Citing an improved outlook for the state’s finances, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that he’ll increase evidence-based funding for schools by $350 million, offering some “relief” to parents, students and educators for the year ahead after initially keeping education funding flat.
While there are still “far too many who are struggling” in the state, Illinois’ fiscal outlook is “brighter than it was even three months ago,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Thursday before announcing the additional funds.
“Back in February, when faced with financial uncertainty to the state and the prospect of billions of federal dollars going directly to our schools, I presented a flat operational budget for the state, which was all we could afford,” Pritzker said.
“Because our outlook has improved, I have informed legislative leaders that I am now in a position to propose increasing evidence-based funding for schools by $350 million. That means that parents, students and educators can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Pritzker went on to say that the state’s improved fiscal outlook doesn’t mean Illinois has handled its “structural budget problems,” and reiterated that he’s pushing for legislators to close some corporate tax loopholes and address corporate welfare that he said mostly benefits large international businesses.
Democratic legislative leaders welcomed the news.
A spokeswoman for Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said he “applauds the governor’s decision to increase funding for our public schools.
“The evidence-based funding formula is incredibly important and ensures that children from all across the state can receive a quality education,” the Hillside Democrat said.
State Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said in a statement he’s “grateful that the governor has committed to our promised funding for education.
“Finding resources for education is always a priority for Senate Democrats during the budget process,” Harmon said.
A spokeswoman for House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said in a statement “we are all glad the Governor has remembered his commitment to fully fund education.
“Now hopefully he can find a cure for his retrograde amnesia and veto the gerrymandered maps drawn by democratic legislators,” the House GOP leader said.
A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said GOP legislators are “entirely supportive of fully funding the minimum annual increase for Illinois elementary and secondary schools based on the agreed-upon, equitable funding formula that members of our caucus helped to negotiate and pass in 2017.
“Now, more than ever, Illinois students need to be empowered through improved education opportunities,” she said.
The state has used evidence-based funding for schools since 2017. That funding system sends more resources to Illinois’ most under-resourced students in the hopes of taking “the necessary first steps toward ensuring all schools have the resources they need to provide a safe, rigorous, and well-rounded learning environment for all students,” according to the state’s board of education.
Pritzker unveiled his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during a virtual “State of the State” address in February.
The proposed spending plan closes a $2.6 billion budget deficit through keeping spending, including for education, flat; implementing spending reductions in some 100 departments, including the state’s Department of Corrections; and a mix of closing or minimizing nine “corporate tax loopholes,” which could generate $932 million if approved by the General Assembly, state budget officials said.
The proposed 2022 fiscal plan, which would go into effect July 1, includes $41.7 billion in revenues for the state’s general fund and $41.6 billion in expenditures.