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Schools waiting for final word on funding total

Two area school superintendents are taking a reserved approach to the state lawmakers’ long-awaited approval to a bill for school funding.

Oregon Superintendent Tom Mahoney and Forrestville Valley’s Sheri Smith both said they are reserving comment until they have definite numbers on how much their districts will receive as a result of the compromise bill approved by the General Assembly early last week and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 31.

“I have not seen the final numbers on how the funding bill will impact the district,” Mahoney said. “If it is the same as Senate Bill 1 we will received approximately an additional $80,000 in General State Aid. But I want to wait until I have seen the final dollar amounts before I make a comment.”

Smith said she, too, is awaiting information from the ISBE on the final allocation for the current school year.

“For now, I can tell you that Forrestville Valley should start to receive state aid payments in 10-12 days,” she said. “These payments will mirror our payments from last year, so there will be no loss to the district. We are still owed one categorical payment from FY [fiscal year] 17, and we do believe we will receive this final payment in this fiscal year. However, there has been no date verified by the state board of education.”

Polo Superintendent Chris Rademacher did not return phone calls.

Due to the legislature’s failure to pass a school funding bill earlier, the districts did not receive two promised state aid payments in August.

The fiscal year for the state and school districts begins July 1.

According to a press release on the ISBE website, districts should start receiving their state aid checks late this week, but final calculations on the amounts each district will receive will not be available for a few months.

Initial payments will be based partly on last year’s allocations.

“Districts will receive payments on the 10th and 20th of each month from September through June in FY 2018,” the statement read. “In future years, the schedule will remain the same as General State Aid was previously distributed – 22 payments in total distributed August through June.”

State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle) said all local school will benefit from the new plan.

“Every school district in our area will receive more money than under the old formula,” he said Friday.

The new plan implements evidence-based funding, Demmer said, using criteria including a district’s property tax wealth, poverty levels, and target funding to determine the amount it will receive.

First priority, he said, will go to districts with less property tax wealth.

The bill also includes a state income tax credit for residents who make voluntary contributions to scholarship programs at private and charter schools, providing the scholarships go to low income families.

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