Our Districts Need Fully Funded Schools
Josh Stafford, Vienna School District 13-3
Apr 22, 2022
As superintendent of Vienna School District 13-3, I have witnessed the essential strides that the K-12 Evidence-Based Funding formula (EBF) has and will continue to make towards re-establishing fundamental educational opportunities for students around the state and in our community of Vienna. Because of this, it is critical that the Illinois General Assembly prioritize an investment of at least $350M into EBF in the FY23 budget.
Illinois needs to get back on track and make an allocation of at least $350M into EBF for FY23. School is one of the most important things that we engage with collectively as a community. We must unapologetically make funding EBF a priority to address these inequities and adequately invest in students across our state.
The Evidence-Based Funding formula data continues to serve as solid evidence as to how far each school district in the state is from adequate funding, whether they fall below or exceed full funding for their schools. For example, some school districts’ are funded as high as 256% of adequacy while others are funded at 50%. Clearly, this data reveals a major equity gap, but the good news is that when fully funded, EBF is our best tool to close that gap.
Although Vienna is in the bottom 10% of adequately funded schools, we have witnessed our adequacy number increase from 52% to 63% in the past 4 years. Clearly, we are still not fully funded; however, as proven by our increased adequacy number, continued state investments can close the equity gap amongst districts.
With the Evidence Based Funding Formula being in its fifth fiscal year of implementation, we have gained ground, but are still in recovery mode in many ways. The extreme burden that the old funding formula had placed us under created many situations in which we had to cut and/or reduce funding for programs and offerings for students. Additionally, we had delayed many routine and capital maintenance related items. This continuous battle has led us to a major teacher shortage. For instance, a few years ago we would post a teaching position and receive about 20 applicants in a week and double the next week. Now, we only get a few applicants a week. While this teacher shortage crisis affects everyone, it disproportionately affects inadequately funded schools.
Also, it is important to note that last year EBF did not experience any growth in new funds, however, in Vienna, we were in school 5 days per week, with over 90% of our students in person and the remaining students participating via remote counting full educational services. Meaning that our school funding crisis was exacerbated.
As a representative from one of the least adequately funded school districts in the state, I urge Illinois to ensure fair and adequate investment in students across our state by including at least $350 million in additional funding through the Evidence-Based Funding formula in FY23. School is one of the most important things that we engage with collectively as a community. We must unapologetically make funding EBF a priority to address these inequities and adequately invest in students across our state.
Let’s keep up the progress to ensure all students in Illinois receive the high-quality education they deserve, regardless of their zip code.