FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cut Property Taxes, Increase State Support
for Schools, Education Funding Board Says
The state’s Education Funding Advisory Board recommends
a substantial reduction in local property taxes, a sizable
increase in state support for schools and adding incentives
to encourage school consolidation.
EFAB members hammered out the recommendations in Springfield
Tuesday after more than two years of deliberations and extensive
discussions by work groups looking in-depth at problems with
the school funding system. The group will hold three public
hearings around the state to get comments and suggestions
before submitting the final report to the Governor and General
Assembly in January.
“The problems with school funding have been studied
since I began my education career in Illinois forty years
ago,” said Robert Leininger, EFAB chair and a former
State Superintendent of Education. “Every study has
shown we are too dependent on local property taxes and the
state is not paying its fair share in supporting our schools.
Illinois ranks near the bottom of all states in terms of the
percentage of school funding from the state.”
“We don’t need more studies to tell us the Illinois
school funding system needs fixed. These recommendations are
designed to provide the framework to fix the school funding
system. We want comments and suggestions, but we strongly
believe that it is time that all policymakers stand up for
the future of this state by acting to fix the way Illinois
funds its schools.”
PROPERTY TAX RELIEF OF SEVERAL BILLION DOLLARS
EFAB proposes that local property taxes for education be
cut by 25 to 50 % and replaced dollar-for-dollar by the state.
Illinois property owners pay about $9 billion in property
taxes for education, so property tax relief would be between
$2.25 billion to $4.5 billion. No school would lose money
or access to property tax support under the EFAB plan, since
the state would replace the decreased property taxes dollar-for-dollar.
INCREASED STATE SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS
EFAB recommends that General State Aid be increased to support
a Foundation Level within the range of $5,665 to $6,680 per
pupil – an increase from the present level of $4,560.
The proposed level is based on studies of the spending practices
of successful and efficient school districts. A variety of
revenue replacement options were suggested by EFAB. Much could
be generated by raising the income tax rate, closing loopholes
and graduating exemptions. The sales tax rate could be reduced
while providing additional revenue by broadening the tax base.
In addition, the recommendations call for the elimination
of hold harmless and reinstatement of the continuing appropriation
to assure districts of funding stability. A Department of
Human Services poverty count would be used for calculating
poverty grants for districts, rather than the ten-year census
The combination of property tax relief and state revenue
increases assures that the state will provide the majority
of funding for elementary and secondary education.
SCHOOL DISTRICT REORGANIZATION
Unit districts are the preferred school district organizational
structure with high schools enrolling a minimum of 250 students,
according to EFAB. Rather than requiring schools to consolidate,
EFAB recommends a reasonable approach by expanding the incentives
for reaching these targets. Presently, the state has 893 school
districts, 407 of which are units while 103 are high school
districts and 383 are elementary districts. Having all unit
districts would simplify the funding mechanism, increase equity
among districts and provide efficiencies in the delivery of
To accomplish this reorganization, EFAB proposes that the
current incentives be continued and additional incentives
be added and that feasibility studies be required in all districts.
If consolidation resulted in the need for a new building,
EFAB proposes that the state fund 100 % of the cost of the
building. In addition, a state implementation grant should
accompany the reorganization and the new district should get
a five-year exemption from the state designation system.
While many categorical programs remain unchanged, the recommendations
provide for a new transportation formula and a study to combine
special education funding sources. Combining some existing
programs into block grants would increase the flexibility
for local school districts while reducing the paperwork necessary
to receive state funds.
Other recommendations include a simplification and reorganization
of school district accounting and reporting procedures through
a reduction in the number of levies and accounting funds.