Drove to St. Charles on Thursday night for what was billed as a town hall meeting on school-funding reform.
I was expecting an old-fashioned community debate about the merits of Senate Bill 1, the rewrite of the state’s education funding formula that has become the latest bone of contention between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Without a funding formula in place, some school districts might not be able to open for the fall. And even if they do, they won’t have enough money to stay open for long.
The legislation already has been approved by the General Assembly, but Democrats withheld the bill to avoid a promised amendatory veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
That cat-and-mouse game is expected to end Monday, when Senate Democrats release the bill to Rauner. If he goes ahead with his veto, the Legislature will have 15 days to accept his changes, override him or neither.
Unfortunately, only a handful of folks turned out for the St. Charles event, all of them supporters of the legislation. There was no debate, but I did receive a good primer on the new funding model.
I’m hoping most people understand by now that the main problem with school funding in Illinois is that our over-reliance on paying for schools through property taxes creates a system of haves and have-nots.
We have relatively wealthy school districts, most of them in Chicago’s suburbs, that provide their children with excellent educational opportunities.
And we have school districts with relatively little property wealth, both Downstate and in some suburbs, that have vastly fewer resources to tap for their students. These same districts often also have the highest percentage of low-income students, who cost more to properly educate.
To even out these disparities, legislators and educators have been trying for years to devise a funding formula that could get more state money to these poorer school districts to make up for their shortage of local funds.