By Bob Balgemann


State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, has been named to a bipartisan legislative commission, which is studying possible changes to the school funding formula.

For the two Boone County school districts, that could mean more money with which to educate local students.

The commission, formed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, is to have recommendations for the General Assembly by February 2017. The goal is to have revisions adopted during the legislative session that follows.

Rep. Pritchard is one of five Republicans who House GOP Leader Jim Durkin named to the commission.

Adequacy and equity are the primary fiscal points for the 25-member commission, which is meeting every two weeks, and the need for a new school funding formula that improved adequacy and equity has been talked about for at least a decade.

In fact, Pritchard, who represents a small part of Boone County, was on the last committee to explore that subject about five years ago. While nothing concrete was advanced, that was then and this is now.

“There is reason to believe that the momentum has finally reached the point where the General Assembly will soon take action,” he said.

As the 2016 session came to a close in May, there was a flurry of activity surrounding the issue. Several bills changing the formula were introduced and debated in the Senate.

“I voiced strong concerns about the bills that did not address the issue of adequate funding for all schools, while just taking money from some districts, and redirecting it to others,” he said.

Gov. Rauner’s study commission was a result of that high level of interest, and he announced its creation on July 12.

“The commission finally brings members from both parties and both chambers (House and Senate) together to debate the proposed solutions and consider how other states fund education,” Pritchard said.

Currently, Illinios ranks last among the 50 states in the amount of school funding that comes from the state. The legislator said the Boone County school districts are among those that get less state support. District 100 is receiving $27.7 million this year with District 200 getting about $6 million.

The commission is meeting every two weeks. Its progress may be followed by going to www.isbe.net, clicking on committees and commissions, and then school funding commission.

In addition, the meetings may be followed live on the internet, in an effort to make the study process as transparent as possible.

“We [the commission] will not only consider the cost of an adequate education and how to increase the share of funding from the state, but how to incorporate property tax relief,” Rep. Pritchard said.

Right now, some school districts with business, industry, and expenses houses spend $30,000 per student, per year, on their education.

“They pay their teachers more so students have more advantages,” he said.

Contrast that with other districts that spend $6,000 a year, per student. Districts 100 and 200 are at “the low end” of that ladder.

However, he believes the per-student support in such districts will increase to $12,000 through upcoming changes in the funding formula.

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