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Lawmakers Push To Reform Ed Funding

Democratic Sen.Andy Manar has been leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers for the last several months. Their goal has been to find ways to reduce the inequities in the current school funding formula for state aid.

That group has filed their final report, with their recommendations to guide legislation to rewrite the formula and make it more fair.

"That's our goal," said Manar, "we're trying to create a distribution system that addresses the inequities in the state, which have never been worse than they are today."

A major focus of the committee's report is to tie 96 percent of the state's school grants to a formula that distributes them by need, much more than under the current system.

"Today, less than half," said Manar, "less than half of the money we appropriate ever has need attached to it."

Manar said the idea is worth supporting because it's a more fair formula.
But Williamsville Superintendent Dave Root is more worried about how much money goes into the formula itself.

"We're at funding levels where they recommend at over $8600 per student," said Root, "we were at funding levels 5 years ago of $6100 per student, they pro-rated that to $5700 per student."

There's no guarantee they'll even get that much next year.

"The state comes to us and they don't even tell us what we're going to get next year," said Root, "I've asked several times, where's the bottom, when's this funding problem going to stop, every year after year we're getting less and less money."

Root is also worried about what this means for schools around the state.

"We're last," said Root, "we just passed Nevada as the lowest funded state.there's a lot bigger problems than just our formula."

But this doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate the work that's being done on the formula.

"If the total dollar problem isn't going to get fixed, at least they're trying to make it equitable," said Root, "so if you're not going to have the money there, at least you're going to try to give it to the people that need it the most, but until they figure out how to not be so property tax reliant, and other ways to fund schools, this problem is going to continue to fester."

The committee's report gave several recommendations for the new legislation, including eliminating the PTELL grant and Chicago's block grant.

It also suggests giving schools at least their current funding level for 3-5 years, so the districts have time to adapt to changes.

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You can read the full report by clicking here.