Republicans say Chicago schools receive more funds than others

By Alyssa Donovan

April 1, 2013 Updated Apr 1, 2013 at 10:12 PM CDT

Republicans are taking issue with comments made by a top Illinois Democrat.
It's all about whether downstate schools should pay more for teacher pensions in a pension reform package.
The GOP says their examination of the state school funding system reveals a large different between Chicago school districts and those downstate....and not in favor of downstate.

St. Sen. Jason Barickman, (R) 53rd District said, “There’s been recent comments during the discussion on pension reform that supposedly some downstate schools were receiving a free lunch."

In fact, that's exactly what House Speaker Mike Madigan said, “My position on pension reform is that we have to terminate the free lunches for local school districts.”

But, GOP State Senator Jason Barickman says a recent examination of the state's school funding system shows the exact opposite to be true.

Downstate and suburban school districts, he says, are receiving significantly less funding than school districts in Chicago.

Chicago Public schools enroll about 18% of Illinois' public school children and receive almost 800-million dollars in state contributions.

The other 82% of students attend downstate and suburban school districts, but receive just 100 million dollars.

Barickman said, “We want to make sure all of our students around the state have an equal opportunity to access those state dollars and that we're not creating a disparity simply because of where you grow up or where you go to school."

Several areas of funding including Property Tax Extension Limitation Law Adjustments, Poverty grants and Foundation Level grants that are steering extra dollars to the Chicago Public School system.

State Senator Bill Brady says school funds are currently being distributed with outdated formulas... including one that dates back to the 1970's.

He says that this is something that will take some time.

Brady said, "The key here is to bring transparency to the budgetary process that has not been there and begin along the path to equalizing throughout all of Illinois so that every child through Illinois will be treated equally."

Senate Republicans say it is not their intention to create a regional war with the city of Chicago, they just want balanced funding.

The General Assembly returns to session to work on Pension reform and the budget on April 8th.

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