With the latest school assessment data out, taxpayers and policymakers are now able to see what is and is not working in Illinois’ K-12 schools.

School- and district-level data is now available at IllinoisReportCard.com. While data for 2020 is incomplete because of remote learning, the Illinois State Board of Education says 16.6% fewer students met grade-level standards in English in 2021 than in 2019 and 17.8% fewer students met grade-level standards in math.

State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, who chairs the House K-12 education appropriations committee, said the information is important for determining the impact of the evidence-based funding model.

“I’m not saying it happens overnight, but at least we should start to see the positive benefits to the school funding formula,” Davis told The Center Square.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said the data will also be instrumental for taxpayers to see if they’re getting good use of their tax dollars.

“The purpose of these kinds of reports is to give people data to make good decisions at the local level and at the state level moving forward,” Bourne said in a phone call.

Some districts, like Harper High School District 12 in Chicago spent more than $100,000 per student. St. Elmo Jr. High near Effingham spent as little as $3,200 per pupil. The IllinoisReportCard.com data allows users to review each district's academic achievements.

ISBE said the data will inform a local dialogue for school officials to make decisions about allocating more than $7 billion in federal pandemic relief funds that went directly to Illinois schools.

“To date, 534 out of 939 school districts and other Local Education Agencies have submitted their applications for the third and largest round of funding,” ISBE said in a news announcement.

Davis said the federal guidance is a bit murky.

“There is some fear and hesitancy in some school districts about using the money and then being slapped on the hand on the back-end if you will when the federal government actually comes through with their audits,” Davis said.

One example the funds can be used for Davis said is to update HVAC systems.

Bourne said that’s a good use, as are programs to get students back on track.

“We need to use it in ways to help these students now, as kind of a one-time thing rather than setting up these structural costs that can set up a cliff in the future,” Bourne said.

Of nearly $8 billion in federal funds for K-12 education in Illinois, ISBE will manage around 10% of the remaining federal funds for Illinois schools.

“We have directed $350 million to districts using our [Evidence Based Formula] in order for districts to spend on after-school programming, learning loss recovery and summer enrichment,” Illinois State Schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala said during a presentation last month. “We also sent another $40 million to special education cooperatives.”

“We also launched a mentorship and coaching program with the [the state’s teachers’ unions] to continue bolstering those strong teacher retention rates and we’ll be allocating $2 million to create affinity groups, particularly with people of color,” Ayala said.

Assessment data, including the cost per pupil for each school, can be found at IllinoisReportCard.com.