10202017 Manar Gill Cits Club Bfast 550

Senator Andy Manar was a panelist at an Oct. 20 Citizens Club of Springfield discussion about the status of school funding reform in Illinois.

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who spearheaded legislative efforts to enact the Illinois' first school funding overhaul in more than 20 years, was joined by Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Gill and Ball-Chatham Superintendent Douglas Wood.

Manar updated the audience on the status of implementing the new school funding law and offered a look back at the more than four-year effort to pass the major reform, reflecting that for him it became "very much an exercise in listening" to other people, including colleagues in the Legislature, to experts in education policy and to parents and taxpayers in communities statewide.

Manar said he intends to turn his attention next to the teacher shortage that is affecting communities throughout Illinois, a situation he described as a "full-fledged crisis."

Category: School Funding Reform

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.

1 AWM Prior to Signing 665

(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


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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