Evanston schools stand to lose majority of state funding

Paige Leskin, City Editor

Officials from the school boards of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 are working on a joint resolution that expresses their opposition to an Illinois Senate bill that would result in state funding for both districts to be cut by about four-fifths.

D202 board president Gretchen Livingston will prepare a draft of the boards’ position that criticizes the state bill for failing to increase funding for public education in Illinois, she said.

She called the bill, also known as the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, a “redistribution mechanism” that aims to provide more money to schools in the state’s lower income districts. Inadvertently, the bill would punish districts such as Evanston with higher property tax bases that can’t afford education budget cuts, she said.

Livingston said she hopes the resolution will be drafted in time for the next joint D65-D202 meeting on Oct. 9.

Passed in the Illinois Senate on May 27, the state bill was created by the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee in April. The members were tasked with trying to reform the system through which Illinois schools receive funding.

The current system in Illinois is characterized as “regressive” in style. The bill proposes a new system that attempts to distribute funding based on the ability of certain state districts to pay.

“Districts with high poverty populations receive less state and local funding than their more affluent counterparts,” according to the Illinois State Board of Education. “Senate Bill 16 aims to overhaul the state’s current regressive funding system unto a progressive system.”

The redistribution of funds would cause Evanston’s public schools to lose the majority of the funding they receive on the state level.

Under the new policies, D65, which includes Evanston’s public elementary and middle schools, stands to receive more than $1.1 million in the upcoming school year, while ETHS D202 would get a half million from the state.

Under the new bill, each Evanston district would receive about one-fifth of the funding it collected from the state in the previous fiscal year.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) voted in favor of the legislation when it passed through the state Senate.

To allow districts to adjust to the new level of funding they would receive, the bill proposes that the new monetary amounts be eased in over the course of four years. The state has capped monetary losses for district to $1,000 per student.

The bill was referred to the House’s Rules Committee on May 28 and will be voted on once the General Assembly returns from recess.

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