Illinois ranks last in the nation when it comes to how much money the state kicks in for public education.
The state's ranking has a lot to do with the complicated formula that determines how school funding is handed out. This year, Illinois is only paying 89 percent of the money it's supposed to send to schools. Currently those cuts are applied across the board, hitting wealthy and poor districts alike.
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says she wants to make sure schools districts with more impoverished students aren't left behind: “Cutting back the same percentage of everyone—those districts that are the most in need, it has really the opposite effect of what we would want to have happen.” Lawmakers are exploring whether the entire system needs to be changed. But Ben Schwarm, with the Illinois Association of School Boards, says regardless of the formula, the state needs to put more money into schools: “How do you fix school funding by spending less money is really the charge of this committee, and that can’t be done.” Early budget projections show next year, Illinois is likely to make even deeper cuts to education.