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Oswego District 308 Officials Lobby Legislatures on Funding Formula

May 13, 2014 02:14PM ● By Steven Jack

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Oswego District 308 School Board member Greg O’Neil is predicting some negative consequences for the district if current proposals to change how the state funds education are enacted.

O’Neil, along with a contingent of district officials and fellow board member Danielle Paul, traveled to Springfield last week to discuss school funding proposals with nearly all of the district's locally elected state officials.

Senate Bill 16 proposed by State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is meant to level the playing field by promising more state aid to poorer districts and less to wealthier ones. 

The new formula would base aid on three categories: general state aid, early childhood and special education. This would be the first change in the funding formula since 1997.

Wealthier districts would see less state aid, thus forcing them to rely more heavily upon local property taxes to fill the gap. 

Because District 308’s property tax base is overwhelmingly paid by individual homeowners, even higher property taxes for homeowners would be an almost certainty.

According to information released last week by the Illinois State Board of Education, District 308 could see about $151,000 less annually in state aid under the new formula. However, if growth continues at its current rate in the district, those affects will be even more widely felt, O’Neil said.

“If we even lose a little funding …. it’s difficult to see how we will succeed if we don’t get this funding formula changed.”

O’Neil said the group also met with Manar to discuss a district proposal to help provide more state funding to areas like Oswego with high population growth rates. O’Neil reported Manar said he would read the district’s proposal. 

Superintendent Matthew Wendt also has proposed the formation of a legislative committee at the board level in order to keep open communications between the district and local state elected officials. 

O’Neil said it might be helpful for such a committee to partner with districts in the collar counties with similar growth/funding issues to help leverage unity in the face of funding cuts. 

Whether changes to the funding formula are anywhere near reality remains to be seen. According to reports, Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan appear to have little interest in moving the legislation forward at this time.