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In 'Historic' Compromise, Illinois Lawmakers Pass School Funding Formula

After years of political wrangling that divided the state both politically and regionally, Illinois' Senate Tuesday gave the green light to a new school funding formula, that provides poor and rural districts with more money and expands tax credit scholarships. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said he will soon sign it into law.  

Illinois was one of the last states in the country that had a funding formula that relied mostly on property taxes, an antiquated and legally questionable way of basing school funding. The process, critics and several state supreme court justices across the country have argued, leaves property-poor districts, and those, presumably, with a disproportionate number of poor students, with significantly less money to go around. 

The funding formula passed Tuesday pitches in $350 million more from the state annually to shore up property-poor districts with extra money. The state's rural, suburban, and Chicago districts have been at odds for years over how to redesign the funding formula, which both Republicans and Democrats said was flawed. 

This year, the state passed a budget with a clause that said any school aid would have to be distributed through a "research-based" funding formula.  Over the last several weeks, the House, Senate, and governor have been at a standoff over two key portions of the funding formula: how much money the state would provide Chicago Public Schools to pay down its ballooning teacher pension costs, and whether the funding formula would allow for tax-credit scholarships.  

The compromise provides for both. 

Democratic Sen. Andy Manar, who has for years pushed for a new funding formula called the compromise "historic." 

"There will not be another generation of students that are subjected to inequity—the worst in the country—after this bill becomes law," he said. "That's something worth saying today."  

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