Illinois school districts increasingly rely on local funding

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Illinois school districts are increasingly relying on local taxpayers to invest in public schools.

Illinois finance data show local taxes and school fees now make up 67.4 percent of revenue for districts statewide, the highest percentage in at least 15 years.

The state contributes 24.9 percent, one of the lowest shares in the country, the Chicago Tribune reported. The federal government contributes 7.7 percent.

The local portion for education has slowly climbed since 2001, when local dollars averaged nearly 62 percent of K-12 public school expenses in the state.

The Chicago Tribune reviewed 2015 state finance data in about 850 public districts and found that in nearly 100 districts local taxpayers contributed to 90 percent or more of the funding to their schools, mostly in the Chicago region.

Districts relying on local dollars for funding have worsened the unequal funding for schools. Wealthier districts are pumping in local revenue to spend more on their students, while less prosperous districts are failing to keep up.

An example is the Butler School District 53 in Oak Brook, which receives about $10.1 million in funding.  Most of the funding is from property taxes paid by businesses and homeowners that cover everything from school building projects to teacher salaries.

With the investment in education from local tax dollars rising, Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for a freeze on local property taxes. The governor also launched a school funding reform commission that is looking into helping less affluent districts that can't generate a large amount of funding for schools.

The gap in Illinois has grown wider, with the highest-spending district now spending five times more per student than the lowest-spending district, based on 2015 data.