appreciate the steadfast work of this panel of volunteer experts,’’ said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “While the state continues to struggle with an epic financial crisis – and our population of low-income students continues to rise - it remains important for us to analyze and reflect on what resources are truly required to support good instruction and learning so that students are best prepared to succeed.”

EFAB, chaired by Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, is required under state law to make recommendations to the legislature concerning General State Aid (GSA) for districts, specifically to advise where to set the statutory minimum per-pupil funding level – called the ‘Foundation Level,’ and the necessary amount of supplemental poverty grants for districts with a high percentage of children from low-income families.

The 12-page EFAB report details the state education budget’s recent funding shortfalls, the rapid growth of the GSA supplemental poverty grant in relation to the corresponding increase in low-income students and the advisory panel’s recommendations for Fiscal Year 2014. A copy of the EFAB report can be found at http://www.isbe.net/EFAB/pdf/final-report-01-13.pdf.

In recent years, funding for GSA, like many state programs, has fallen short.  General State Aid has been prorated for the past two years, with payments at just 89 percent of the amount owed to districts this current year. As a result, the GSA foundation level of $6,119 per student can’t be met. If that statutory level had been lowered to an amount that appropriations could afford, it would have been set at $5,734.

That reality contrasts sharply with what the EFAB recommends is necessary to fund education in Illinois. The group, using a national funding model, reports that adequate funding would mean an increase of $2,553 per pupil, raising the foundation level to $8,672 per pupil, or an additional $4.7 billion in total GSA funding.

“While tough economic times have become the ‘new normal’ in Illinois, we can’t afford to backslide on our investments in our most vulnerable learners,” Puente said. “The significant gap between EFAB’s recommendation and our state’s fiscal realities presents challenges. But success stems from high expectations. State officials must set the bar high — both for education funding and for students’ academic outcomes — lest frustrating achievement gaps continue to persist for too many students in our state.”

The report details the increase in low-income students, nearly half of all Illinois students are now classified as low-income, noting the growth has taken place in all geographic regions of the state but most dramatically in the collar counties where districts saw a nearly 44 percent increase in their low-income population since Fiscal Year 2011.

As a result of such overall growth in low-income students, the GSA supplemental poverty grant, which is based on a formula that pays a greater amount per pupil as the percentage of low-income pupils increases, has grown at a faster pace than the GSA foundation grant which is based on an equalization formula. Since FY03, the GSA supplemental poverty grant has seen an annual average growth rate of 16.5 percent, increasing from $388 million in FY03 to $1.7 billion in FY13.

In addition to recommending more funding, EFAB urged additional study of the GSA formula as well as categorical grants for services such as transportation and special education to determine if those are the best methods for distributing state funds.

The report, submitted Jan. 18 by the five-member panel, concludes, “While EFAB recognizes the dire financial position of the State of Illinois, the lack of adequate funding for basic education is a failure of the state’s moral and fiduciary responsibilities,” and goes on to urge the Governor and the General Assembly to work together to increase the resources available for public education in order to help children succeed in the 21st Century global economy.

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