Weaver balks at sending extra funds to schools with more dropouts
Too much money and too little clarity prompted Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) to vote against a Senate measure to double state funding to school districts with abnormally high dropout rates, the senator said before the vote on May 2.
“I have two problems with where we are with this bill,” Weaver said. “One of those is the amount of dollars we are spending. Chicago Public School [is] $15,120 per student. In my communities, it’s as little as $6,500 per student and an average of more like $8,500 per student. We need dollars everywhere. I do believe that this is a great place to target with regards to dropouts. My concern is, first with the dollar I mentioned, but second that we have not really clarified the best practices that will happen when these students come back. I think we really need to understand that before we can support the bill.”
Sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), SB446 would provide twice the amount of foundation-level funding to school districts that experience twice the typical state rate of high school dropouts. The current funding of $6,119 per student would increase to more than $12,000 for high school dropouts.
Lightford clarified that the bill is factoring in only foundation-level funding, not the average spending per pupil for each school district. Chicago, for example, would not receive twice its average spending amount per student.
Still, many of Weaver’s colleagues echoed his concerns on cost and clarity. Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) argued that the bill aims to fix the problem at the expense of other schools with low rates of dropouts. Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) recommended safeguards to protect against repeat offenders and recoup funds.
While Weaver expressed his intent to vote against SB446, he commended Lightford for her initiative.
“I want to compliment Sen. Lightford for what she is trying to accomplish here,” Weaver said. “I don’t think there is a person in this room that doesn’t agree that the biggest travesty in our country today is the unemployability of our youth, with so many of them coming from tough homes and coming from tough neighborhoods.”
SB446 passed, 32-20.
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