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Lorraine Forte

Lorraine Forte

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Don't Believe School Funding is a Problem? Read This.

Posted: 09/19/08 08:00 PM ET

The data is shocking: If the students who enrolled in kindergarten in Chicago Public Schools in 1994 had, instead, enrolled in top-spending Lake Forest-Libertyville schools, they would have reaped the benefit of an extra $36 billion-worth of education by the time they graduated.

That statistic was just one of many unveiled at our Sept. 18 forum on school funding, where state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, state Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) and other legislators and activists made yet another call for statewide school funding reform.

Even those of us who have been covering education for years were surprised at the latest data that illustrate just how wide Illinois' school funding disparities are, especially over the course of a child's schooling. For instance, research shows it takes at least 50 percent more money to educate a child in poverty than a middle-income student, if both are expected to meet the same academic standards. Both the state and federal government recognize this, and provide supplemental funding to schools that serve poor kids. But even with that extra cash, high-poverty schools in Illinois still receive $407 less per student than low-poverty districts.

Take away that cash, and the disparities are even wider: The gap balloons to $1,394 per student.

Go to our website for a story on the forum, along with briefing papers that include statistics on the impact of extra funding for poor students and on spending over the course of a child's schooling.

The forum was co-hosted with our sister publication, The Chicago Reporter, the Center on Tax and Budget Accountability and Community Renewal Society (publisher of Catalyst and the Reporter).

Also, the inaugural issue of Catalyst In Depth reports on how to help those schools 'left behind' in the wake of academic progress made by the majority of schools in the city. Our stories report on Libby Elementary, in New City, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods; Medill Elementary, the district's lowest-performing school; a program that aims to help middle-school students do better in school by improving their lives outside school; and on programs at Calumet charter school and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.