SenateBill1A new Republican-backed school funding reform plan represents a redistribution of tax dollars and would result in the loss of federal money for special education and free and reduced lunch programs in school districts statewide.

Those are just two of the flaws that have been exposed so far in Senate Bill 1124, a plan that Republicans are attempting to rush through the General Assembly in the waning days of the special session.

Testimony presented during this afternoon’s House hearing on school funding reform made a firm case against Senate Bill 1124.

“An excellent school funding plan, Senate Bill 1, already has passed both houses of the Legislature with broad support from lawmakers, educators, parents and advocates in communities all over Illinois,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and the sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

“The idea that lawmakers should consider a new plan at this point is ludicrous, particularly when that bill appears to be deeply flawed, has not been adequately vetted, lacks support and pits schools against one another – basically everything we worked so hard to avoid with Senate Bill 1.”

Among the problems apparent with the Republicans’ school funding proposal:

  • It would result in the loss of federal funding for special education and free/reduced lunch programs in school districts statewide.
  • It represents a redistribution of dollars from poor school districts to wealthy school districts.
  • It creates winning and losing school districts.
  • There is no Republican-sponsored revenue bill to pay for school funding.
  • There are no known proponents for Senate Bill 1124, which is sponsored by Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington).
  • The Republicans’ full court press for Senate Bill 1124 began three weeks after May 31, the final day of the legislative session.
  • Barickman and Rauner education secretary Beth Purvis directly contradicted each other about details of the proposal while answering questions throughout this afternoon’s hearing.

Manar complimented the House for hosting today’s informative hearing on school funding and for helping to shed light on some of the many problems with the newest reform proposal. Senate Bill 1 is the clear path forward, he said.

“I know the issue of school funding is important to Gov. Rauner. He has an opportunity to join us in declaring a bipartisan victory on behalf of Illinois children that is more than 20 years in the making,” Manar said.

“Gov. Rauner has indicated he supports 90 percent of Senate Bill 1. Having now heard all of the problems with Senator Barickman’s plan, I hope the governor will throw 100 percent of his support behind Senate Bill 1 so we can help 100 percent of Illinois students.”

Category: School Funding Reform

EmptyClassroomSenator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) issued the following statement regarding the unveiling of a new school funding formula this morning by Republican State Senator Jason Barickman:

“The spring legislative session ended more than three weeks ago. Senator Barickman missed the deadline,” Manar said. “If his latest proposal was a final project, he’d earn an F because not only did he turn it in late, he showed up looking for his teacher after everyone had gone home and the school doors were locked for the summer.”

Manar, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a school funding proposal that passed in both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, took exception with Barickman’s negative characterizations of Senate Bill 1, which has widespread support from school superintendents, educators, parents and school funding reform advocates throughout Illinois.

“Republicans have done nothing but fall all over themselves to spread misinformation about Senate Bill 1 since the moment it passed,” Manar said.

“For Senator Barickman to portray Democrats and Senate Bill 1, which passed in both chambers of the Legislature after months of careful deliberation and bipartisan negotiation, as somehow disingenuous, then to demand support for his extremely late proposal today, I am at a loss for further words.”

For accurate information about Senate Bill 1, visit and

Category: School Funding Reform

The following column appeared in The (Springfield) State Journal-Register on June 16, 2017.


ManarShaelynSteele 350When I was 15, Sen. Vince Demuzio invited me to spend the day with him at the Illinois Capitol, stirring my love for public service and stoking my desire to be a catalyst for change.

This spring, several area students joined me for a day at the Capitol, coming from mostly public schools across the 48th Senate District.

These schools, in communities like Taylorville, Nokomis and Springfield, represent various populations, student needs and local property wealth.

But Illinois’ terrible school funding formula fails to acknowledge these inherent differences or the idea that offering the same high-quality education to every student requires different resources — and therefore different levels of funding — in each school district. Our rotten, outdated formula identifies winning and losing students based on little more than ZIP codes.

Students born in the Illinois rust or coal belts, shrinking rural villages or decaying urban centers are out of luck because the formula relies too heavily on property taxes to fund schools, and these communities can’t keep up. The formula annually siphons state dollars away and funnels them to wealthier districts. And if you happen to be a low-income student, Illinois will only spend 81 cents on the dollar to educate you.

It’s insane, and if we don’t change the formula now, it will continue to erode and punish downstate and low-income school districts.

That’s where Senate Bill 1 comes in. This plan, approved by the General Assembly in May, would move Illinois to an evidence-based formula, which has widespread support from school superintendents, educators, parents and community groups.

No school districts lose funding under this plan — no exceptions — and it builds in property tax relief for high-tax school districts. Unfortunately, not a single Springfield-area Republican voted for it. As soon as it passed, an orchestrated campaign attempted to conceal their bad vote from constituents.

I’m urging parents and taxpayers to do their homework. Consider these estimated overall gains for Springfield-area districts, which are based on the Illinois State Board of Education’s own analysis of SB 1:

  • Auburn District 10 – $475,000
  • Ball Chatham District 5 – $161,000
  • Carlinville District 1 – $259,000
  • Gillespie District 7 – $624,000
  • Hillsboro District 3 – $194,000
  • Jacksonville District 117 – $323,000
  • Lincoln District 404 – $296,000
  • Litchfield District 12 – $293,000
  • North Greene District 3 – $247,000
  • North Mac District 34 – $411,000
  • Pana District 8 – $469,000
  • Riverton District – $568,000
  • Rochester District 3A – $159,000
  • Springfield District 186 – $1.1 million
  • Taylorville District 3 – $314,000
  • Williamsville District 15 – $94,000

Does this look like a “Chicago bailout” to you?

