Republicans Push School Funding Legislation To Prevent Underfunding

May 22, 2014

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  While the state's budget for next year is still in flux, Republicans in the Illinois Senate say they have a new plan that would fully fund public schools. They say it's something that would help schools now, unlike a competing Democratic proposal that's still building support.

Illinois has been shortchanging schools for several years. Instead of funding them at the full amount required by law, they've been cutting — it's at 89 percent this year. That's because mandatory spending on things like health care and pensions has been choking out other priorities.

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) says that so-called "proration" has put a huge strain on many schools, like Streator Elementary in her district.

"They actually, because of the proration from the state, have to go to the local bank to borrow the million dollars to keep the doors open," she said.

Republicans say they'd prioritize this money before all other school spending, including grants for higher concentrations of poverty.

Democrats say they see the Republican proposal as an attempt to undercut their own efforts to overhaul school funding. Democrats would change not just the amount of state money for schools, but how it's divvied up, with more impoverished districts getting more government help.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is the sponsor of that legislation. He says the Republican proposal misses the big picture.

"This is simply a distraction from what is a difficult question before the members of the Senate," he said.

But Manar's plan has yet to get a vote in the full Senate. And with just one week remaining in the spring legislative session, both proposals are long shots.