At a recent special school board meeting for Plainfield School District 202, state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, tried to assure those in attendance the district would not lose money under the new school funding formula.
During the Oct. 18 meeting, Bertino-Tarrant said she checked with the state comptroller, Susana Mendoza, about what payments still were owed to the district.
Abdon Pallasch, a spokesperson for Mendoza, confirmed Thursday that like every other district in the state, District 202 is owed a categorical payment from June 30, which helps fund things such as transportation, special education and early childhood education. That payment has been appropriated and will be paid to the district, although Pallasch said they did not have a timeline yet for when exactly it will be sent out.
“We’re trying to catch up,” Pallasch said.
He added that the state is caught up on its general state aid payments, which go out twice a month.
Bertino-Tarrant was adamant however, that under the state’s new funding formula, District 202 will not see a decrease in funds from the 2017-18 school year. She said that for next school year, the district will receive $5.5 million more than it did this year. The amount of state funds should continue to increase in subsequent years, although it might not necessarily be by the same amount.
The school funding formula takes into account factors such as the size and demographics of each district. Plainfield’s district is the fifth-largest in the state with more than 27,000 students. Nearly a quarter of the students are low-income, and more than one third of them are students of color, according to Illinois Report Card. The district’s total expenses were projected to be more than $243 million for 2017-18 with a projected $9 million deficit.
Bertino-Tarrant, although she said she was not picking sides, told those at the meeting that the school district was failed by the state of Illinois. She added that she did not envy the position the school board was in, but she acknowledged the importance of good teachers in the classroom.
“Being cautious, that’s their job,” she said. “I understand that. Quality teachers next to students should always be [priority] No. 1.”