From the Superintendent
Dear Palos 118 Families,
This month’s column is dedicated to explaining the new school funding formula in Illinois. Warning – you may want to reach for the caffeine before I start my explanation. But before I put you to sleep, I want to remind families to get their tickets to this year’s White Sox Palos 118 Family Day on Sunday, May 20. Our Palos East and Palos West Choirs will have the privilege of singing the National Anthem if 500 tickets are sold for the event. As always, thank you for supporting our PFA. The activities and events they sponsor for our students is what truly makes Palos 118 a special place to learn and grow.
In recent weeks, you may have heard that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has started releasing $395 million in additional funding to local school districts through the new school funding formula, commonly referred to as EBF (Evidence-Based Funding). EBF calculates the cost to educate students in every school district in Illinois based on 34 research based factors. These calculations are estimates based on prototypical school districts. They are not based on what school districts are actually spending. Each school district in Illinois receives an individual cost estimate for educating students taking into consideration their own unique student demographics and regional cost differences. This cost estimate is called an “adequacy target.” According to EBF, Palos 118’s adequacy target is $22,891,939.
Once EBF calculates an adequacy target for every school district in Illinois, it determines the amount of revenue each school district can generate at the local level (property taxes) and adds to that number the average amount of state resources a school district received in the previous five years for general state aid, funding for special education, and English learners. This figure is called base minimum funding. According EBF, Palos 118 can generate $23,174,050 in local and base minimum state funding.
Did I lose you yet? I should have started my message by warning you that the new formula is just as confusing as the old formula. Hang in there. We are getting to the good part.
So, now that EBF has a cost estimate of what it believes we should be spending and the amount we can generate locally plus our base minimum funding, it divides the two figures to establish an “adequacy target.” For Palos 118, that’s $23,174,050/$22,891,939 = 101%. According to EBF, Palos 118 can pay for 100% of its estimated cost to educate its students and still have 1.0% left over.
We are almost there! Once each school district has an adequacy target, EBF sorts every school district into four buckets. Schools with the lowest adequacy target go in Bucket 1, second lowest into Bucket 2 and so on until all four buckets are full. Palos 118 is in Bucket 4. Finally, ISBE turns the spigot on to allow the $395 million in additional state funding to school districts. The dollars flow first to fill up Bucket 1. Once Bucket 1 is totally filled, it fills up Bucket 2. This ensures the neediest school districts get the lion’s share of new dollars first. Once Buckets 1 and 2 are full, what’s left drips out of the spigot into Bucket 3 and if there is anything left in the hose it trickles into Bucket 4. Next school year, that trickle equates to $1.49 per student in additional state funding for Palos 118.
Okay, no more formulas and figures. The point I’m trying to make is the new formula is complex and designed to allocate all new state dollars to the neediest school districts first before it distributes dollars to school districts like ours. Unless the state turns the spigot all the way open, which is extremely doubtful considering the state’s financial mess, the amount of money Palos 118’s receives from the state is essentially frozen at last year’s levels for the foreseeable future. With federal funding at a standstill, EBF actually makes school districts like Palos 118 even more reliant on local property taxes to operate. We promise we will continue to do our best to provide an outstanding education for our nearly 2,000 students with the generous support of our Palos 118 community in the absence of additional state and federal funding.