Illinois students, educators and schools face higher expectations. Yet deep cuts to education funding make it difficult to improve.
Money alone cannot raise student outcomes or close the achievement gap – on that, the research is clear. But money matters.24 The steady drain of state funds undermines improvement efforts at a time when schools confront higher-than-ever standards that will change how teachers teach and students learn.
Illinois public schools lost $1.4 billion when adjusted for inflation in state funds during the past four years.25
Further cuts to education make it increasingly difficult for districts to step up instruction and meet higher standards. The Illinois Legislature must do all it can to protect education funding, and restore lost dollars at the earliest opportunity.
If, however, the state’s financial crisis compels a further lowering of education funds, then the Illinois Legislature should reduce spending in a way that protects the most vulnerable students and does not exacerbate challenges within the current funding system.
For two years, the Illinois Legislature paid school districts only a portion of the general education funds owed, thus requiring proration. School districts most reliant on state support were hit hardest – impoverished school districts with little local wealth and large concentrations of low-income students.
This year, FY2013, the Legislature appropriated 89 percent of the funding needed to meet the $6,119 per-student foundation funding level set by the General Assembly. The underfunding amounted to an 11 percent cut, roughly $522 million26 less than needed to fully support the funding level set by the Legislature.
The budget cut most hurts disadvantaged districts. The 20 percent of students enrolled in the poorest school districts are losing $160 million in general state education funds due to proration this year, while the 20 percent of students in school districts with the fewest poor students are losing $30 million.
It is a measure of just how complicated the education funding system is that the adverse impact of proration on the state’s disadvantaged school districts is not widely understood.
24 Jacob, Brian A. and Ludwig, Jens; “Improving educational outcomes for poor children,” Focus, 2009. ↵
25 Illinois State Board of Education, Enacted Operating Budget, FY2009, FY2010, FY2011, FY2012, FY2013. ↵
26 Prorating the payment of general education funds at 89 percent saves an estimated $522 million this year, based upon Illinois State Board of Education projections. The savings reflect the difference between the state board’s estimate of funds needed and the Illinois Legislature’s appropriation of funds in FY2013. ↵