There has been quite a bit of information circulating about the new education funding compromise adopted and signed into law last month. The new Invest in Kids Act is the most significant change in our state’s school funding formula in more than 20 years, and as with any true compromise, each of us found provisions that we liked, and also some we disliked. Whether you support or oppose the new plan, the facts are still the facts. Here are some of the facts about the Invest in Kids Act that convinced me to vote “yes.”
All public schools benefit from a more fair formula
First of all, the legislation recommends an additional $350 million per year be added to the state’s share of school funding. Under the new “Evidence Based” Distribution Model new funds will be distributed so that those districts that have the most need after local resources are exhausted will receive the most state dollars.
Additionally, the legislation includes a permanent “hold harmless” provision to ensure that no district will receive less state funding than they received the previous year. In our area, Naperville, Indian Prairie and Community Unit District 200 will receive a combined $1.16 million more in state funding under the new formula this year than they received last year.
Private school contributors are eligible for a scholarship tax credit
This is a major accomplishment on behalf of school choice. Under a five year pilot program, a scholarship tax credit will be made available for individuals that provide donations for scholarships to private schools in Illinois. Eligibility for the scholarships will be for a student whose family is 300% or less of the federal poverty level for the first year and up to 400% after.
It includes a path to property tax relief for homeowners
Homeowners in areas like ours who are struggling with incredibly high property taxes to fund schools can vote for relief. Under the new plan, a property tax referendum may be put before voters to reduce property taxes for school districts that are well funded due in large part to high local property taxes.
Schools receive relief from costly mandates
The Invest in Kids Act includes a simple, streamlined process for school districts to receive waivers from costly mandates imposed by the state for drivers education and physical education. This gives individual districts more flexibility to spend the money they receive on programs they feel are most important for their students.
Is this agreement a perfect solution? Of course not. But each of these provisions is the result of bipartisan negotiations in the House and Senate and with the Governor to produce the best possible agreement to reform our broken school funding formula; and I believe it will ensure every child in Illinois better access to great schools.