While Federal Budget in Flux, Advocates Continue Focus on State Funding Formulas
May 26, 2017

This post was updated on June 1 to include recent developments in Illinois, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Many lawmakers and leaders are scrambling to unpack and predict the future of President Trump’s recently released federal budget. Knowing a long fight over funding levels looms on the horizon, federal-facing advocates within the PIE Network responded in force to proposed reductions and new investments. Cutting and shifting federal education investments will likely further complicate funding battles over state-level dollars, where many PIE Network advocates are contending with their own long, drawn-out disagreements over how best to fund schools.

Keep reading below for a round-up of some of the ways PIE Network members are advocating for better funding systems.  


Community members, state legislators, and advocacy organizations in Illinois have been beating the drum on the state’s inadequate funding formula for years, one many call the worst in the nation. Advocates within the PIE Network have strategically kept the drumbeat for the formula fix alive. Advance Illinois recently organized a rally which brought more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers, and administrators to the capital to demand funding reform. Meanwhile, Educators for Excellence – Chicago has organized a campaign, encouraging their membership to share their story on social media and contact their legislators to encourage them to act on a funding formula fix. Finally, PIE Network member Stand for Children – Illinois has offered research-backed recommendations via legislative testimony on how the state can make their funding proposals equitable. According to Funding Illinois’ Future, which includes PIE Network members Advance Illinois and Educators for Excellence-Chicago, the Prairie State is closer to a solution than ever before. Working under a May 31 deadline, both the Senate and the House passed SB1 which would fix the state’s funding system. Funding Illinois Future is urging the Governor to sign the bill and Stand Illinois is asking their supporters to contact the governor to do the same.


PIE Network member Thomas B. Fordham Institute-Ohio extensively researched Ohio’s funding formula and, in March, shared several recommendations on how the state can improve their funding formula. They also put out commentary on how to fix their formula’s inherent complications and a very easy to follow explainer video on why charter school funding is convoluted.



For another example of how vitally important staying power is to funding reform, look no further than the decade-long McCleary saga in Washington state. After years of litigation, in 2012 the Washington Supreme Court gave the state legislature until the end of 2017 to fix the state’s funding formula. In order to answer the McCleary mandate, the Washington legislature just entered its second special session still in search of a solution. The League of Education Voters, among many other advocacy organizations, has been committed to a solution session after session, providing high-quality research and support. Recently, Executive Director Chris Korsmo appeared on Inside Olympia to discuss how legislators can come together for a solution that works for kids during this special session.


On the heels of a court ruling from last summer, 11 years in the making, which found that Connecticut is not funding its schools adequately, ConnCAN has been working on the issue in the community and in the legislature. Most recently, they hosted a panel discussion called, “Equitable Education: Why a Fair Funding System Matters,” during the annual meeting of the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention. The panel brought state leaders and advocates together to discuss why Connecticut needs a fair funding formula for its public schools. Additionally, PIE Network member Educators 4 Excellence – Connecticut recently took to the State Capitol to urge legislators to to pass an equitable school funding formula. Previously, E4E-CT made recommendations on how to improve CT’s funding formula based on input from teachers across the state.


In 2015, the Delaware legislature established the Education Funding Improvement Commission to make recommendations on how to modernize and improve Delaware’s school funding system. In 2016, PIE Network member Rodel Foundation of Delaware joined a coalition of 22 organizations called Education Equity Delaware to provide a FAQ on the current funding system and make recommendations to the legislature on how to improve the school funding system in Delaware. In the midst of budget cut, Rodel has been digging deeper on how to change Delaware’s funding formula so money is spent efficiently, equitably, and effectively.

A few things are clear from the scan of the work PIE Network advocates are doing to make substantial changes to how schools are funded:


As education reform advocates at the national level and the media continue to focus on the implications of the President’s budget, it’s easy to lose focus on the multi-year state finance campaigns underway. In order to truly help all children succeed, attention is needed at both the federal and state level. Fortunately, PIE Network advocates continue beating their drums on inherent inequities in their funding systems, akin to the iconic Energizer Bunny, every session.

If you’d like to connect directly with any of the organizations listed above to learn how they keep their batteries charged, reach out.

Lukas Boehning

Lukas is PIE Network's Manager, Policy and Research

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Sanford Johnson

The School Finance battle is brewing in Mississippi as well. EdBuild made recommendations to create a weighted-student formula here in the Magnolia State. The Legislature took no action during this session, but we’re gearing up to advocate for the recommendations before the 2018 session.

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