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Legislature approved school funding overhaul one year ago

BRIGHTON – Smaller class sizes, more support for at-risk students and 425 new laptop computers for students to use at school and at home are some of the positive changes that have taken place in the Southwestern School District because of the state’s new school funding formula.

State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and the driving force behind last year’s passage of a new school funding formula, on Thursday toured three schools in Southwestern Community Unit School District 9.

It was the first in a series of school visits that Manar plans to make in the coming weeks to learn about changes school districts are making to benefit students and teachers as a result of more equitable state funding.

“The changes we’re hearing about in school districts like Southwestern are the result of the stability and certainty that the new school funding formula is offering to communities where schools have been underfunded for years,” Manar said. “We haven’t seen this level of change in downstate schools in decades. The energy and excitement I saw in classrooms Thursday is contagious and a welcome sight.”

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Accompanied by District 9 Superintendent Brad Skertich, Manar toured Brighton North Primary School, Southwestern High School in Piasa and Medora Intermediate School.

District 9 received an additional $129,432 under the new formula for the academic year that is getting under way. Added to last year’s additional funding, the new formula has resulted in more than $417,600 in additional money for Southwestern public schools in its first two years on the books.

Among the changes that have occurred in the district that are the result of school funding reform:

  • Brighton North has added a first-grade classroom – going from three sections to four – enabling it to offer first-graders smaller class sizes and more individual attention.
  • Two teacher aides have been added in grades K-6 to work with math students who need additional help.
  • 425 laptop computers were purchased so the district could roll out a 1:1 program to students in grades 5/6 and 9/10.
  • An in-school suspension room was added for older grades to help keep at-risk students in school.
  • A part-time counselor was hired to assist high school and middle school students. The counselor is shared with Staunton schools.
  • Five instructional coaches were added throughout the district to offer professional development for teachers who wish to learn new or better ways to incorporate technology into their teaching.
  • Expanded the assistant technology department from a part-time employee to a full-time employee to help support the students who are part of the 1:1 initiative.
  • Established a fifth- and sixth-grade STEM lab, allowing students and teachers to incorporate more science, technology and math into learning and projects.
  • Established a new high school Spanish curriculum.

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In addition, Southwestern High School was able to remodel its kitchen facility for the first time in the history of the school – built in 1956 – because the additional money being pumped into the district through the new formula enabled officials to free up other money for the remodeling project.

“The evidence-based funding formula has brought additional resources to the Southwestern School District that have been needed for nearly a decade,” said Skertich, who has been superintendent at Southwestern for nine years.

“The new resources have allowed the district to not only maintain, but expand the classes and programs offered to meet the individual needs of our students. In addition, we are excited to be transitioning to student-centered learning environment.”

“On behalf of the Southwestern School District, thank you, Senator Manar, for your tireless efforts to reform the school funding formula,” Skertich added.

The Illinois General Assembly approved the new school funding formula, known as the evidence-based model, on Aug. 29, 2017. It was signed into law Aug. 31, 2017.

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Manar complimented Skertich for being a steadfast champion for school funding reform at the state capitol and elsewhere in Illinois.

“We were able to overhaul the school funding formula because of Brad’s determination and that of other downstate superintendents who knew there had to be a better way,” Manar said. “The transformation taking place in Southwestern schools is a direct result of his hard work and his advocacy.”

Category: School Funding Reform

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STAUNTON – State Senators Andy Manar and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant visited students and staff at Staunton Community Unit School District 6 last week.

Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is chairman of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, a member of the Senate Education Committee and represents Staunton in the Senate.

Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) is the new chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. Her visit to Staunton May 7 was part of her statewide “Chalk Talk” tour of schools.

Manar and Bertino-Tarrant met with members of the District Improvement Team to discuss the teacher shortage faced by many schools in the area. The senators have sponsored measures to make college more affordable for new teachers, streamline the teacher licensure process and make it easier for retired teachers to fill in as substitutes.

“For far too long we have been using legislative Band-Aids as solutions to address the teacher shortage across Illinois. We need to get to the root of the problem to guarantee our children and teachers have the means to be successful,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Visits and discussions like these help me gain a better understanding of how decisions we make in Springfield impact children and educators throughout the state.”

