Where Illinois School Districts Get Their Funding: Local, State and National Money

When Illinois lawmakers get back to work in January, they'll have a lot of decisions to make on the state budget and minimum wage laws. They'll also be faced with the question of whether or not and how to restructure school funding in Illinois. Schools throughout the state currently receive their operational and instructional costs from three sources: Local property tax revenue, state funding and federal education money.

State Sen. Andy Manar introduced Senate Bill 16 in an effort to distribute school funds more evenly across the state. The bill proposes that a portion of the revenue from wealthier districts is distributed to poorer districts to make students' education statewide more equal. The passed the Illinois Senate in May but did not get a vote in the House. It's expected to be re-introduced when the new, 99th General Assembly convenes in January.

In Illinois, much local education funding comes from property taxes within the district. Areas with higher property values pay higher property taxes, meaning more money is then funneled into the schools in the area. SB 16 would devise a formula to move some money from the wealthier districts to less-affluent schools.

State education funding in Illinois is determined through two different grants given to the districts. The Illinois State Board of Education says that the first grant is a basic action designed to make sure each district has enough money to meet state per-pupil spending guidelines.

From the ISBE:

No district receives the full Foundation Level per pupil -instead they receive an amount that, when combined with local resources per pupil, achieves the Foundation Level.

This is what the ISBE says about the second grant, which is intended to assist low-income students in a given district:

The second grant is the supplemental GSA grant for low-income students. This grant, which is not equalized, is based on the proportion of low-income students in a district. The amount paid through this grant increases as the proportion of low-income students in a district increases.

The formula used means that the more low-income students in a district, the more money per student the state gives that district. In 2014, the Illinois government received $1.93 billion in these General State Aid poverty claims in 2014, up nearly 9 percent from 2013. Districts must meet public health, student attendance and curricular requirements to receive this money.

In fiscal year 2014, the Illinois state government spent $9.8 billion on education. Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has said he would like to increase the state's education budget through increased efficiency in other areas.

Even though the U.S. Constitution says that public education financial regulations and funding are to be managed at the state level, schools still receive federal money. The U.S. Department of Education says this is because "[t]here is also a compelling national interest in the quality of the nation's public schools." Congress has therefore set aside legislative mechanisms to give extra support beyond state help, such as Title I and Reading First.

The U.S. federal government spent about $141 billion, or 4 percent of the entire budget, on education in the 2014 fiscal year, says the New America Foundation. Some of this money is sent straight to the individual districts and some is sent to the state and then distributed to districts. States can decide whether or not to accept this grant money.

The New America Foundation presented this chart of the Department of Education's 2014 allocations:


Advance Illinois says Illinois public schools have lost $1.4 billion since 2010 due to funding cuts, a fact the organization blames partly on the state's overall economic crisis. By Illinois state law, each school must spend at least $6,000 per year on every student. Many schools were unable to meet that requirement in 2013 because only 89 percent of required state funds were disbursed.

From Advance Illinois:

The budget cut most hurts disadvantaged districts. The 20 percent of students enrolled in the poorest school districts are losing $160 million in general state education funds due to proration this year, while the 20 percent of students in school districts with the fewest poor students are losing $30 million.

But before Illinoisans can figure out what the best reform plan is, we've got to understand what's happening currently. On average, Illinois schools get most of their funding from local sources-66 percent. State funding makes up 26.1 percent of Illinois districts' money and 7.9 percent of their money comes from federal money. There are a total of 2,072,991 students enrolled in Illinois' public schools in, according to Megan Griffin at the ISBE, 864 Category 2 public school districts.


Here are graphs from the ISBE outlining where one of the biggest, one of the smallest and a middle-sized district received their funding for the 2013-2014 school year:

CUSD 300


Enrollment: 20,888

2014 budget: $220 million

Local funding: $172.2 million

State funding: $29.5 million

Federal funding: $14.3 million

West Central CUSD 235


Enrollment: 934

2014 budget: $7.7 million

Local funding: $3.6 million

State funding: $3.5 million

Federal funding: $523,600

Farrington CCSD 99


Enrollment: 64

2014 budget: $540,000

Local funding: $122,040

State funding: $326,160

Federal funding: $91,800

Check out 27 other districts' funding percentages at Reboot Illinois to compare where large and small districts get most of their money.

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