May 11, 2014

Metro-east will have school districts that win, lose under funding formula

Preliminary calculations released by the Illinois State Board of Education reveal some metro-east school districts will benefit greatly from Senate Bill 16, if approved, while others will lose funding if the school funding formula is altered by the state legislature.

The biggest winner in the metro-east would be East St. Louis District 189, which is estimated to receive an additional $6.5 million under the proposed school funding formula.

District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver has advocated for changing the formula.

"District 189 and the Board of Education are very pleased and grateful that our legislators are addressing the problem of equity in school funding in Illinois. I've long advocated for a change in the state's funding formula so that property poor districts like District 189 can provide some of the basic services that our students need for a quality education," Culver said in a released statement.

He praised Senate Bill 16. "The bill is less complex and more equitable than the current system that does not appropriately acknowledge the greater cost of educating a child in poverty. Senate Bill 16 acknowledges that poverty counts and prioritizes resources to districts with the greatest need," Culver said. "My hope is that no district will see Senate Bill 16 as win/lose legislation. There is too much research to support the fact that if children in poverty are not properly educated, our entire society loses."

Belleville District 118 also is expected to see a boost in revenue from the state if Senate Bill 16 passes. The district could receive an additional $4.3 million.

"We do see ourselves as potential winners of that bill," District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said. "Any additional revenue would be awesome; (though), we hate to see anything at the expense of other districts."

With more revenue, Klosterman said the district could provide additional services for its students.

"We would absolutely welcome additional revenue," he said.

O'Fallon District 90 Superintendent Todd Koehl is less enthusiastic about Senate Bill 16 as District 90 is estimated to lose $633,000 in state funding.

"We do anticipate in this formula we may not come out the best of all districts, because we have a pretty strong equalized assessed valuation in our community," Koehl said. "We would like a little more information about how the funding was determined; $633,000 for us is a lot of money."

The metro-east school district that could see the largest hit in state funding is Edwardsville Unit District 7, which could lose close to $2.1 million. Red Bud Unit District 132 is projected to receive $852,000 less in funding under the proposal.

Representatives from Edwardsville and Red Bud could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, serves on the Senate Education Committee, and voted "present" when the legislation was presented in committee. He said he's not sure he'd vote for the legislation now.

"Some of the things I agree with; some I do not agree with," he said. The current distribution system, Luechtefeld said, has "skewed to the point that it isn't fair anymore."

Luechtefeld wonders if the legislation has a real chance of passing, because House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, hasn't been involved in shaping it.

"All along, I've wondered whether this was real, because Madigan refused to take part in the hearings," Luechtefeld said. "Nothing's real until he does."

Reporter Brian Brueggemann also contributed to this story. Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or Follow her on Twitter at @BND_JForsythe.

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