Fighting for School Funding
January 6, 2005 (WLS) -- Some community leaders are launching a new battle to fix what they believe is unfair funding of Illinois schools.
Community leaders, state lawmakers, parents and students are all leading the fight. They showed us schools with a shortage of text books, crumbling ceilings and run down bathrooms. It is proof they say that schools that need money the most are not getting it.
Students at Sullivan High School on Chicago's North Side aren't protesting new regulations or rules, they just want updated bathrooms and adequate school supplies.
"We need books, we need tutoring, we need more computers that work," said Juniel Dailey, Sullivan High.
"Kids are gonna be left behind if we don't have the work or the books or the materials that they need," said Jasmine Harris, Sullivan High.
Principal Andrew Rowlas echoes his students concerns.
"We do the best we can with what money we have," said Rowlas.
Rowlas showed ABC7 the lack of computers, run down bathrooms and the school's crumbling gym ceiling.
"We are hopefully one of the most progressive states in the union, but here we are not funding public schools the way they need to be funded," Rowlas said.
Reverend Jesse Jackson shares the same opinion, and he showed us another school in dire need of money, Harper High School on the city's South Side.
"This school has 200 students in band, 40 instruments and no uniforms. The school has a swimming pool that's not been open in 10 years. There's a choir without robes," said Jackson.
Reverend Jackson says Harper High also needs books, computers, ceiling repairs, and gym equipment.
"We have less computers, we have less books. We need several things," said Angelo Flukier, Harper student.
"It's enough books for us to take to class but not enough books for us to take home," said Roxanne Johnson, Harper student.
The Illinois school funding system is similar to most states, but it ranks 48th out of 50 states in total money spent on education. The majority of Illinois' funding comes from local property taxes, which benefits suburban areas that have higher property tax values. The rest of school funding, about one third, comes directly from the state itself.
But most of that money is based on each school's attendance record. Some of the schools most in need, like Harper High School, have some of the lowest attendance records.
"What I would say is, where those situations exist, it is a moral outrage," said Randy Dunn, Illinois state superintendent.
State superintendent Randy Dunn says over all Illinois ranks high among other states for the average amount of money spent per pupil, but he admits the problem lies in the wide gap.
In some of the richest areas of Illinois, schools spend about $14,000 a year on each student, while in the poorer areas it can be as low as $3,000 per student.
"This is something this state has been wrestling with for over a generation," said Dunn. "We will continue to work it. We will continue to look at how we might do it better."
Illinois state representatives Dr. David Miller and Will Davis want a better way. They created the Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition after seeing schools in their districts struggle for the basics.
"We have a school that has to make a choice of cutting its yearbook. So the public record of that school is gone," said David Miller State Representative, 29th District.
Miller proposed a bill that would incorporate sales tax, not just property taxes into school funding.
"Part of the problem is trying to get legislators into believing that yes, this is a real problem, and that we can really do something about it," said Miller.
That bill is not expected to go forward until the spring of 2007.
Governor Rod Blagojevich's budget office says in the last three years the governor has gotten an additional $2.3 billion for school funding and he hopes to get another $500 million under a new capital plan sometime this year.
Also, there is good news now at Harper High School. Improvements and repairs have already started because of all the attention from community leaders and the media.
- Amputee Coalition camp builds support for youth 36 min ago
- Schaumburg woman missing since October found
- Mega Millions winning numbers drawn for $297M
- Blackhawks championship ring offered in raffle
- Family: Boy, 6, suffers post-traumatic stress after shooting
- Girl, 13, charged in Olympia Fields fatal crash that killed boy
- Barrington leader trying to prevent next tanker tragedy
- Video: The Ditka you didn't know
- Photos: Christmas Tree Ship arrives at Navy Pier
- abcnews: Made in America 2013: Gift Ideas
- Frigid temps, sub-zero wind chills settle in
17 min ago
- Amputee Coalition camp builds support for...
36 min ago