WSIL – Illinois Senate President John Cullerton gave his version of the State of the State address on Monday at the City Club of Chicago.
Cullerton said if Gov. Bruce Rauner actually wants to “turnaround” the state of Illinois, he should start with school funding reform.
“There’s an injustice we’ve tolerated too long. One that crushes dreams, stifles growth and keeps us as a state from moving forward. It is Illinois’ system of funding public schools,” Cullerton said.
In Illinois, much of a school district’s funding comes from property taxes, so poor areas create poor districts.
“At a time when we seem to label every problem a crisis, let me be clear: our broken school funding formula is the defining crisis of our time,” he said.
That is why Cullerton said the main focus of this year should be creating a new formula for the schools.
“Our problems are not a secret. For nearly 20 years, the system has festered in broad daylight,” Cullerton said.
He chose Sandoval, a small town in southern Illinois, to help describe the hardships students in poor districts go through.
“In Sandoval, a town about a hundred miles south of Springfield, third graders head to school, where dwindling resources mean no art classes or foreign language programs. There’s no school librarian to help find books or school social worker to offer support,” he said.
“Our state has the most inequitable system of school finance in the country,” he said. “We give less to the students who need more and cover barely a third of the total cost of public education when most states cover half.”
And while Cullerton really did not offer many specifics on how to fix the problem, State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, has long been working on a formula to help.
Manar held a press conference at the Capitol last Wednesday to help push his agenda.
He filed the legislation, Senate Bill 1, last January but it did not make it out of the Assignments Committee.
However, with school funding reform at the forefront of legislators’ minds and with the hopeful support of the Senate President, perhaps it will soon get traction.
Cullerton is not a co-sponsor at this time.
The governor will deliver his State of the State address on Wednesday.