New Illinois school funding plan could cost taxpayers billions over a decade or longer

Diane Rado:

That foundation amount in Illinois has been $6,119 per student for several years now, and has been the basis of distributing state aid to districts, in a formula that combines with local funds. Districts also get federal dollars. And some property-rich districts have been getting a flat amount from the state instead of the formula-driven amount.

But to have that same foundation level, $6,119, apply to every district “never made sense because districts have different needs,” said Benjamin Boer, deputy director at Advance Illinois, an education reform group that has been active in revamping the school funding formula.

The unique adequacy targets could mean surprises for taxpayers.

For example, some affluent districts spend more than $20,000 per student. But there is no district with an adequacy target as high as $20,000 in the new formula, according to ISBE’s analysis in May.

The range of per-pupil adequacy targets goes from about $9,800 to $16,650 in that analysis, which could prompt questions by taxpayers in some districts about why spending is higher than what’s considered adequate.

“That becomes a conversation at the local level on whether they (taxpayers) want to tax themselves and pay that (larger) amount,” Boer said.

Madison spends nearly 20k per student, far more than most.