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Small Illinois school districts seeking a greater voice in Springfield

Tri States Public Radio | By Rich Egger
Published December 8, 2022 at 4:14 PM CST

View the original publication here.

The head of the Macomb school system said small, rural districts are not being heard in Springfield.

“This is a 100-year old problem for rural schools in this state. They’ve never been in a position where they have any money or clout to get a place at the table,” said Superintendent Patrick Twomey.

“This topic is one of the reasons why rural school leaders across the state are so frustrated. Time and time again things happen to us instead of for us.”

He supports a measure to create the Rural Education Advisory Council. He said the panel would have a chance to review all policies and regulations affecting schools.

“Not that that commission would have the authority to stop a bill or to create a policy. But it would give us an opportunity to voice our support for or opposition against prior to those becoming law,” Twomey said.

He said the bill appeared to be a “slam dunk” to pass. But instead it was sent to committee, where it remained.

He hopes it will be reintroduced in the next session of the General Assembly. Twomey pointed out many of the largest districts in Illinois are represented in Springfield by the Large Unit District Association (LUDA), which gives them greater lobbying power.

He said sometimes LUDA’s interests don’t align with those of smaller districts. He said, for example, that larger districts initially opposed the evidence-based funding formula for public schools.

“They liked the property tax based only funding formula because they have lots of EAV (equalized assessed valuation) and it produces lots of money for their districts,” Twomey said.

“I don’t want to see districts have things taken away from them. I just want to see proposals that would give more to the rural, small schools who have so little right now.”

Illinois’ evidence-based funding formula, which was signed into law in 2017, is designed to send more funding to the state’s most under-resourced districts.

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