On April 12, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) filed an amendment to Senate Bill 231, that would revamp how the State allocates State funds for education. On April 14, the Senate Executive Committee recommended the bill be adopted. 

Significantly, the bill does not provide any new money for education. Instead it divides up a relatively small pie in a new way. It thus does not correct a fundamental problem with the State’s funding scheme. Illinois now ranks 50th among the States in terms of the amount it contributes to education.

Sen. Manar said SB 231 is “based on” SB 1, which was introduced but not voted on in 2015.
Like SB 1, SB 231 creates formulas to calculate a school district’s theoretical Available Local Resources (ALR) and to calculate its theoretical expenses. While there are various exceptions, as a general rule, if the theoretical ALR exceeds the theoretical expenses, the school district receives no primary State aid under the formula. If the theoretical expenses exceed the ALR, then the school district receives the difference as primary state aid.

How a school district’s theoretical ALR and its theoretical expenses are calculated is thus critical. In a series of four lengthy editorials in the first half of 2015, the RoundTable argued that formula created to calculate a school district’s theoretical ALR and its theoretical expenses was arbitrary and unfair in six key respects. SB 231 does not address any of the flaws identified by the RoundTable.

Under SB 1, the Illinois State Board of Education calculated that District 65 would have lost $6.6 million in State aid per year and District 202 would have lost $2.2 million per year, after a four-year phase-in period.

ISBE has not yet calculated the impact of SB 231, but it appears that the impact would be about the same, after a five-year phase in period.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...