If Gov. Rauner vetoes school finance reform, downstate students stand to lose disproportionately

Belleville, IL is one of the downstate school districts that stands to lose the most if Gov. Rauner vetoes SB1. Daniel X. O’Neil / flickr

At the end of May, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, which would revolutionize how the state distributes money to public school districts.

Instead of the current method — which creates a one-size-fits-all per-student funding goal regardless of a district’s poverty rate, English language learning needs, and other demographic circumstances — SB1 would create an “evidence-based model” to adjust funding targets based on what research says each district needs. The districts with the greatest gap between needs and actual funding (what’s called the “adequacy gap”) would receive the greatest share of future education dollars.

Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration has said that despite approving of “90 percent” of SB1, he plans to veto it. Why? Because it supposedly benefits students in the city of Chicago too much.

And yet a look at the actual numbers shows that downstate districts would also disproportionately benefit from SB1. That’s because while the average per-pupil “adequacy gap” statewide is $3,345, downstate districts have an average adequacy gap of $3,937 per student. That substantial difference — nearly $600, or 18 percent — means that downstate districts would get a disproportionately greater share of future K-12 education funding.

But if the governor vetoes SB1, those downstate schools won’t see that funding. In other words, a veto of the supposed “Chicago bailout” will disproportionately hurt students far outside the Chicago area, from Rock Island to Belleville.

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