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Funding of public schools to be topic of U. of I. symposium in Chicago

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Why is public education and its proper funding so essential? Is American education adequately funded? How do we determine and measure what is adequate? What are the trends in Illinois?

Those will be among the questions discussed at a symposium Feb. 16-17 at the University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St. The symposium is titled "Funding of Public Schools: The Economic and Social Value of Adequate Funding."

The program will include speakers with educational finance expertise from Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and New York, as well as from Canada, Greece and previous posts with the World Bank. Among those presenting, on Thursday evening, will be Randy Dunn, the state superintendent of education in Illinois.

Attending the event will be school superintendents and principals from Illinois and neighboring states, as well as researchers and policymakers.

"State and federal funding for education, both K-12 and higher education, is being cut back every year, and we need to be able to show why there are benefits to strong public support for education," said Carolyn Shields, the chair of the department of educational organization and leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The event is being sponsored by the university’s College of Education, with funds from its Edwin J. O’Leary Endowment in Financial Management.

"We hope to encourage people at the conference to think differently about educational finance, and to enhance the understanding of educational finance in the state and beyond," Shields said. "It’s a really important topic that we need to bring to the attention of anybody who can influence policy in any way, shape or form."

The keynote address on Thursday evening will be given by George Psacharopoulos, a former economist with the World Bank and a former member of parliament in Greece, who is recognized as one of the leading experts in the field. His research has focused on the role of education in economic and social development, and he will speak on "The Value of Investment in Education."

Dunn will lead off the Thursday evening program, which will start at 7:45, speaking on "Trends and Expectations in Illinois School Funding."

The symposium itself will begin at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and the featured speaker for the afternoon will be Walter McMahon, a professor emeritus of economics and education at Illinois, who will address the "non-market" and social benefits of education funding. McMahon also has worked internationally with the World Bank and other agencies, his research focused on education’s role in the development of human capital and in economic growth.

The speakers on the Friday morning program, which will begin at 8:30, will deal with how to define and measure adequate funding in education. Wrapping up the morning and the conference will be Andrew Wall from Eastern Illinois University. He will talk about "Estimating the Adequacy of Funding of Educational Programs: The Case of Illinois."