Oswego School Board Pushes for School Funding Reform

Officials have concerns with proposed funding formula.

Credit: File photo
Credit: File photo
The Oswego School District 308 board of education last week voted to send a letter of support to the Illinois Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee, advocating changes to the way public school districts are funded.

Although the letter voices support for the state's efforts, it also highlights concerns regarding the average property wealth per student ratio being considered.

The state committee is recommending a funding level of $8,672 per student as the minimum level of support. The current level of funding is set at $6,119 per student, and Illinois currently only pays a percentage of that through General State Aid. Board of education members expressed concern that the difference in funding levels could become an unfunded mandate, meaning that the burden of making up the difference could become the local taxpayers’ responsibility.

“Although the board is supportive of the conversations to consider adjustments of how public schools are funded, School District 308 has several concerns about what could result in more burden placed on local taxpayers,” Superintendent Matthew Wendt, said in a statement issued by the district.  “Of course, some issues are addressed if the legislature simply funds all public schools at 100 percent. The lack of action has resulted in over $11 million of lost revenue for School District 308 in only three fiscal years.”

This past year, the state of Illinois only paid 89 percent of General State Aid, the main state funding source for public schools. At its last meeting, the board raised concerns with the uncertainty surrounding the state’s proposed formula and its potential negative impact on School District 308.
Board members also expressed concern about any proposal that might leave local taxpayers responsible for an increase in district funding. This is especially true in District 308, which has a small commercial and industrial base.

Board members said they believe funding reform needs to consider the impact on local homeowners’ tax burdens. In addition, the local ability to pay and the property wealth consideration in funding should take into account the nature of the property being taxed, according to the letter supported by the board of education.
Taking these factors into consideration could provide relief for homeowners in areas without a strong commercial or industrial base, such as District 308.
“There is increasing support to look at the inequity with the current finance formula, Wendt said. "We feel something is truly wrong with a state finance formula that continually allows for per pupil funding to be based on the wealth, or lack of wealth, of a local community.  A child’s residence should not dictate the quality of public education."


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