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Republicans Criticize "Rushed" School Funding Overhaul

State of Illinois

A proposal to overhaul the way Illinois schools get state funding is advancing in the state Senate. Republicans say the plan is being rushed through the General Assembly, and they are worried that Chicago schools will get an even bigger share of the money than they do now.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, has made it his mission to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The freshman senator says it's long overdue because there's been no change in 17 years.

He says his proposal for a new school funding formula will distribute state money based primarily on need. That means wealthier schools would receive less money from the state.

Despite early involvement, Republicans say they're being blocked from final decisions, and the legislation gives too much money to Chicago schools. Manar, however, says Republicans will have a chance to suggest changes later on.

"We had 45 hours of committee hearings. The issue's been around for generations,” he said. “But the answer is yes. I'm open to amendments, I'm open to constructive changes on policy, I'm not open to political calculus."

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, says he’s disappointed a Senate hearing was cut short right before lawmakers went home for spring break.

"If there's a shifting of resources that moves money -- more to CPS -- and aggravates that disproportionate share,” Righter said, “the school districts in my district are going to be asking, 'Whose hide is that money coming out of? Is it ours?'"

Despite Republican efforts to hold up a vote, Manar's proposal won committee approval. He's promising
not to call it for a vote by the full Senate until lawmakers know how their local schools would be affected.

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