Educators, legislators push for education

McCombie visits Silvis, superintendents speak

SILVIS, Ill. - Superintendents and Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) spoke out about the funding issues in Illinois public schools on Thursday morning.

Funding Illinois' Future hosted the discussion as part of the "Fix the Formula" movement. The goal was to inform the public about the problem and make a call to action. McCombie spoke, as well as superintendents from regions and districts all over the area. 

"I believe that we all know that things are going to move when legislative leaders and the governor all get together and and decide that they want to play nice in the sandbox," said superintendent of Galesburg Community School District Ralph Grimm. "But we need to apply some pressure. We need to make that happen."

The 20-year-old funding system in Illinois is ranked as one of the worst in the nation. For every dollar the average student in Illinois receives for funding, a low-income student only receives $0.81.

"You have our commitment that we are not just politicians, we are not just campaigning, we want to put education first and we will put education first, and that includes the funding," said Representative McCombie. "I think that's important. Everybody runs on that but nobody does anything. "

There are currently two bills that have been introduced. One bill introduced in the Senate has pending amendments, and has not had an opportunity to go up for vote yet. Another bill has passed through the House Education Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support. 
Both would fix the inequitable funding by following the Evidence Based Model (EBM). The EBM established what each school district would need to reach adequate education for each student and distributes new state dollars. It would also drive money to the neediest districts first. 
"I do believe it's going to come to a vote this time," said McCombie. "It's been talked about for so long and the stories that I'm hearing in the House is that we are going to take some action."
Representative McCombie did say that the comptroller will be paying schools their categorical payments for the fist quarter. 
"Is it what you need? No," said McCombie. "But it's a start."
Superintendents from all over the area were in attendance and spoke. East Moline Superintendent Kristin Humphries was one. Humphries just cut over a dozen teachers for next school year due to funding issues. Grimm was another. Grimm says his school district has lost $3.2 million in the last two year. 

"We're going to have to break down and not just look at our district. We've got to have breakdown and say our legislative boundaries do not matter. We have to be willing to look at our party lines and say we're willing to go past that," said Regional Superintendent of Henderson-Mercer-Warren and Knox School District. "Right now, we need to be citizens of the state of Illinois. We need to look at all of our children, and if we can do that these decisions can be made and we can move forward in a fair way." 

The goal of the tour the administrators and legislators are taking across the state is to educate people on the issue, explain the EBM, and give resources for action. All want to see something done before education in Illinois suffers more than it already has. 

"Politics have nothing to do with it," said McCombie. "And they need to get out of our towns, they need to get out of our businesses and they especially need to get out of our schools."

"We've got to do this, our kids need us," said Grimm.  "Now's the time. Let's get it done."

The tour has stopped in seven cities the past four days, including the one in Silvis Thursday morning and one in Chicago Thursday night. You can find more information on their website. There are also tips on how to contact your local legislator.

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