School inequality blamed on imbalance in property taxes
In Illinois, it appears that the poor get poorer and the rich get educated, according to a recent report by the Better Government Association (BGA).
For decades, the state has relied on property taxes to pay for schools, creating an inherent inequality between schools in wealthy and impoverished districts, the group says on its website.
“The overwhelming finding is that we really have one of the most inequitable and disparate funding systems in the nation,” Stephanie Bechteler, executive director of the Chicago Urban League Research and Policy Center, told the BGA. “What you would hope for is that the students in need of more services and supports would receive the most… . What often happens in Illinois is that the schools with the highest number of students coming from the most low-income families often receive the lowest.”
The BGA’s report further shows that Illinois’ foundation-level funding – the minimum amount schools should spend per student per year – is both inadequate and applied to the formula for general state aid in a convoluted manner. The current level was set at $6,119 in 2010. Due to budgetary issues, that amount often hasn’t been reached and education officials believe it wasn't enough even in 2010. The Education Funding Advisory Board suggests it should be $9,204, according to the BGA.
To determine how much money the state gives to each district, it looks at how much the district can raise on its own through local property taxes and then contributes enough for the district to hit the $6,119 per student level. In districts that are able to hit that mark through property taxes alone, the state still provides between $428 and $218 per student, further contributing to inequality that has made Illinois the state with the greatest disparity between what wealthy and poor districts receive in state funding, at approximately 20 percent.
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