SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) passed legislation through the Illinois Senate today that could free up as much as $2 million in federal money for the Rockford school district.

The federal government gives grants to Illinois school districts with large percentages of students from low-income families to pay for additional educators to help these students meet difficult academic standards.  

However, because of the complicated Illinois pension funding system, school districts are forced to use more than one-third of these funds to pay for the teachers’ pension costs.   

“These funds should be used as they are intended: to help at-risk students further their education, not pay down our pension debts,” Stadelman said. “Spending this money on pension debts instead of students disproportionately affects the students who need it most.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 436, would allow school districts to pay the same rate into the teachers’ pension system for federally funded teachers as it does for all other teachers. This would cut the school district’s contribution rate from 36 percent to a more manageable 7 percent, the same it pays for other educators. It would not have an effect on individual teachers’ pensions.

The proposal passed the full Senate with a vote of 43-1 and now heads to the Illinois House.