AWMBHSchool 350BUNKER HILL — Dusty Rhodes, a reporter with Illinois Issues and NPR Illinois in Springfield, produced an excellent piece about the nearly five-year fight for school funding reform in Illinois waged by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), State Representative Will Davis (D-Homewood) and others. That battle culminated with legislation that was signed into law Aug. 31 this year.

The opening excerpt from Rhodes' report describes a familiar place that Senator Manar discussed countless times in communities throughout the state while advocating for school funding reform: the art classroom at his children's elementary school in Bunker Hill that originally was a janitor's closet.

 

The new art teacher at Wolf Ridge Elementary seems a bit surprised to find a state senator in her classroom, and a little curious about why he brought a reporter with him.

“This room infuriates me. It infuriates me,” explains Andy Manar.

Over the past five years, he made this art class infamous, mentioning it multiple times in speeches from the Senate floor as he has argued for the state of Illinois to overhaul its school funding system. Manar, a Democrat, is a lifelong resident and former mayor of Bunker Hill. His three children — Abbie, Will and Bennie — now attend Wolf Ridge, the local public elementary school.

But when Manar himself attended this school, back in the 1980s, he never had a class in this particular room, because back then, it was the janitor’s closet.

“I knew as soon as I came in that’s what it was,” says Anne Michalski, the new teacher. Beyond the fact that it’s a fraction of the size of a regular classroom: “There’s no windows. It’s all cinder blocks,” she said. “But you always have to look on the bright side…”

Manar finished her sentence: “...at least we have art.”

But all that is about to change — albeit very slowly — thanks to a new school funding plan that became law last week. On the afternoon we visited Wolf Ridge, Manar had spent the morning on a victory tour of several schools around the state. He and a handful of other lawmakers functioned as the warm-up speakers for Gov. Bruce Rauner. Two days later, the cast expanded for a big show at Ebinger Elementary in Chicago, where Rauner used a dozen different pens to affix his signature to the new law.

Such a series of celebrations, plus the crowd piling onto the bandwagon, hint at the significance of this legislation: It marks the turning point of Illinois’ decades-deep history of inadequate and inequitable school funding. Henceforth, districts will receive state aid based on the needs of their student population. That means schools that serve families living in poverty will get more state dollars than schools where families have stable, comfortable homes. And districts with low property wealth — like Manar’s hometown of Bunker Hill, where the median home price is half the state average — will also get an extra dose of state aid. That’s one reason Manar has been championing this cause longer, louder and harder than any other lawmaker.

 

Read the rest of the Sept. 7 piece and listen to the audio.

(Photo credit: Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois)

Category: School Funding Reform

CHICAGO — Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) joined Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, school officials, school funding reform advocates and others as the governor signed into law Senate Bill 1947, landmark school funding reform legislation that will overhaul Illinois worst-in-the-nation school funding formula.

Click "read more" to view a gallery of photos from the event.

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(Pictured: Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), chief sponsor of Senate Bill 1947, Illinois' landmark school funding reform legislation, speaks with guests at a bill-signing ceremony Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, at Ebinger Elementary School in Chicago.)

Read more: Gallery: School funding reform bill signing ceremony

Category: School Funding Reform

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CHICAGO — Illinois' landmark school funding reform legislation represents compromise between Democrats and Republicans and is the result of years of hard work and grassroots advocacy, State Senator Andy Manar said during a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago.

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is the chief sponsor of the measure, which was signed into law Aug. 31 at a Chicago elementary school by Gov. Bruce Rauner

"This legislation ends the least equitable system of school funding in the country. We know that. We indicted the system," said Manar, a longtime proponent of overhauling Illinois' worst-in-the-nation school funding formula. "We put something in place that would correct all of the ills that surround it, and it is proof that even in a polarized system grassroots advocacy works."

Manar added that the legislation wages a war on poverty in classrooms throughout Illinois.

"It ends a great racial divide that we have in this state. We know that in Illinois there is no greater divide between investment in minority students and investment in their white counterparts. That is a stain on our state. The governor's signature is giong to correct that," he said. "It also stares down rural poverty. This bill wlll put resources in the poorest classrooms in rural counties in southern Illinois."

Category: School Funding Reform

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SPRINGFIELD – An unprecedented overhaul of how Illinois funds public schools is on its way to the governor’s desk and should result in additional funding for schools in Bunker Hill, Gillespie, Decatur, Taylorville, Carlinville, Staunton and elsewhere throughout the 48th Senate District.

“Students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better than what Illinois has been offering. Finally, we have a plan that lays the groundwork for local schools to be fairly funded by the state,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the long-overdue revamp of the state’s school finance system.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign the measure Thursday afternoon in Chicago.

Once he does, schools will be funded through an evidence-based model that prioritizes funding for schools that are the farthest away from adequacy. The model ensures no schools lose money, eliminates the current system of winning and losing school districts, and offers financial certainty to school districts annually when they embark on crafting their budgets for the upcoming schoolyear.

Although the plan is a big win for area schools, Manar said he was disappointed that Republicans insisted that a private school tax credit program be included before they would vote for it and before Gov. Rauner would sign it.

Republicans inserted a tax credit for people who donate to scholarship programs at private schools that benefit low-income students.

Once that provision was included, Rauner and the Republicans ended their opposition to the comprehensive education overhaul package.

“Personally, I oppose this type of tax credit program for private schools. But it’s the price the governor and Republicans demanded for their votes so that we could finally enact a fair public school funding system,” Manar said. “At the end of the day, this is a substantial improvement for the schools in this area, and that’s why I supported it.”

(Pictured: Senator Andy Manar and Representative Will Davis pose with school superintendents and advocates in the Illinois Capitol rotunda following the Senate's historic vote to overhaul the state's school funding formula and send legislation to the governor's desk on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.)

Read more: Manar delivers historic win for local schools

Category: School Funding Reform

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