Rauner vetoes school funding bill

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Gov. Bruce Rauner, on Tuesday, vetoed a portion of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), a school funding reform bill that would alter the way money is distributed to schools statewide.

Rauner’s veto specifically takes away a $250 million block grant that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) receives.

“This is not about taking resources away from Chicago,” Rauner said. “This is about making historic changes to help poor children in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois.”

Joy Clendenning Hyde Park resident, CPS parent, and education activist, said the governor’s veto is resetting a bipartisan agreement “which would have finally started to equitably fund schools throughout the state of Illinois.”

Other changes by Rauner regarding CPS include removing “both Chicago Public Schools pension considerations from the formula: the normal cost pick-up and the unfunded liability deduction. The fifth change will reintegrate the normal cost pickup for Chicago Public Schools into the Pension Code where it belongs.”

Rauner, last week called state lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session to discuss SB1 he said previously that state Democrats had been holding the bill since both chambers approved the measure on May 31.

CPS’ $2.281 billion budget relies on SB1. The monies would go toward current and past due pension payments. Rauner said on the record that SB1 was “a bailout for CPS.”

Rauner, on Tuesday, said that the SB1 “places the burden of the Chicago Public Schools’ broken teacher pension system on our rural and suburban school districts.”

In a previous article in the Herald, CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said the governor “is holding children across the state hostage as bargaining chips for his political agenda but we won’t let Chicago children be used as pawns in his game.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement this morning on Rauner’s actions. He said the governor is “ignoring the needs of Illinois’ school children, the desires of school superintendents across the state, the voices of newspaper editorials across the state, and the recommendations of his own education funding commission.”

Emanuel added that “[Rauner’s] math is fuzzy, his claims have been proven false and the only thing the governor’s action advances is his own personal brand of cynical politics.”

The Chicago Teacher’s Union, on Tuesday, said “instead of demanding that the wealthy pay their fair share to equitably resource schools throughout the state and expanding the public sector, ‘governor 1%’ fans the flames of regionalism to pit the schoolchildren of Chicago against those in other parts of the state. Meanwhile, Chicago’s ‘mayor 1% ’ says CPS will fall short of its budget goals even if the state legislature overrides Rauner’s SB1 veto.”

SB1 would use an evidence-based model to define an adequate level of school funding for each district and a formula for distributing state funds to districts.

The state’s recently approved $36 billion budget includes an additional $350 million for kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms.

A section of the state budget would prevent schools from receiving funds from the state without the new funding formula in place.

Some schools in districts across the state run the risk of not opening on time this school year without a funding formula in place.

“It is Governor Rauner who vetoed an education funding bill that would bring more equity and fairness to our schools for the first time in decades, because he ‘only agrees with 90 percent of it,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery in a written statement. “Yes, it is disappointing that our children’s futures have become divisive, but it is the governor himself playing politics with their first day of school.”

CPS officials maintain that schools will open on time this year despite uncertainty in Springfield.

“I feel this strong solidarity with parents in Republican districts in downstate Illinois who already do not have what they need to provide quality education for their kids, and now that’s being even more threatened by this governor,” Clendenning said.

SB1 is now in the hands of state lawmakers who must vote to accept the governor’s changes to the bill or override it.

t.hill@hpherald.com