Illinois PTA has advocated for education funding for decades and was instrumental in helping to pass the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula in 2017. In passing the EBF formula, the legislature promised to provide an additional $350 million every year to the formula to bring Illinois schools up to adequate levels of funding. Last year, no new money was added to the EBF formula, and the governor has proposed not adding funding again this year. Here are five key points Illinois PTA members can use whenadvocating for increased education funding with their legislators.
- The EBF formula is working. The EBF formula calculates an “adequacy target” for every school district in Illinois based on the characteristics of the student population (e.g., extra funding for low income, special needs, and English learners). The EBF formula then targets the most money to the districts furthest from adequate funding. When the EBF formula was passed, 160 districts representing 18% of all Illinois students were below 60% of adequacy. After just three years of funding, only 10 districts representing less than 5% of all Illinois students are below 60% of adequacy.
- There is still a long way to go. Despite these gains, more than half of all Illinois students are in districts below 70% of adequate funding.
- Federal pandemic funding won’t help close the adequacy gap. Schools have received additional federal funding through several stimulus packages, but these funds won’t help close the adequacy gap. Much of these funds are limited in where they can be spent, such as for purchasing personal protective equipment, upgrading school ventilation, funding for extra transportation costs due to the pandemic, and other one-time costs. These federal funds also must be spent in the next few years. Because of these limits and the fact that they disappear in the near future, school districts can’t use them to make long-term improvements to educating our children by hiring literacy specialists or more teachers. If they were to do so, when the federal funds ran out, districts would face a funding shortfall that would require budget cuts.
- While the state budget may be challenging, education funding is an investment in Illinois that benefits the state. Walter W. McMahon, an emeritus professor of economics and of education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign calculated the return on investment (ROI) of education spending in Illinois in the Journal of Education Finance. Funding for both K-12 education and higher education (community colleges and universities) had a higher return on investment (over 9.5%) than the stock market. He also found that Illinois education spending pays for itself every 2.3 years in state budget savings alone. Part of the reason for this is that school districts spend about 85% of their budget on personnel (teachers, bus drivers, janitors, etc.), meaning increased education funding primarily goes to salaries that get spent locally in a relatively short time.
- Education funding now creates Illinois taxpayers later. Most students in Illinois graduate high school and get jobs here in Illinois, many after going to an Illinois community college, university, or trade school. Ensuring our students are prepared for life after graduation means they are better prepared to get higher-paying jobs here in Illinois and become life-long Illinois taxpayers. While a tax break may make the headlines when a company relocates to Illinois, it is really the talented workforce here in Illinois that attracts those businesses. Education funding is a critical piece driving that economic engine.
Resources You Can Use
Illinois PTA’s partner Advance Illinois has created a collection of resources you can use to advocate for increased education funding.
- A new report on how the EBF formula is working and how the pandemic has affected school funding.
- An advocacy toolkit with ready-made social media posts, a sample letter to legislators, and a script you can use if you call them. Remember to use the #FundtheFormula hashtag and to tag your legislators.
- A one-page fact sheet you can share with legislators and your PTA members.
- A summary sheet for every state representative and every state senator showing how the school districts in their district are funded. This can be an especially powerful tool to use with your legislators, as it shows how their voters are being affected by the lack of adequate funding. Even if your school district is adequately funded, there are likely several others in their district that are not.
- An interactive Equity Dashboard that shows how EBF funding has affected school districts and the state since enactment, along with breakdowns for various subgroups, the ability to look up your school district, and to see what EBF funding has done for school districts your legislator’s district. Note that the Fiscal Year number show the funding situation for the prior year, so FY18 shows the situation prior to EBF enactment and FY21 shows the effect of 2020 funding. Also keep in mind that the dashboard shows all funding for a district, so even without EBF funding a district may move closer to adequate funding if, for example, local taxes were raised.
Legislators will be making budget decisions through April and likely into May. Contact your legislators now with Illinois PTA’s pre-written letter to let them know that your children and your school district can’t wait another year for additional funding. Tell them to invest in Illinois’s students now.