Andy Manar

Illinois state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, speaks to reporters at a news conference on education funding on Jan. 20, 2016 at the state Capitol in Springfield. Manar will be one of several panelists at an upcoming conference on school funding at SIU's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. 

AP

SPRINGFIELD – The challenges that come with revamping Illinois’ school funding formula were on display Tuesday at a hearing of a House education task force.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, convened the task force last year to look at education funding issues and called for another series of hearings this spring. Senate Democrats have been pushing for a change to the funding formula that would send more money to poorer districts.

The task force heard from a group of school administrators from the Chicago suburbs whose districts would stand to lose state funding if money were shifted to districts with lower property values.

Superintendent Andrew DuRoss of Schaumburg School District 54 told lawmakers that “every student deserves the opportunity to succeed.”

But he said those opportunities should be created through directing new resources to districts in need rather than redistributing the existing pool of state education funding.

Likewise, Superintendent Daniel Cates of Palatine-based Township High School District 211 told the panel that his district, the largest high school district in the state, would stand to lose $8 million a year under the formula that’s been proposed in a bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill.

That would have a “devastating impact,” he said, adding that $1 million annually is what it costs to offer 50 classes or pay for 40 teacher assistants.

Another group of school administrators who attended the hearing but didn’t speak described the current system is “broken” and “inequitable and unfair.”

“At my school, we don’t have the resources that my counterparts in wealthier districts have for their students. But we get treated the same way that their districts do when it comes to a majority of state funding handed out year after year,” East Aurora High School Principal Anthony Crespo said in a prepared statement. “It’s flawed, it’s wrong, and it’s hurting children who need resources the most.”

Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said she asked to be on the task force because she sees the effect inadequate funding has on rural schools in her district.

“The school funding formula has disproportionately hurt the schools in downstate Illinois, and we need to make sure that every student, regardless of where they’re born, regardless of their ZIP code, has the same opportunities,” Bourne said.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who chairs the task force, said Tuesday’s testimony showed the difficulty of crafting a formula that makes school funding both adequate and equitable statewide.

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