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Monday, May 23, 2016 04:16 pm

School funding reformers want local sponsorship

The Faith Coalition for the Common Good urges local state representative support

For parents like Shatriya Smith of Springfield, equitable school funding for K-12 students is a must. As a result of budget cuts and a school funding formula many call unfair, Smith’s daughter will have to repeat the sixth grade.

“This has been a difficult year,” Smith said. “Last year, my daughter was doing great in school. She knew the teachers and she knew that they would be willing to help her, especially while having an individualized educational plan for continuous support.”

After Smith’s daughter entered the sixth grade, the school changed, and so did the level of support offered to her daughter.

Smith said that she has helped her daughter at home with school assignments and has been involved with helping her daughter to attain the support she needs to be successful.

“I just want the school to match my effort,” Smith said.

On May 23, the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, advocates of state Sen. Andy Manar’s education bill, gathered across from Grant Middle School in Springfield, urging Rep. Sarah Wojcicki Jimenez and Rep. Tim Butler, both Republicans from Springfield, to sign on to the K-12 equitable funding bill sponsored by Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill. Both Wojcicki Jimenez and Butler were invited to the Faith Coalition press conference, but were not in attendance.

Rep. Wojcicki Jimenez reached out to Illinois Times later on saying that Springfield District 186 is the only district under her jurisdiction that would gain from Manar's bill.

"In regards to SB231, the majority of school districts that I represent in the 99th district will lose funding in the upcoming school year," Jimenez said. "The superintendents that have reached out to me are not in favor of this particular bill, but I am committed to working with them and legislators in the General Assembly to help come up with solutions to best help the children in our schools."

Smith explains that schools don’t have enough resources to give students the attention they need to succeed in the future.

“I think that the funding formula that we have in our schools does not make entrepreneurs; it makes a workforce for low-income people,” said Smith.

Crystal Weitekamp, Springfield Education Association president, said that budget cuts have contributed to an increase in classroom sizes and limited resources available to teachers.

“Every year teachers are told to do more with less,” WeiteKamp said. “We have three year olds that come to school significantly behind, and as students get older, that gap only increases.”

“Many of our children are coming to school with significant academic and behavior needs,” Weitekamp continued.

“Every student in this state is important,” said Susan Eby, co-chair of the education taskforce for the Faith Coalition for the Common Good.  “Senate Bill 231 is a statewide solution to a statewide problem.”

Contact Brittany Hilderbrand at intern@illinoistimes.com.

Illinois State Board of Education’s funding projections by district for Manar’s SB231 as of 5/13/16: http://www.isbe.net/budget/excel/fy15-sb231-sam1-3-full-model.xlsx

Illinois State Board of Education’s funding projections by district for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education funding plan without proration: http://www.isbe.net/funding/html/gsa.htm#fy17

Updated with Rep. Sarah Wojciki Jimenez comments 5-25-16.

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