The State of Illinois has been regularly ranked at 50 out of 50, dead last, in its support of public schools and equitable funding.

(Ed. Note — In this guest column, Galva Superintendent Doug O’Riley discusses the school funding issues in Illinois.)

 The State of Illinois has been regularly ranked at 50 out of 50, dead last, in its support of public schools and equitable funding.  

Since 2009, Galva School District has received successively fewer dollars each year from the state. Skipped payments, pro-rated payments, and delayed payments have been regular events, each with a different explanation and political spin from Springfield.  

As a result, schools were forced to spend down reserves, borrow money, boost local tax rates, boost parent fees, and make staffing cuts to survive. Galva has used all of those methods to remain solvent over the last eight years.

On Aug. 29, Governor Rauner signed a new school funding formula which is promised to restore regular and dependable funding to schools.  

The distribution of funds will occur through a new funding formula, based upon more than 20 factors to determine each district’s need for state funds.  Those factors will group every district into one of four tiers.  

Tier 1 schools will receive the most new funding from the state. Tier 2 schools will receive about 50 percent as much. Tier 3 schools will receive about 10 percent as much, and Tier 4 will receive less than 1 percent of new funding.  

Galva School District is a Tier 2 school, narrowly surpassing Tier 1 status. Tier I schools have the highest populations of students in poverty, coupled with low property values, generating fewer local taxes. Tier 4 schools have few students living in poverty, and property wealth which generates surplus funds every year. Some Tier 1 schools spend less than $6,000 per student each year, while some Tier 4 schools spend more than $30,000 per student.  

The disparity in financial support greatly impacts the quality of education available in different parts of Illinois. Chicago’s northern and western suburbs are mostly Tier 4 districts, while most of rural Illinois schools are Tier 1 or 2.

In attempt to reduce disparity, the new funding formula has a calculated Adequacy Target for each district. As a Tier 2 district, Galva currently spends around $9,000 per student per year.  Galva’s state defined Adequacy target is about $13,000 per student. Galva is at 66 percent of Adequacy, as defined by the state’s new formula. The district will supposedly receive about $40,000 additional dollars each year to move closer to Adequacy.    It would take roughly $2,000,000 to immediately boost every Galva student to Adequacy.  However, $40,000 in new funding is far superior to having money pro-rated, withheld, or permanently owed.

Moving forward, if Galva C.U.S.D. 224 actually receives its 22 General State Aid payments on time, and receives reimbursement for mandated transportation costs and special education costs, substantial progress will have been made.   

With some semblance of financial normalcy, revenue will be known ahead of time, expenditures can be plotted against dependable revenue, and the district will continue to do its best to educate Galva’s students with its limited resources.   

The new formula, coupled with a full year state budget, is a great step. 

Hopefully both sides of the political aisle in Springfield will keep stepping ahead to make real progress.  

Our students deserve it.