School Funding Reform Needed to Ensure the Future Success of Our Students
Centralia High School Superintendent Chuck Lane Weighs in On His Opinion
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By Centralia High School Superintendent Chuck Lane

Centralia High School joins school districts across the state in commending the hard work of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, but the time is now for legislators to introduce and swiftly pass bipartisan legislation that ends the chronic underfunding of schools.

In the past seven years, we have drained our reserve balances and left fulltime teaching positions unfilled because of underfunding from the state. That means larger class sizes: up to 30 students in core subjects like English, math and science. While we are still doing our best for students, we’re missing opportunities to provide the highest-quality education.

We have delayed implementing new technology for our classrooms, basic equipment like laptops, that are taken for granted in wealthier schools throughout the state. As a result, students are potentially missing out on the technology and classroom experiences they will need to earn a college or vocational degree.

While the state fully funded our General State Aid this year, it has lagged in paying us for transportation and other mandated categoricals. The money the state reimburses us for educating wards of the state from One Hope United is seven months behind. That figure continues to rise each month and is now approaching $1,000,000. Because of underfunding, we have drained our reserves and taken out a line of credit, knowing that we will never receive any interest payments from the state in return.

Local funding is not the solution either, as local property value—and local property taxes—have remained flat or decreased the last couple of years. The people of our community have done their part by faithfully paying their property taxes to help fund our schools. It’s a travesty that this is the only funding we can count on.

All of these problems are magnified by Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula, which provides 81 cents for a low-income student for every dollar spent on a non-low-income student. This is of particular concern to CHS, as we are a district where over 60% of our students need reduced-price and free lunch.

Any new money from the state formula should take into account local factors—like local property taxes and the distinct needs of students—and provide the dollars to the districts that need it most. Through the proration of state aid, Illinois artificially punishes those districts who rely the most on assistance.

Our mission as a school district is to prepare our young people so they can achieve their dreams, whether earning a college degree or a vocational certification. However, the way the state funds education makes our mission much harder than it needs to be. Through its inaction, Illinois exacerbates the problem of inequitable funding across our state.

Simply put, the amount of money the state of Illinois spends on a student should not be determined by a zip code. Our students and taxpayers deserve better.

Chuck Lane
Superintendent
Centralia High School District 200
Member Funding Illinois’ Future Coalition

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