After months of waiting Illinoisans will soon learn the State's game plan on school funding.
The Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) is scheduled to approve recommendations to the General Assembly for the FY 2002 foundation level and poverty grant at its December 12th meeting. The foundation level is the guaranteed minimum level of per-pupil expenditures provided to school districts. The poverty grant is a supplementary grant program designed to reduce the costs of educating low-income students.
Under current law, the Education Funding Advisory Board is required to deliver recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by January 1, 2001.
Although the reliance on local property taxes remains a problem, EFAB is not statutorily required to develop suggestions on a new mix of revenue sources to provide meaningful property tax reform.
Despite the efforts of Governor Edgar, the Ikenberry Commission, and various advocacy efforts including the MPC-lead Reform ’97: Quality Schools and Stronger Communities Coalition, local property taxes still remain the majority, 51%, of revenue for public schools.
EFAB may have also been constrained in efforts to develop a comprehensive school funding reform proposal because the members of the board were not appointed until July 2000 - even though members could have been appointed as early as 1998. The late appointment of board members coupled with January 1, 2001 deadline required the board to focus their energies on the immediate foundation level and poverty grant issues.
It is anticipated however, that certain variables within the school aid formula may be addressed including average daily attendance (ADA), General State Aid (GSA) hold harmless grants, and perhaps pupil weights for preK-3 and 9-12 grade pupils. Preliminary staff recommendations have offered a 3.5% ($155) increase in the foundation level over the FY 2001 base of $4,425. Other proposed changes include reducing the poverty grant concentration eligibility level to 15% from 20% and introducing a new poverty grant allocation system that links grant per student to a percentage of the foundation level depending on the level of poverty in the district. Currently the poverty grant is not linked to the foundation level.
EFAB has expedited the report process so that the Illinois State Board of Education would be able to include the recommendations in their draft budget which will be presented to ISBE members on December 13, 2000. General State Aid appropriations are included in the ISBE budget.
While EFAB is not strictly required to consider or develop systematic education funding reform, the Board, however, has planned to develop more extensive long-term recommendations beyond FY 2002-2003. EFAB is still considering proposals from education consultants on out year foundation level increases, revenue replacement, capital and technology expenditures.