NEPC Review: Understanding Illinois’ Broken Education Funding System: A Primer (Illinois Policy Center, October 2013)
An October Illinois Policy Institute report argues that Illinois’ education finance system is fundamentally flawed because it systematically favors a few specific areas within the state—namely Cook and the Collar Counties. It contends that state funding is inequitable because the formula for state aid uses capped property values in these counties and allows for exclusion of property wealth growth in certain areas. The report also points to the state’s current method for allocating poverty grant aid, which tends to flow to the same set of districts. Based on these critiques, the report concludes that the Illinois education finance system should be turned over to parents, but it never explains what this means. In the end, the report does not present any convincing evidence that the current distribution of state aid is inequitable by any standard. It also does not present any evidence that parents would do a better job of allocating resources for student success, any evidence that student performance is harmed by the current finance system, or a clear policy prescription to “fix” the problem. Thus, the report’s usefulness for evaluating the current education finance system in Illinois is limited.