Members of the General Assembly this spring are grappling with whether to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. With just a month of session left, the plan's sponsor is altering his strategy, in hopes Republican opposition will fade into bipartisan support. Senator Andy Manar wants schools to receive state money based on the needs of their students, not the wealth of local property taxpayers. So, the Democrat from Bunker Hill has proposed an overhaul of Illinois' complicated school funding formula. Under Manar's plan, almost all of the money schools receive from the state would be determined by the amount of students living in poverty. Some Republicans worry that could leave other schools short. In an effort to win their support, Manar is changing his plan to cap the amount of poverty money a school can receive. He says this would better target newly poor districts:
"It will allow us to drive money into the middle, what I call the middle zone of poverty: Districts that have migrated from very low poverty to somewhere around 50 percent. So I think that one change would be a positive for the bill."
Manar says those districts are predominantly Downstate, where property values have fallen sharply since the Great Recession -- economic pain that's tricked down to schools.
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