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School funding

Students Lucas May and Torie Johnson-Pratt work on a stock purchase report for their Rollin’ in the Dough project at Dennis School in February.

SPRINGFIELD — Central Illinois school officials are relieved to see bipartisan support of a new state budget that includes $350 million in additional funding for Illinois public schools — and they are hopeful that increased funding will continue.

Illinois lawmakers sent the $38.5 billion budget to Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday. The additional money for public school districts is in line with the evidence-based school funding formula approved last year in Springfield.

That model distributes state funding based on the individual needs of each district, weighing student success, classroom size, enrollment numbers and percentage of low-income students.

The Decatur School District estimates it will receive an additional $2 million in state funding, bringing it to about 63.5 percent of its adequacy target. Using the evidence-based model criteria, the Illinois State Board of Education set the district’s base funding minimum at $47.5 million. 

Todd Covault, Decatur's chief operational officer, said in April when the new formula amounts were announced that the district adopted an operational budget with a $524,423 deficit that included all the new money.

Charleston school district Superintendent Todd Vilardo said the amount allocated will depend heavily on enrollment in special education and other needs categories.

"It's all preliminary," Vilardo said. "I don't think any school district is going to be able to tell you what they're going to get."

Vilardo said that, despite the education funding increase in the proposed budget, the total is still $50 million less than the Illinois State Board of Education requested.

At District 87 in Bloomington, Superintendent Barry Reilly estimates the district will receive an additional $180,000 in state funding — the same increase the district saw last fiscal year.

He said the additional funding will be used to nurse the district deficit. 

“I was pleased to see additional dollars going to public education. Of course, we’d love to see more, but we’re seeing progress and that’s a good thing,” said Reilly.

The aim of the new funding formula is to fully fund all Illinois districts, starting with those with the biggest financial need. The model ensures districts will receive the same funding, or more, than the previous year.

“We’re at 77 or 78 percent of adequate funding. As they continue to pump additional dollars into state funding, that will help to narrow things and get us closer to the 100 percent mark,” said Reilly, adding that reaching fully adequate funding will take years to achieve.

Dave Fopay of the Charleston Times-Courier and Valerie Wells of the Herald & Review contributed to this report.

Contact Julia Evelsizer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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