Lawmakers approved a state budget more than a week ago. But the education portion remains uncertain. For the money to flow, Democrats added a provision that requires enactment of a new school funding plan. Democrats have passed such a plan through both chambers, but Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, says he’ll veto parts of it.
State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, sponsored the bill. He says his party wants to negotiate with the governor.
“We stand ready to have that conversation. That’s the only way this is going to get solved, and I think it’s time that the governor take that approach,” Manar says. “We’re going to continue to hold the bill until the governor comes to his senses and sits down and negotiates with us instead of through television cameras and the press.”
Instead, Rauner held a press conference today to “demand, not request, but demand” the bill be sent to his desk immediately so that he can change it as he sees fit.
Rauner staged his press conference in Mt. Zion — a downstate village perfect for his message that the Democrats’ school funding plan gives too much money to Chicago.
“Why are they sitting on that bill? They want to threaten to hold up school funding so schools don’t open this fall,” Rauner said, “to try to force a pension bailout for the City of Chicago on the backs of Illinois taxpayers.”
Taxpayers already pay teacher and administrator pensions for all other school districts, including Mt. Zion. But Republicans argue that Chicago also gets more than its fair share of grants.
The governor says the Democrats' plan gives too much to Chicago at the expense of other districts. His office posted a comparison chart online, but the numbers don’t match official spreadsheets published by the state board of education.
Both sides agree the current school funding formula needs to be scrapped. It has earned Illinois the dubious distinction of being the most inequitable in the nation. Both Democrats and Republicans proposed a new evidence-based model, designed to send more state dollars to districts with high poverty. But the Democrats' bill is the only one that made it through the General Assembly. When the measure passed, it was a few votes shy of having a veto-proof majority, leading to speculation money could be tied up just as the new school year is set to begin.