This is the closest the legislature has come in decades to getting a school funding overhaul to the governor’s desk. It’s a good bill that corrects a long-standing wrong and puts all Illinois students on the path to a brighter future.

Let’s talk about some of those students who visited me at the Capitol this year.

Shaelyn Steele of Illiopolis was a senior at Sangamon Valley High School. She already had been taking nursing courses through community college two nights a week so she could work as a nursing assistant this summer and get an impressive head start on her college education.

Cole Davlin is now a senior at Springfield High School. His favorite subject is history, and he enjoys taking foreign language courses because he hopes to study political science and do ambassador work overseas after college.

Jack Curtin, who lives on his family’s farm in Stonington, recently graduated from Taylorville High School. He told me how he had helped generate support for a property tax increase after the school district was forced to make cuts to balance the budget. He’ll study crop science in college and wants to make sure Taylorville schools are in good shape when he returns home to Christian County someday to work on the family farm and put down roots of his own.

We need to do everything we can to nurture bright, driven, successful students like these — and every Illinois student. It begins by fixing the formula and making Illinois a national leader on fair school funding.

State Sen. Andy Manar is a Democrat from Bunker Hill and the sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

Pictured above: Sangamon Valley High School senior Shaelyn Steele of Illiopolis visits Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield on April 5, 2017.

Category: School Funding Reform

This column originally was published in Crain's Chicago Business on June 7, 2017.


ManarCurtin04262017 350

This spring, I hosted students from my district at the state capitol. Among them was a Taylorville High School senior named Jack Curtin.

Taylorville is a town of 11,000 about 30 miles southeast of Springfield. Curtin lives on his family's farm in the nearby village of Stonington. A student athlete with excellent grades, he plans to study crop science in college.

Curtin told me he volunteered this spring with an organization that had generated support for a property tax increase after his school district was forced to cut teaching positions, athletics and extracurricular programs to balance the ledger. A previous referendum didn't pass, but in April, by a margin of more than 2 to 1, voters chose a tax increase over the possibility of further damaging cuts caused by the inaction of state government.

For Curtin, it was personal.

"Taylorville is home to me. I know I'm going to be coming back to the farm, and I want to send my kids to school here," he said. "The opportunities I've been offered have been phenomenal. I just don't think it's fair that one group gets to prepare for their future while another group doesn't. We have to put kids on a path for success."

He's correct: All students deserve a chance to be successful. Yet Illinois deprives students of this opportunity every day—and has for decades—by failing to fairly and adequately fund public schools.

Illinois has the most regressive education funding system in the nation because of its reliance on property taxes and the state's inability to meet its annual funding commitment. The result: Wealthy districts invest upward of $30,000 per student; poor districts as little as $6,000 per student.

Taylorville spends on the lower end—about $7,400 per student.

On May 31, the Illinois legislature approved a landmark overhaul of the school funding formula. Under Senate Bill 1, which I sponsored, no schools would lose any funding—important because it alleviates concerns about "winners" and "losers" that arose under past school funding reform models.

Senate Bill 1 was crafted with input from school administrators and educators. It reflects recommendations that came from Gov. Rauner's bipartisan commission on school funding reform—a panel led by his education secretary, Beth Purvis, that failed to produce its own legislation.

Based on the "evidence-based model," Senate Bill 1 accounts for the needs of students with disabilities, English learners and low-income students, while ensuring that a district's taxing effort matches its local wealth. It offers property tax relief to high-tax school districts and is a stable, long-term solution.

But Rauner and Purvis, along with most Republican lawmakers, decry it as a "bailout" because of a political agenda and their bias against one school district: Chicago. Rauner has vowed to veto the plan, and Republicans are serving up excuses to mislead constituents.

What Republicans call a "bailout" is simply the rest of us demanding that Chicago be treated like the rest of Illinois school districts with regard to teacher pensions. The state picks up teacher pension costs for every district except Chicago. Senate Bill 1 adds Chicago into the equation for the first time ever in the interest of fairness under the evidence-based model. But it also eliminates the Chicago block grant, which gives CPS a prioritized, guaranteed level of funding from certain grant programs regardless of need. No more special deals.

Senate Bill 1 is good for every school district in Illinois. In fact, 268 school districts would gain more per-pupil funding than Chicago schools. But Rauner doesn't call it the "Kewanee kickback" or the "Waukegan windfall"—both of which, deservedly so, receive a greater proportional share of dollars than Chicago under the plan.

By promising a veto and leading a statewide misinformation campaign, Rauner is greenlighting a broken system that even students know is wrong because it sorts them into winners and losers from Day 1 based on ZIP codes.

Jack Curtin and students in communities throughout Illinois deserve a better system than the one we have forced upon them for decades. Our future depends on it.

— State Senator Andy Manar is a Democrat from Bunker Hill and the sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

Category: School Funding Reform

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