With more than half of PIE Network member organizations advocating on school finance issues this year, new resources that uncover funding inequities serve as valuable models.
Earlier this week, League of Education Voters (LEV) in Washington dedicated one of their lunchtime LEVinars to discussing Education Funding Inequities Across Washington. Moderated by state field director Kelly Munn and presented by Jacob Vela, senior policy analyst, the webinar shared data pertinent to recent investments in Washington’s education funding system. Following the passage of major legislation in 2017 in response to the 2012 McCleary ruling that Washington is not adequately funding its schools, Washington advocates have been working to ensure that the state’s 295 school districts and more than one million students see benefits.
In addition to demonstrating the geographic spread of low income students and highly mobile (migrant, foster care, homeless) students, LEV also walked through district salary enhancements, levy & local effort assistance changes, and overall per pupil funding.
Between combined state and local funding increases, some districts are seeing budget increases of 40 percent while the average across districts is closer to 20 percent. Over the next four years, the state has committed to $8.2 billion in new education funds.
Only days later, Advance Illinois hosted a webinar of their own to inform supporters about their new Equity Dashboard. The dashboard allows for detailed customization, breaking out spending by district and student demographics. It also includes a “Choose Your District” option that allows community members to see what funding is flowing to their area. Despite the positive momentum last year on school funding, Illinois still has 713 school districts teaching 1.7 million students without adequate funding, and half of those districts have less than 70 percent of the needed funding, representing 1.2 million students.
While new funding was allocated this year, there is still a $7 billion gap between available money and what is needed to fully fund Illinois schools. By updating the dashboard regularly, Advance Illinois can track implementation of their historic reforms in a way that is accessible to the general public. This year, Advance Illinois, as part of the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition, is encouraging the state to invest 2.8 billion as soon as possible to bring all districts to the 80-percent-funded level.
To connect with advocates and learn more about how these data visualizations were developed, reach out.