School Funding in Illinois and DC Research Paper

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This paper compares and contrasts the school funding approaches of the state of Illinois and the District of Columbia. It shows that in Illinois there is a far greater problem of how to achieve a more equitable distribution of funds, though the state is currently setting a course to try to make this happen with its evidence-based model funding formula recently passed this year. In DC on the other hand, a foundation formula is used to disperse funds equitably throughout the District and private investment is obtained to help develop programs that can assist in closing the achievement gap. DC is thus better structured and its school funding approach better supported to achieve success over the long run.

Keywords: school funding, dc, Illinois, education

School Funding Investigation:

Comparing and Contrasting Illinois and Washington, D.C.


Funding for schools is a controversial topic for many mainly because of the lack of discernible equitability evident throughout the system. This paper takes a close look at two school systems in particular—the Illinois state school system and the Washington, D.C., school system to see how they approach the issue of school funding respectively. The paper shows that there are unique challenges faced by each and that new formulas are being tried currently to address specific issues—such as inequity.

How Schools are Funded in Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Schools in Illinois are funded by taxes, which vary from district to district. Poor districts receive little funding while affluent districts receive much more. A new funding formula passed in 2018, however, intends to change that and to make sure every school district receives the funding it needs to provide a fair education to all. Using a model that looks at individual school districts and provides funds meant to improve them, Illinois hopes to close the equitability gap in short order.

Schools in Washington, D.C., are funded by local and federal funds. School districts receive federal funds according to how many teachers they have, the teachers’ experience, and several other variables. Local money goes to supply the basics for education, and local money goes to supply the “extras”—technology, after school programs, etc. There are also a number of DC public school funds like Excellence through Equity, which is designed to help close the achievement gap, and the Empowering Males of Color and Reign initiative. Currently, $1.74 billion is budgeted for DC schools by the Mayor (District of Columbia Public Schools, 2017).

Challenges to the State’s Funding Formula for Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Challenges to Illinois’ funding formula is that the state is essentially bankrupt and simply does not have the funds to pay public employees or distribute money evenly among the various districts, although it intends to do so at least in the near term. The long term outlook is far less optimistic, however, as Stettler, Msall, Grossman & Hinz (2017) indicate when they point out that the state’s bankrupt school system sends a terrible message to markets and that the state’s leaders are not prepared to enter into bankruptcy though this is inevitable according to Stettler et al. (2017).

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The fact that there are so many impoverished school districts banking on receiving funds from the new evidence-based formula while wealthier school districts are just trying to maintain their advantage as people flee the state and its increasing tax rate shows how deep these challenges go for Illinois. There is no easy solution to these problems.

Challenges to D.C.’s funding formula include maintaining positive investment in the area as private funds for school raise capital that will go to support the school infrastructure throughout the District. As D.C. divides up funds according to the weighted needs of the levels of education, the District has also sought investment from private donors to boost the excellence of the schools through various programs and initiatives and the challenge is to maintain interest in these initiatives and to show investors that they are paying off.

Percentages of Local, State and Federal Aid for Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Illinois’s general state aid percentage was 16.4% while 9.7% came from other state funding. Local funding totaled 65.9% with 61.1% coming from local property taxes and 4.8% from other local revenues. Federal aid was 8.1% (Malin & Noppe, 2015).

10% of D.C.’s funding comes from federal funds while approximately 90% of it comes from local funds. The District has no funds from a state since it is not one of the 50 states of the U.S. (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

Types of Taxes Relied on for Illinois and Washington, D.C.

The main types of taxes relied upon for Illinois are property taxes, which make up well over half of the funding for schools in its districts. However, the fact that Illinois is losing people every year, driving property values down and tax rates up indicates that the system is broken and that the state is sinking further into debt just to service its existing obligations.

The main type of taxes relied upon for D.C. are local taxes—i.e., property taxes which, like in Illinois, serve to fund the bulk of school district operations. As D.C. is a neighborhood much smaller than the state of Illinois and with much more concentrated income streams, the challenge of dispersing funds is less of a problem here than in Illinois.

Type of State Aid Formula for Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Illinois recently adopted an “evidence-based model” for distributing state aid to schools throughout the state (Korecki, 2017). This model allows low-income school….....

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District of Columbia Public Schools. (2017). Excellence through equity. Retrieved from

Griffith, M. (2015). State education funding formulas. Retrieved from

Korecki, N. (2017). Illinois overhauls system for funding public schools. Retrieved from

Malin, J. R., & Noppe Jr, R. J. (2015). Illinois. Journal of Education Finance, 40(3), 314-318.

Stettler, P., Msall, L., Grossman, K., & Hinz, G. (2017). Illinois Politics and Public Finance 101. Municipal Finance Journal, 37(4), 1-20.

U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Revenues and expenditures. Retrieved from

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