We saw some examples last week of why school-funding reform is so difficult to accomplish in Illinois.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin appeared with Governor Bruce Rauner at Lyons Township High School, which is in Durkin’s district. Durkin pointed out to reporters that the school would lose $1.9 million in state funding under the controversial school-funding-reform bill of Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).
Leader Durkin also claimed that every school district in his House district would lose funding with Manar’s proposal. Chicago, he noted, would gain hundreds of millions of dollars. Durkin declared that he and his members could not and would not support a plan that shoveled big-time bucks at Chicago while cutting their own districts.
But that’s really the whole point of Manar’s plan. He wants to shift state funding from wealthier suburban districts such as those Durkin represents (14.2 percent of Lyons Township High School students are from low-income households) to districts that have high numbers of impoverished students (86 percent of Chicago Public Schools students are from low-income households). Manar wants a “hold harmless” provision to make sure no district loses money right away, but that’ll cost quite a bit of cash – which the state doesn’t currently have.
Durkin represents half of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno’s district, so convincing both of those chamber leaders to sign off on a plan that takes state money away from their own schools is just as difficult as convincing the two Chicago Democrats who head up the House and Senate to agree to Rauner’s K-12 funding proposal that would reduce Chicago’s annual appropriation by $74 million.
Like I said, this ain’t easy.