Lightford: We have to continue working on education funding reform

SPRINGFIELD- Continuing the conversation on much-needed education funding reform, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford sponsored a measure approved by the Senate today that merges two solutions for the way the state distributes education funds.

The measure, which passed 31-18-8, applies Senator Andy Manar’s Senate Bill 231 for next school year and introduces an evidence-based method beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

“For years, we’ve talked about the ineffectiveness of our current formula. This is a reform that invests in our most vulnerable children’s success,” Lightford said. “We need to put funds in the right place, ensuring that all children are being prepared for a bright future.”

Senate Democrats have taken the lead on this issue and showed they were serious when Manar’s plan was approved in the Senate earlier this month. Following that vote, they were joined by more groups looking to

find a solution for children lacking resources throughout the state.

“There’s nothing wrong with having choices. We’ve created a hybrid of two legitimate solutions that leads us to the same goal, equitable school funding,” Lightford said. “We have to make a change, and we should be evaluating these plans based on how our districts are affected and what’s best for our state as a whole.”

The model uses a set of criteria that distributes funds considering General State Aid, bilingual education, drivers’ education and a significant portion of special education. Under Lightford’s plan, no district receives less in per pupil state funding than in Fiscal Year 2017.

If funds are increased in a given year, the plan directs additional dollars using a four-tiered system that distributes any increase to the four tiers of districts prioritizing the tiers with the lowest percentage of adequate funding.

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