Instead, Illinois school districts are primarily funded through local property tax
revenues. 6 Because property wealth varies significantly across the state, such a funding scheme
produces great disparities in how much money school districts are able to spend on their
students. 7 To illustrate, Northbrook School District 28, located in the affluent Chicago suburb of
Northbrook, was able to spend $11,332 on each of its elementary school students during the
2011-12 school year. 8 Conversely, Calumet Public School District 132, serving blue-collar
Calumet City, was able to spend just $5,007 per student in the same year. 9 While many other
states employ similar school finance systems, and also often face funding disparities between
districts, 10 Illinois’ heavy reliance on property tax-based funding produces especially profound
economic inequality between school districts. 11 In turn, this creates broad disparities in teaching
quality, 12 school infrastructure, 13 and ultimately, the academic achievement of wealthy versus
poor districts. 14
a detailed summary of the most recent proposed Illinois state budget).
6 See 2012 ANNUAL REPORT, supra note 4, at 2, 5.
7 See Secter, supra note 2 (“[T]he sharp divide between state and local resources means that schools in towns with pricier homes or
big shopping centers, factories or thriving commercial centers simply have far more to spend than schools in communities with
housing and job markets that are chronically wheezing.”). See generally BAKER ET AL., supra note 5, at 10-12 (analyzing disparities in
education spending across the U.S.).
8 ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, http://iirc.niu.edu/ (last updated Oct. 25, 2013) [hereinafter ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT
CARD]. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey, Northbrook has a median household
income of $110,902. Selected Economic Characteristics: 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Northbrook
Village, Illinois, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU AM. FACTFINDER,
http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/DP03/1600000US1753481 (last visited Nov. 6, 2013). According to the
same survey, the median household income for the entire state of Illinois is $56,576. Selected Economic Characteristics: 2007-2011
American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Illinois, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, AM. FACTFINDER,
http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/DP03/0400000US17 (last visited Nov. 6, 2013).
9 ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, supra note 8. Calumet City’s median household income is $41,978. Selected Economic
Characteristics: 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Calumet City, Illinois, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, AM.
FACTFINDER, http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/DP03/1600000US1710487 (last visited Nov. 6, 2013). At
the high school level, wealthy Lake Forest CHSD 115 in Lake Forest (median household income of $133,264) was able to spend just
over $12,000 per student, while J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 in Cicero (median household income of $45, 101) spent
just $6,901. ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, supra note 8; Selected Economic Characteristics: 2007-2011 American
Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Lake Forest, Illinois, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, AM. FACTFINDER,
http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/DP03/1600000US1741105 (last visited Nov. 6, 2013); Selected
Economic Characteristics: 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Cicero, Illinois, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, AM.
FACTFINDER, http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/DP03/1600000US1714351 (last visited Nov. 6, 2013).
Note that these figures represent the instructional expenditure per pupil, and not the full operating expenditure per pupil. ILLINOIS
INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, supra note 8. Thus, the figures may be less than the foundation level amount set by the state. For the
2012-2013 school year, the foundation level of funding per pupil was $6, 119. Funding, ILL. STATE BOARD OF EDUC. (2013),
10 See BAKER ET AL., supra note 5, at 2, 16-17 (discussing common characteristics of education funding systems in all states, and
comparing education funding disparities between high- and low-income student populations in all states); see also U.S. CENSUS
BUREAU, PUBLIC EDUCATION FINANCE: 2009 1 (2011), available at http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/09f33pub.pdf (providing a
detailed breakdown of revenue sources for schools in all fifty states).
11 See CTR. FOR TAX & BUDGET ACCOUNTABILITY, MONEY MATTERS: HOW THE ILLINOIS SCHOOL FUNDING SYSTEM CREATES
SIGNIFICANT EDUCATIONAL FUNDING INEQUITIES THAT IMPACT MOST STUDENTS IN THE STATE 5 (2008) (The state’s relatively small
contribution to school funding “pushes the primary obligation for education funding down to local resources, primarily property taxes,
creating great disparities between districts across Illinois, based on local property wealth”). A 2010 report examining funding
inequalities in public schools across the country found that Illinois has the third most regressive ( i.e. providing more money to
wealthier districts than poorer districts) public education finance system in the U.S. BAKER ET AL., supra note 5, at 16-18. This was
measured by examining the distribution of state and local funding across schools districts relative to the percentage of impoverished
students attending each district. Id. The report found that districts with lower levels of poverty received significantly more money per
pupil than districts with high levels of poor students. Id.
12 Perhaps the most significant difference between wealthy and poor districts is their ability to pay for highly educated teachers.
Wealthy districts are able to spend approximately $18,000 more per teacher than less affluent districts. CTR. FOR TAX & BUDGET
ACCOUNTABILITY, supra note 11, at 9. Wealthy districts are able to attract significantly more teachers with advanced teaching
degrees. Id. In 2012, about 90% of elementary school teachers in Winnetka School District 36, which is able to spend over $11,000
per student, had masters degrees; in contrast, 9.4% of teachers in Burnham School District 154-5 (spending $5,411 per student) had
masters degrees. ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, supra note 8.