Op-ed: School Funding Reform Another Victim of Political Games

School funding reform is an issue important to all Illinois residents, whether you have children or not. The Illinois Constitution says that the state government must provide a majority of the funding for public schools. Instead the state only provides around 24%, with the rest coming from federal funds and property taxes. This dereliction of constitutional duty is a big reason why Illinois property taxes are so high.

Over a year ago, Governor Rauner commissioned a bipartisan group to study how we can fix Illinois’ broken school funding system. The conclusions of that group formed the basis for a number of bills filed in the House and Senate. Bipartisan negotiations occurred to rectify the bills. Unfortunately, by the time a bill got to the House floor for a vote it had been co-opted by Chicago legislators. 

SB 1 would send nearly 70 percent of the new K-12 funding in FY18 to CPS. The other 851 Illinois school districts would receive just 30 percent of the new funds, despite have 77 percent of total students. School funding reform cannot help a broken Chicago school system at the expense of the rest of the state. I could not and will not support last minute legislation that supports further inequity in the system.

This is yet another in a long line of promising solutions stalled or corrupted by political games.

Regardless of what happens with school funding reform, the state as a whole needs to put more money towards our schools. Even though more money has been directed towards K-12 and early education since Governor Rauner took office, this is not something we can reasonably accomplish while this budget impasse continues.

I will continue to work with my colleagues, but the games have to stop. Illinois can’t move forward without the participation of both sides of the aisle. We need to focus on bipartisan solutions, not 2018. Too much is at stake. 

Margo McDermed
State Representative, 37th District

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