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Change school funding method? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Change school funding method?
Oswego School District officials huddle in Springfield with local state reps

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Several Oswego School District officials met with local state lawmakers in Springfield last week to discuss the amount of General State Aid (GSA) the school district receives from the state.

For the past three years, the state has funded school districts at 88.7 percent of the GSA foundation level established by the General Assembly.

The reduced state funding has short-changed the Oswego School District by more than $11 million according at Dr. Paul O'Malley, associate superintendent.

Greg O'Neil, a school district board member arranged the meeting with the lawmakers. O'Neil said he, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt, several school district union representatives and officials from the Plainfield School District met for breakfast with four senators and two representatives that serve portions of the 70 square mile school district.

The senators were Linda Holmes, D-Aurora; Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove; Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood; and Sue Rezin, R-Morris. Representatives were Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego; and Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville.

"We gave a presentation on a modified funding formula that we feel would not only benefit the low-income districts but also the high growth, low EAV districts such as Oswego," O'Neil said, referring to how the state gives GSA to school districts throughout the state.

He noted that the present formula favors districts that have a large amount of business or commercial property such as Naperville which has larger amounts of tax-generating property along the I-88 Tollway corridor.

Districts such as Oswego and Plainfield have large student enrollments but a minimum of such commercial and industrial property to help pay to educate their students, he noted.

O'Neil said the revenue should be distributed more evenly to all districts across the state rather than the ones with the revenue-generating development getting all of it.

His proposed formula would reduce the amount going to the wealthier districts and give it to the ones with higher enrollments and less revenue-generating property.

O'Neil said most of the senators agreed with this assessment, but said they noted how "...difficult things are in Springfield, so we should not expect too much."

That afternoon, the group met with Sen. Andy Manar, D-Staunton, a member of the Illinois Senate Committee on Education Funding Reform.

O'Neil said he asked to meet with Manar because the state committee has said it is open to suggestions that would modify the formula to provide a fairer and more equitable way of distributing GSA.

O'Neil said Manar has been working to resolve the funding inequities in Illinois' current school funding formula.

"They are working on a new funding formula for the first time in 15 years.

"It would be based on free and reduced lunches and would do nothing for districts with high growth such as Oswego. But, if the legislation were passed today, Oswego would be a (financial) loser. We would not be a huge loser, but still a loser," he said.

He told fellow board members the district needs to establish a committee to work on legislative issues such as this so they can monitor and communicate with the legislators in Springfield.

He said there are other school districts in the collar counties around Chicago that are in the same situation as Oswego. The district would establish a committee he would like to see it hold regular meetings with officials from the other affected area districts.

"They are voting districts, too, and this would allow us to leverage our strength with larger numbers," he said.

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