Rockford Public Schools will receive $8.5 million in new money for education based on the state’s new evidence-based funding formula. The Illinois State Board of Education announced the news Thursday.
This new funding model replaces General State Aid and is a comprehensive change to the way school districts receive most of their state funds. The new funding model is not based on one or two factors, but instead uses a complex formula that considers 26 essential elements or cost factors, which determine what every district needs to deliver a high-quality, well-rounded education. The elements fall into the following buckets:
- Core costs (such as teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, subs, principals and assistant principals)
- Per-pupil costs, divided into instructional functions (such as gifted and professional development) and central office functions (such as operations/maintenance and employee benefits)
- Costs of diverse learners (low income, special education or English language learners)
Rockford is rated a tier-one, high priority district, funded at only 60 percent of the cost of what the state deems it needs to provide students with an adequate education. Some districts in the state are at nearly 200 percent of adequacy. The goal is to get all Illinois schools to 90 percent of the cost of an adequate education – or adequacy target – within the next 10 years. If a district has a low adequacy target number, it’s higher on the priority list for additional funding.
In Winnebago County, only Rockford and South Beloit districts have tier-one assignments. Under this law, new dollars go to the neediest districts first – that’s why Rockford received the most money in the region. The formula is meant to invest in what evidence shows makes a difference for student achievement.
“This is good news for Rockford,” said Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. “Our local legislators deserve credit for ensuring Rockford students take a strong first step toward adequate state funding.” This new money – $8,566,203.91 – will be utilized to serve students in coming budget cycles. In addition to that funding, the district will receive $468,000 in Fiscal 2018 to serve English-language learners.
The School Board and administration have prioritized doing what’s best for students while not adding to taxpayers’ burden. In December, the School Board voted to keep its tax levy flat for the sixth consecutive year at $154.7 million. The tax rate is now at 7.65 which is a decrease of .28 from the peak of 7.93 in 2015. The 28-cent reduction means the owner of a $100,000 home that maintained a flat valuation will be charged $280 less in taxes.