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Manar maintains commitment to reopen State Museum

state-museumSPRINGFIELD—With the deadline fast approaching for the governor to act, state Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to recognize the importance of the State Museum in Springfield –and its four branch sites— by signing a proposal that would re-open the institutions.

“The State Museum is a valuable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Illinois,” Manar said. “Keeping the museums open has widespread, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, so far, the governor is sticking with his decision to lock out the public. I’m hoping there’s still time to convince him to open the doors and restore access to these terrific public resources.”

Last October, Gov. Rauner shuttered the five State Museums under the guise of budget cuts and cost savings. However, the collections and displays all remain in place and employees remain on state payroll and report to their jobs in the locked museums.  

Manar sponsored Senate Bill 317 to ensure that the Department of Natural Resources keeps the State Museums open to the public. The General Assembly approved the plan late last year and the Senate sent it to the governor’s desk on Dec. 9.

Under the state constitution, Gov. Rauner has until Sunday, Feb. 7 to act on the museum legislation.

North Mac students paying price for state’s broken school funding system

manar n macManar optimistic for change this year

VIRDEN – A broken school funding system is cheating North Mac students out of educational resources and opportunities and needs to be changed, state Senator Andy Manar told a crowd Monday that turned out for a town hall meeting hosted by the North Mac School Board.

“Right now the state is failing our students,” Manar said. “We need a complete overhaul to bring funding and resources to schools and students who need them.”

Manar, who’s leading efforts in the General Assembly to modernize how the state funds schools, outlined what a new system should look like. The guiding principle, he said, is that funding should target students and schools who need it the most for instance, those serving high numbers of low-income students, students with special needs and other key education and cost factors.

Local officials joined Manar in calling for sweeping changes to the outdated system now in place.

“The North Mac Schools have been hit hard financially by the inequitable education funding formula and recent state cuts. We’ve been forced to cut 38 staff and teaching positions and increase class sizes. We’ve also delayed educational improvements and building renovations to ensure the financial survival of the district,” said North Mac School Board President Robyn Hays.

Manar is hopeful that a new education funding system, one that would recognize North Mac’s educational and financial needs, will be approved this year in Springfield.

Manar response to senate president’s school funding reform speech

manar detectorsCHICAGO—State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) issued the following statement in support of Senate President John Cullerton’s speech detailing the necessity for need-based school funding reform Monday at the City Club of Chicago.

"Solving our school funding crisis isn't just a downstate problem or a Chicago problem or a suburban problem. The rampant inequity in our public schools affects every community in Illinois.

“I appreciate Senate President Cullerton’s strong call today for a statewide solution to this statewide challenge. The time has come for Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take decisive action to end the least equitable system in America," Manar said.

Taylorville schools, students suffering from unfair school spending

manar lgdfTAYLORVILLE – Illinois’ outdated, unfair system of school funding is forcing Taylorville public schools to consider laying off teachers and staff, consolidate schools and eliminate athletic programs. Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 is faced with the challenge of cutting $680,000 from its budget under a state system that defunds downstate school districts.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and Taylorville CUSD 3 Superintendent Gregg Fuerstenau spoke out for the need at a press conference at North Elementary School on Tuesday.

“The state is failing Taylorville. The school board and the district are doing everything they can to make due with less and have been taking extremely difficult financial decisions for years. Regardless of these savings the schools are being strangled by a funding system that has no connection to the realities of teaching students,” Manar said.

“We have great teachers and staff and provide our students with the best resources that we can afford. But we can only do so much under Illinois' unfair school funding structure. Our students are in desperate need of a balanced funding structure that treats down state students fairly. A student’s zip code should not matter,” Fuerstenau said.

“As a public school teacher for more than 30 years, I know firsthand how students are harmed by inadequate funding and resources," Scherer said.

"It’s a struggle for any teacher to give individualized attention to his or her students and meet each child’s unique needs. Research shows that large class size is the number one detriment to teaching and learning, and to backslide into large class sizes would only short students of many opportunities for growth. It is unconscionable for the state to do anything other than fairly and equally fund all schools, no matter where the students come from,” Scherer said.

The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the district for its sound finances.

Taylorville teachers already take home smaller paychecks than the statewide average and the district’s administrative costs are within the lowest 10 percent of unit districts in the state.

To educate students, the school district can only afford to spend $7,163 dollars per student, well below the state average of $12,521. Students and teachers must also cope with above average class sizes.

The state has made minor improvements to increase funding to districts like Taylorville. This year’s state school budget set aside extra money for financially distressed school districts. Under this increase Taylorville schools receive an additional $53,000.

Despite increased funding and cost-cutting measures, the district is still facing the difficult decision to cut another $680,000.

Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Taylorville based on the needs of their students. Under the reform plan, Taylorville public schools could see an additional $1.07 million in annual state aid.

Sen. Andy Manar

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48th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations I; Appropriations II; Higher Education; Committee of the Whole; Executive Appointments (Vice-Chairperson); Education; Labor.

Biography: Born November 15, 1975, in Bunker Hill; B.A. in History, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; past chairman of Macoupin County Board; married (wife, Trista), has three children.