Tying Up Loose Ends On School Funding

Nov 13, 2017

Just when you thought the state’s controversial battle over school funding was over, it turns out there’s a few technicalities that need to be addressed.

Last week, legislators took care of some legal language ensuring property values continue to be figured the same way as before, to match the massive school funding bill they had approved in August.

That 500-page school funding reform bill was carved out by four legislative leaders negotiating as if the entire state budget depended on their ability to find compromise — because it did. And as is often the case when legislators overhaul an old system, some cleanup was needed.

Last week, lawmakers approved a technical change so the law would match the spreadsheets they'd voted upon,

Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, explained it to his colleagues this way:

"This I would describe as simply clarification language that's technical in nature that is at the request of the State Board of Education so that they can see through the law that we passed."

This little bill is now on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. And when it comes to funding public schools, he has wavered a bit.

A few months ago, he vetoed the initial school funding reform bill, saying it sent too much money to Chicago Public Schools. Then he signed the compromise measure, which gives CPS even more, and used it to launch campaign ads.

Eleven Republican Senators voted against it the cleanup bill last week. Afterwards, one of those 11 — Sen. Jason Barickman, from Bloomington — said he just wanted to see how the numbers would’ve changed without tying up the loose ends.

“We always said we want to see numbers before we do things,” Barickman said. “So, I didn't make a big deal out of it today, I don't think it is a big deal. But it would've been nice to stick to the process."

When I asked him to predict whether Rauner sign this seemingly tiny technical bill, Barickman indicated he had given up predicting the governor’s actions. "Sometimes,” he said, “you don't even wanna predict your own."

More cleanup bills are on the horizon. The biggest one would ensure state funding for pre-kindergarten English learners. Lawmakers will likely tackle that topic in January.