One of the issues Illinois PTA will be supporting at the 2022 Illinois PTA Convention and Advocacy Conference in Springfield on March 29-30 is increased funding for the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula. A new report from the Professional Review Panel (PRP), a group created by the Illinois General Assembly to oversee EBF funding and recommend updates, highlights the importance of increasing this funding.

EBF Basics

When the EBF formula was passed in 2017, it dramatically changed the way Illinois funded education.

  • No school district would lose state funding under EBF. This was a critical piece of Illinois PTA’s support in 2017, as earlier versions phased out state support for some districts within a few years of passage. The base funding level for each district is the amount of state funding it receives. As a district gains state funding through the EBF formula, that new funding level becomes their new base funding level, so the state’s commitment to funding increases over time.
  • The cost of educating students is calculated for each district. The EBF formula includes elements for everything from the cost per student for elementary, middle, and high school teachers to gifted education programs to school counselors. Some elements like teacher salary costs are adjusted by the local cost of living. All these costs factors multiplied by the number of students determine a school district’s Adequacy Target, i.e., the total cost of a quality education for the students in the district.
  • English Language Learners, low-income students, and students with special needs require additional support, and the EBF formula includes multipliers for these students in a district’s Adequacy Target. These multipliers stack, so a student who is included in more than one of these groups gets counted as a member of each group.
  • A school district’s tax base is taken into consideration. Some school districts have new businesses and construction going on all the time, increasing their property tax revenue over time without changing their tax rate. Other districts, particularly rural ones with lots of farmland, could increase their tax rates significantly and still not increase revenue all that much. Thus, the EBF calculates how much funding each district can be expected to generate through “reasonable” tax rates to determine its local contribution. The local contribution is deducted from the adequacy target to determine what the state’s funding responsibility is for the district.
  • The majority of new state funding for EBF is targeted to districts furthest away from their Adequacy Target. After determining how far away each district is from adequate funding, they are divided into four categories based on how far away they are. Those in the group furthest away get the most of the new funding, those in the second furthest away get the majority of the remainder, and the final two groups get a small increase in funding.

EBF Results

The EBF formula is working. When the law was passed in 2017, Illinois had 160 school districts that were below 60% of their Adequacy Target. Today, that number is down to 10 districts below 60% adequacy. However, there is still a long way to go—half of all Illinois students attend school in a district that is below 70% of their Adequacy Target.

That’s where the new report from the Professional Review Panel (PRP) comes in. When the law passed, the General Assembly committed to providing $350M annually to the EBF formula—$300M for the formula itself and $50M for a property tax relief fund. The state skipped adding funding in 2020 due to the pandemic, but resumed it last year.

As part of its report (see pages 30-34 of the report), the PRP estimated how long it would take for all school districts to have funding of at least 90% of their Adequacy Target (which the General Assembly has defined as “full funding”).

  • Under the current approach of providing $300M/year of additional funding to the EBF formula, “full funding” doesn’t happen until 2042.
  • If the state were to increase additional EBF funding to $527M/year, “full funding” could be reached in 10 years (2032).
  • If the state increased additional EBF funding to $983M/year, “full funding” could be met in the 10 years from passage (2027), the original commitment from the General Assembly when the law was passed.

While it can be difficult to understand exactly what all these years and funding amounts mean in real terms, there is an easy way to sum this up. If Illinois continues to approach increasing EBF funding as it has so far, the first students to graduate high school with all Illinois schools “fully funded” haven’t even been born yet. The parents of the first students to go to kindergarten with all Illinois schools “fully funded” are perhaps in kindergarten today (assuming they become a parent shortly after graduating high school). That is why your advocacy for EBF funding (and increasing it) is important.