Manar said he appreciates Bertino-Tarrant’s interest in visiting schools around the state.

“It’s important that the chair of the Senate Education Committee visits smaller towns and schools in Illinois. Having Senator Bertino-Tarrant here today is valuable because we live in a diverse state, and it’s important that schools in the 48th Senate District are heard in Springfield,” he said.

Manar and Bertino-Tarrant participated in a group discussion led by Staunton Superintendent Dan Cox to address the challenges facing Staunton schools, such as high class sizes, lack of social emotional supports for students and a lack of core interventions services.

“Senator Manar and Senator Bertino-Tarrant have long been champions for education,” Cox said. “By them taking the time to visit schools and listen to teachers in the field, it shows their commitment to working with us as partners to build great schools for our young people and our communities.”

Under the new school funding formula championed by Manar and Bertino-Tarrant last year, Staunton schools will receive an additional $400,000 in state funding.

“In my eighth year as superintendent of schools, this is the first time I have been able to have discussions about how to invest new resources into our schools instead of having discussions about which programs and services to cut,” Cox said.

Category: School Funding Reform

Christian County schools to receive $800K to bridge inequity

SPRINGFIELD – Pana public schools will receive nearly $428,000 in new money under Illinois’ education funding formula overhaul, an initiative driven largely by Senator Andy Manar of Bunker Hill.

The Illinois State Board of Education on Thursday issued vouchers to the state comptroller that clear the way for school districts around the state to begin receiving money under Illinois’ new evidence-based model of funding public schools.

The distribution – which is based on detailed enrollment figures, district-specific student learning needs, available local resources and other data – is the first step toward right-sizing state support for every school district. No schools will ever receive less state funding than they do today under the new plan.

“The data we have now reinforces what we already knew: that there is astonishing unfairness in how school districts around Illinois are funded,” Manar said.

“We have school districts with more than double the amount of resources it should take to educate their particular students, while other school districts have barely half of what they need. It’s been this way of years, and it’s going to come to an end.”

Two Christian County school districts – Pana CUSD 8 and South Fork CUSD 14 – were categorized as “Tier 1” schools, meaning they are among the most underfunded districts in the state. The other districts in the county were put in Tier 2 because they are considerably underfunded.

Manar credited the staff at the state board of education for their efforts working with school districts and lawmakers to pull together the necessary data and calculate the distribution amounts in April as promised. He called it a historic turning point for school districts, especially those in rural and downstate Illinois.

The distributions for Christian County are as follows:

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Category: School Funding Reform

New formula confirms Decatur schools significantly underfunded

SPRINGFIELD – Decatur public schools will receive more than $2.3 million in new money under Illinois’ school funding formula overhaul, an initiative driven largely by Senator Andy Manar of Bunker Hill.

The Illinois State Board of Education on Thursday issued vouchers to the state comptroller that clear the way for school districts around the state to begin receiving money under Illinois’ new evidence-based model of funding public schools.

The distribution – which is based on detailed enrollment figures, district-specific student learning needs, available local resources and other data – is the first step toward right-sizing state support for every school district. No schools will ever receive less state funding than they do today under the new plan.

“The data we have now reinforces what we already knew: that there is astonishing unfairness in how school districts around Illinois are funded,” Manar said.

“We have school districts with more than double the amount of resources it should take to educate their particular students, while other school districts have barely half of what they need. It’s been this way of years, and it’s going to come to an end.”

Decatur CUSD 61 was categorized as “Tier 1,” meaning it is among the least adequately funded school districts in the state.

Using the evidence-based model criteria, ISBE set the district’s base funding minimum at $47.5 million and determined it should receive an additional $2,310,791.40 in new money in the first year of the new formula.

To learn more about distribution figures ISBE released today for school districts throughout Macon County and statewide, visit isbe.net/ebf2018.

Manar credited the staff at the state board of education for their efforts working with school districts and lawmakers to pull together the necessary data and calculate the distribution amounts in April as promised. He called it a historic turning point for school districts.

Category: School Funding Reform

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