Gov. Bruce Rauner has always said schools are his top priority. Last year, he vetoed the budget except for schools. In the stopgap plan negotiated by leaders this week, most services get only six months of funding, but pre-kindergarten through high school grades get a full year. That includes an increase of more than $330 million.
Most of that will be distributed to districts with lots of low-income students. It’s a nod to Senate Democrats’ persistent efforts to make the state’s current school funding method more equitable. Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told her colleagues they have work to do.
“Our education funding formula is still not fixed," she said. "While we have a one-time fix in here at least directing some resources to our neediest districts, we have not fixed the underlying problem.”
But Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said the stopgap was crucial for schools she represents.
“And we appreciate it because we have school districts if this budget did not pass, that literally would not be opening their doors this fall,” Rezin said.
Higher education doesn’t fare quite as well, receiving only partial funding. Colleges and universities will get $1 billion, most of which will go to the nine state universities, and to cover Monetary Award Program grants for low-income students.