Illinois Ranks Near Bottom in Fair Distribution of Education Funds New National Study Finds

Oct 12, 2010, 20:05 ET from Business and Professional People for the Public Interest

National report card on school funding fairness finds Illinois one of four states ranking poorly on all measures

CHICAGO, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A national report card on education funding released today gives Illinois an "F" in an evaluation of the fairness of its funding distribution between low- and high-poverty school districts. The report ranks Illinois third from last on this measure with updated data showing that the state has now slipped even lower to second from last in funding distribution fairness. Illinois also scored low marks on the study's other measures.

"Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card," a national study conducted by Rutgers University researchers and the Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., ranks states and the District of Columbia on how fairly they fund public schools based on four interrelated "fairness indicators"—funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort and public school coverage.  

The study reports these findings for Illinois:

  • Illinois received a grade "F" in funding fairness, one of only three states to receive this failing grade. The most recent data indicate that Illinois now has the second highest disparity of funding between high-poverty and low-poverty schools nationally.
  • Illinois is one of only four states that fall below average on all four measures evaluated,  placing it among "low-effort, regressive states... and ranking below average in terms of the overall level of funding provided and coverage."  Illinois shares this ranking with Louisiana, Missouri and North Carolina.
    • A state is considered "regressive" if a 30-percent-poverty district receives at least five percent less funding than a zero-percent-poverty district.  In Illinois—one of only six states with a statistically significant "regressive" funding structure—districts with 30-percent poverty can expect to receive 21 percent less than a district with zero percent poverty.  
  • Illinois scored a "D" in "effort"—a measure based on the ratio of state spending on education to per capita gross domestic product.

In response to the National Report Card's assessment of Illinois, Hoy McConnell, executive director of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), said, "Illinois' shameful ranking on this national survey is not a surprise, but it does serve to demonstrate unequivocally that our flawed system for funding public schools is deeply inequitable compared to the rest of the country. Illinois' system is unfair to everyone in the state—taxpayers, school districts, businesses and—most importantly—Illinois schoolchildren and their families, who are not getting a fair break under the present system."  

BPI, a Chicago-based public interest law and policy center, filed a lawsuit earlier this year on behalf of two Illinois taxpayer plaintiffs. This legal action challenges the constitutionality of Illinois' school funding system, alleging that the state's policy effectively forces residents in economically struggling communities to pay higher property tax rates for local schools than those in similarly valued homes in more affluent towns. The lawsuit is being heard in the Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield.

Co-authors of the National Report Card are Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University Graduate School of Education; David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center (ELC); and Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC research director. The Education Law Center advocates on behalf of public school children for access to an equal and adequate education under state and federal laws.

For full report, executive summary, and 2008 update, see

About BPI

Founded in 1969, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest is a public interest law and policy center that seeks out and addresses some of the Chicago region's most significant social justice challenges. Currently BPI works to increase and preserve affordable housing, transform public housing, improve Chicago's public schools, and promote open and honest government in Illinois. Website:

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