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Rauner signature frees up schools to get money in April under new formula

Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a student a high five after signing an education funding reform bill at Ebinger Elementary School on Aug. 31, 2017. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The State Board of Education expects public school districts across Illinois to finally get their money in April under a historic new funding formula, now that Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed off on the last odds and ends of the changes needed to implement the massive reform approved last August.

“We are issuing vouchers to the comptroller’s office in April,” board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said Friday after Rauner signed the last of the short “trailer” bills needed to allow the disbursement of billions of dollars using a new evidence-based funding formula.

The drastic changes to the formula the state has used to distribute money to its public schools aim to send more new money to the districts that need it most and are least able to raise more money themselves via the property taxes that typically fund Illinois schools. The state’s contribution toward its poorest students has been lowest in the nation.

The reforms were a long time coming, but managed to stall each time they appeared to be done in moves that have threatened the prompt arrival of money to school districts.

A spokesman for the Illinois comptroller said the office was preparing for the disbursements and didn’t expect any delays in cutting checks to the school districts. In the meantime, districts have continued to receive the same funding as last year.