School administrators come together for school funding fairness - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

School administrators come together for school funding fairness conference

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CARBONDALE -- Dozens of school administrators met at SIU Friday for a conference on school funding. The event was hosted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute to examine fair school funding in Illinois. 

The one-day conference gave school leaders and legislators a chance to come together for one purpose: to agree on a better way for the state to pay for schools.

Dozens of southern Illinois school leaders believe the current formula for school funding doesn't work.

"The impact from the state is continuing to hamper us and offering that quality education," says Du Quoin Superintendent Gary Kelly.

The group of local superintends want school funding reform, not a fight between Democrats and Republicans.

"Teachers, textbooks, computers, they are all meaningless if we're not doing it for the right reason and it's for the kids," says Crab Orchard Superintendent Derek Hutchins.

The meeting also helped reinforce a system. All seem to agree on an Evidence-Based Funding Model.

That formula takes a look at what schools need, and directs money to those with the biggest gaps, but it has yet to give it the stamp of approval in Springfield.

"We've bottled it up into a gift wrapped package. All they need to do is open it," says Goreville Superintendent Steve Webb.

"Given the amount of agreement over what needs to be fixed, we're advocating that we push through those political pretzels and get a funding system that's fair and meets the needs of the students that need it the most," adds Carbondale High School Superintendent Steve Murphy.

Lots of Illinois schools have seen a substantial loss of funding. Most in southern Illinois have had to cut staff and programs. Some offer just the bare-bones, eliminating extra-curricular activities.

"That is the education experience. That is what makes kids want to come to school. That's what makes kids excited about being in school and proud of their schools," says Steve Webb.

Now, these leaders just want to see Springfield grant their wish.

"Get funding reform done this year." says  Teach Plus Illinois Executive Director Josh Kaufman.

Earlier during the conference, attendees heard from bi-partisan lawmakers who have advocated for the evidence based-model. They plan to continue their fight till something changes in Springfield.

Students from Johnson County got a front row seat to the hotly debated topic of school funding.

Vienna Superintendent Joshua Stafford says it's important for the students voice to be heard. He believes they should have a seat at the table so that they can be better advocates for their future. The conference was filled with advocates who want to give students quality education.

"It was eye-opening, cause I heard a lot of things that I didn't realize were going just within my own state," says Vienna High School Senior Chloe Wright.

She learned how state budget issues weigh heavy on southern Illinois schools.

"With all the opportunities we have as far as duel credit and extra-circulars and athletics, if any of those were ever to be cut, it would have definitely affected my high school experience to this point," said Wright.

20 high school students from Vienna Student Council were there learning how state funding is appropriated. A method that has stirred school leaders to change.

"If we can empower them with the best information and give them the opportunity to have a voice, they can be outstanding leaders today," adds Stafford.

Students also learned of the Evidence-Based Funding Model.

"Students should be informed because, although adults handles these issues, we are the ones being affected by it," says Wrigth.

Stafford says when the students go back to Vienna they'll discuss what actions they can take following the conference. 

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