Funding in Illinois Schools- Where We Stand
The State of Illinois currently owes the Chicago Public School System $347 million in past due payments, and is considering further cuts to an already woefully underfunded education system throughout the state.
How underfunded are Illinois Schools? Some Background.
Illinois is currently ranked 49th nationally in terms of the portion of education funding covered by state (versus local) revenue. The State kicks in 28% of education costs. This extremely low ranking means that communities have huge disparities in whether they can manage State budget slashes. Back in 2005, the Illinois Policy Institute noted that this structure allows a 19K gap in what schools can spend per pupil; wealthy districts had 23k to spend per pupil (60-plus percent locally raised revenue) while the poorer districts had 4k to spend per pupil. The Center for Tax Accountability has correlated spending discrepancies to student achievement levels.
Illinois Ranks 34th on education spending per pupil.
Illinois spent less per pupil on education in 2009 than the national average, ranking 34 out of 50 states. It spent 67.7% of the amount New York spent per pupil. It's worth noting that Illinois also spent less per pupil than did our Midwestern neighbor states, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana. Illinois spent less per pupil than states from other regions too, like Arkansas and South Carolina. Illinois spent less per pupil than states such as Arkansas despite the fact that average income level in Illinois exceeds that of Arkansas by 10K and the Illinois GDP is 13 times as large as that of the Arkansas GDP. In fact, 2008 figures show that the Gross State Product of Illinois ranked 5th the largest in the U.S., at $633 billion. The Illinois economy ranks the 27th largest in the world.
If you are wondering how Illinois fares compared to states roughly its size, then consider Pennsylvania. Illinois and Pennsylvania have roughly the same population levels, yet Illinois spends 78% of that which PA spends, devoting $2,500 less per pupil annually. Any way you slice it, Illinois is far from being a large spender on its education; it spends little relative to the majority of states and also does so in a regressive manner.
Cuts This Spring (2011)
Cuts to education are now being considered in Springfield despite the fact that Illinois raised taxes this year, adding $7.25 billion to the general fund. As Terry Mazany, the exiting interim CPS CEO once remarked (paraphrase), "A budget is only a set of priorities." If legislators pass cuts that affect basic curriculum in Illinois schools, they will send a clear message to parents and to citizens in general.
Most recently, the Illinois Senate passed legislation to fund the State’s five pension systems for Fiscal Year 2012, without borrowing money. These systems represent over 12% of state revenue estimates for next fiscal year. Now it is time to see how committed legislators are to the next generation. Through this budget, we will see- and document- our State's priorities. Parents will long remember these decisions. More importantly, children will experience the results of these decisions and will themselves remember how well their State prepared them.