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ISBE simulation shows good results for Barickman’s school funding legislation

An Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) funding simulation shows State Senator Jason Barickman’s (R-Bloomington) school funding reform plan would provide a major boost to struggling schools across the state, sending more than a half a billion dollars in funding through an evidence based model without increasing costs from the previous year.

“Changing the formula is an incredibly complicated task, with small details having major implications in terms of results and costs,” said Senator Barickman. “But I think these results show that if legislation is focused on the realities of our state and the needs of our schools, we can make major strides toward reducing the inequities of our current system.”

Barickman’s legislation, Senate Bill 1124, is based on the framework developed by the Governor’s bipartisan school funding reform commission. The legislation would create an Evidence Based School Funding System that uses 27 different variables to set individual adequacy targets for each school district, based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics. Districts would be grouped into four tiers based on how far they are from their adequacy target, with Tier 1 including the schools needing the most help, up to Tier 4, which contains the schools that already meet or exceed their adequacy targets.

The ISBE simulation is based on the details of Senator Barickman’s legislation.

Barickman’s funding formula contains a base funding minimum or hold harmless that is based on the district’s FY17 General State Aid claims. According to the ISBE simulation, every school district but one would receive funding that matches or exceeds their FY17 funding for General State Aid claims and programs that would be integrated into the formula.

The base funding minimum would total $5.432 billion, allowing Barickman’s legislation to distribute an additional $531 million to schools through the Evidence Based Model without increasing the total spending level from the current fiscal year.

“The Legislature will continue to make decisions about funding levels for education through its budgeting process.  However, this funding model ensures that every dollar above the hold harmless is distributed through the evidence based model,” said Senator Barickman. “And we start with half a billion dollars through the model without relying on increased state spending, which is a great start to creating a more equitable system.”

Illinois’ neediest schools – as measured by data and evidence – will receive the bulk of the $531 million flowing through the Evidence Based Model.  For example, the 450 districts contained in Tier 1 would gain $450 million of the $531 million, and the 226 Tier 2 school districts would gain $50.7 million.

Another component of Barickman’s plan involves means testing, which was designed to provide extra help to struggling school districts that are unable to generate much revenue despite high tax rates. The ISBE simulation confirms that the means testing component succeeds at driving funding to schools that have excessively high tax rates and little, local property wealth (EAV).

“Families in East St Louis have seen their property taxes rise to the highest in the state. Streator, where I grew up, has extremely high tax rates and has maxed out what they can generate locally. But both districts still don’t have the money they need to properly educate their children,” said Senator Barickman. “Means testing helps prioritize funding to districts like these, and I think the results show that our model works.”

Barickman’s legislation removes the often criticized and controversial Chicago Block Grant, but is tied to additional legislation (SB2172) that would pay the normal cost of CPS’s pensions.  By doing so, all school districts will be treated alike, providing true parity for CPS as well as for all 851 other Illinois school districts.

A second bill filed by Senator Barickman, Senate Bill 1125, would add mandate relief and real parity between all school districts by offering additional management flexibility. These changes include flexibility in Physical Education requirements, including allowing student athletes to opt out of PE to take additional classes and provisions to help districts save money via third-party contracting for certain services. Districts would also be able to hold referendums to discharge certain mandates, not including health, life safety rules, federal mandates, or civil rights protections. The legislation also empowers voters to lower their property taxes through a referendum if their district exceeds 110% of their adequacy target.

“This legislation embraces my long-held views that we should have one funding system for all of our Illinois schoolchildren, that we shouldn’t pit one school district or geographic region of the state against the other, and that we should drive resources to districts most in need as demonstrated by facts and data, and not by political rhetoric and emotion,” said Senator Barickman. “I look forward to presenting this legislation to the Senate Education Committee as soon as possible.”

The results of the simulation will be posted at Senator Barickman’s website,