Celebrating Five Years of Evidence-Based Funding Formula Success, A Superintendent’s Perspective

In August 2017, Illinois adopted the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula. This was a significant step toward equitable and adequate funding for Illinois’ K-12 students. Prior to the enactment of EBF, Illinois had the most regressive school funding system in the nation — under which higher poverty districts, on average, received less per pupil state and local funding than the lowest poverty districts in the state. EBF transformed this system by introducing a formula that calculates education costs based on individual student needs and distributes new state dollars to districts furthest from full funding. In the last 5 years, $1.57 Billion in new state dollars has flowed through the EBF formula, successfully driving the vast majority of new funds to the highest need districts in the state, including districts with high proportions of students from low-income households, English Learners and students of color. While we still have a ways to go, five years into implementation, we can celebrate that EBF has successfully begun to close resource equity gaps across Illinois.

Bluford USD #318 Superintendent Dr. Shane Gordon reflects on what funding in his district looked like before EBF, what funding has meant over the course of the last five years and why fully funding the EBF formula is important for the schools and students in the district.


Dr. Shane Gordon

District: Bluford USD #318, Superintendent

Before the passage of the Evidence-Based Funding formula, the Bluford school district experienced an incredibly difficult time toward the end of the previous funding approach during the years of proration. There were years in which the district had to sell tax anticipation warrants and sell working cash bonds to have enough money to pay bills and process payroll. In the spring of 2014, toward the end of the previous funding approach, the district implemented layoffs (Reductions In Force) of nine teachers, which accounted for approximately 27 percent of the teaching staff. The funding situation was so bad that in August 2015, the district had $26.77 in the Education fund (a general fund the district uses).

The passage of the Evidence-Based Funding formula has brought many positive changes to the Bluford Unit School District 318. The establishment of a base-funding minimum allows for long- term planning and investments and the district feels confident that evidence-based programs and staffing that have been added are sustainable because of this reliable funding source. The district was able to make several investments which align with the model evidence-based cost factors. We invested in additional staffing at the lower elementary level to decrease class sizes. The district has also invested in instructional coaching for new teachers as well as investments in instructional technology, curriculum enhancements, and professional development.

Prior to the passage of the Evidence-Based Funding model, there was one computer cart that had to be shared between six different grade levels. Since its passage we are now able to ensure that every student has access to computer technology, including access to a device whenever they need it. Additionally, we have been able to reintroduce elementary physical education, a full-time art teacher, K-12 music classes, and add a social worker. It had been expected of teachers to figure out how to successfully weave these aspects into their lesson planning, but it is no longer necessary. Having these programs has enhanced our students’ overall educational experience.

Teaching is a difficult profession under normal conditions. Before EBF, teachers at Bluford USD had to take on many additional responsibilities such as teaching physical education, art, music, and lunch duties. They were pushed to the limit. EBF has allowed the district to be properly staffed, which allows classroom teachers to do the job they were hired to do. Additionally, the work environment for teachers improved significantly, which has had a positive impact on the learning environment for our students.

In our district, we need to be sure that existing funding is going to remain at the current level. It is great to be able to plan for additional funding, but reassurance that current levels of funding will remain in place without any type of proration is crucial to maintaining our existing programming