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School funding reform fails again : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
School funding reform fails again

Yet another attempt to reform the way Illinois funds its public schools failed this past week in Springfield.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, was chief sponsor of a bill that would have brought more equity to the manner in which state funds are divvied up among school districts. The bill passed in the Senate, but then went nowhere in the House.

Manar's bill was the latest in a continuing series of unsuccessful legislative attempts to significantly change the way the state pays for public schools dating back to at least three decades. (We well remember covering meetings on the need for state school funding reform at the Oswego School District Administration Center at East View Elementary School back in the 1980s.)

When it comes to funding public schools, the state constitution could not be more clear: under Article X, Section 1 it reads: "The state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education." Of course, the General Assembly has never accepted that responsibility for state government. Instead, state financial support for local public school systems has hovered far below the 51 percent minimum share for decades. That means property taxpayers are left to pay the predominant share of the cost of their local school systems. The General Assembly's failure to enact significant funding reform legislation is reflected on Kendall County property tax bills, which now consistently show up in national rankings as among the very highest in the nation.

We're not of the belief that school funding reform is impossible in Illinois, just that the many and varied competing interests involved in the issue continue to stand as virtually intractable obstacles to any kind of reasonable solution.

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