An Illinois student’s school funding reform proposal

Logan KlepzigEastern Illinois University

May 26, 2017

Guest view

The school funding system in Illinois is in desperate need of reform. Schools in this great state are the most inequitably funded in America, with Illinois ranking 50th of the states for the percentage of funding that comes from state government. Students are now banking on the General Assembly to pass legislation that establishes an evidence-based model for funding schools.

Unfortunately, I believe political realities are against the bill passing the Legislature and being delivered to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk by May 31. I also believe winning solutions come directly from citizens, not from those safely insulated from their actions.

In light of these efforts, I want to share my school funding formula with my fellow Illinoisans. My formula can be a stand-alone solution or many elements of it can be added to an evidence-based model to approve upon it.

I started developing the formula in February 2016. Those I have consulted with include my teachers, State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Charleston, Secretary of Education Beth Purvis and Illinois State Board of Education Chief Financial Officer Robert Wolfe. I created this formula because of my frustration with funding cuts that were years in the making for my school district, Charleston CUSD 1. At thirteen pages long, my formula can only be summarized. However, the full length version can be found here.

My formula incorporates actions and changes to make at the local and state levels of government. More than two-thirds of education dollars come from local property tax revenue. Although the state is constitutionally obligated to fund 51 percent of the costs of education, it only funds 37-39 percent of education costs.

Therefore, my formula would give county governments the authority to levy a sales tax for schools. Local one percent sales taxes for facilities already exist in some counties. This would be an expansion of or increase in local sales taxes for schools and would cover all school expenses, and would not be a facilities tax.

County voters would authorize a levy in a referendum, along with an implementation plan. If authorized, the proceeds from such a tax would be distributed equally among all districts in a county. Such a distribution would not be perfect. But a need-based distribution is too complex for a local tax. And an equal distribution formula encourages school district consolidation, which is key to reforming school funding as well as local control.

The most important result of a local sales tax is property tax relief. Property tax relief is a must to stop the economic spiral that is destroying schools.

Statistically, one resident moves out of Illinois every five minutes. If this doesn’t change, then no funding formula could work at its best. The local aspects of my formula can serve as a band-aid in the event of a property tax freeze, further delays in state payments, or during the time necessary for the state to shore up its funding levels. And it would also be a great addition to an evidence-based model.

At the state level, my formula calls for the state to fund its 51 percent obligation, nothing more and nothing less. This goal would be achieved over time by increasing funding from spending cuts, a temporary income tax increase, the expansion of sales taxes to services, and economic and job growth.

The state would assume responsibility for the entire Chicago Public Schools pension system over time in return for ending their exclusive block grant. The formula also brings up potential concerns with an evidence-based formula, but praises its language and stresses the benefits of merging my formula with an evidence-based one. My formula also calls on the state to end the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law subsidy (PTELL) and to check the growth of the poverty grant. And it proposes two new ways to fund special education, a new approach to charter school funding, a debt repayment tool, and a system for the state to collect rightfully owed internet use taxes as a new revenue source for schools.

Logan Klepzig’s School Funding Formula

Related: Report: State’s diminished funding damaging Illinois higher education
Jan 27, 2017

Illinois’ drain on higher education funding is having a nearly irreversible effect on the state’s public universities and economy, speakers at a panel said Friday. The panel was hosted by…

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