General Assembly And Governor Reach School Funding Deal

August 24, 2017
Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol.

Wikimedia Commons

Legislative leaders in Springfield say they’ve reached a bi-partisan agreement on funding for Illinois public schools.

Statements posted to both state Democrat and Republican websites Thursday afternoon say that the four legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, hammered out the deal.

No details are public yet.

The Illinois House is scheduled to be in session Monday at 4:30 p.m. and plans to vote on the spending plan.

Public Schools have missed two payments in a row from the state and some warned they would soon run out of money and may have to close. While the two-year budget standoff ended in July, K-12 school funding was left out of the deal. That spending plan, put forward by Democrats, required adoption of an “evidence-based model” before any funds could be released to schools. Senate Bill 1 was designed to provide that model for an overhaul of school funding in the state, but Gov. Rauner vetoed the measure.

Legislators from both parties have said Illinois’ decades-old school funding model that relies on property tax revenues is outdated and unfair.

Here is a statement from Governor Rauner's office:

“Governor Rauner applauds the four leaders in coming to a consensus on historic school funding reform that reflects the work of the School Funding Reform Commission. He thanks them for their leadership and looks forward to the coming days when the legislation is passed by both chambers.”  

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, also released a statement on the agreement yesterday:

"I am encouraged a compromise appears to be in the works that will finally allow my office to get Illinois schools the General State Aid payments they have been missing," it reads.

The state was scheduled to issue General State Aid payments to schools on both August 10 and August 20, but cannot do so without agreement on an "evidence-based model."

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1. He also released a statement on yesterday's announced agreement.

“I am encouraged that the legislative leaders appear to have reached an agreement in concept on school funding reform. As many have reiterated time and again for years on end, the inequities that deepen with each passing day in our public schools are a horrible stain on our great state. The status quo is unjust and immoral. Our goal is simple: create a system that is both adequate and equitable for all children. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this job done.”

The deal includes money to pay Chicago teacher pension costs for the first time, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made clear Thursday evening. The deal also includes a new tax credit program to fund private school scholarships, a source tells WBEZ.

“It means that the money we’ve been sending down to Springfield for the first time [will] come back to our taxpayers to fund our schools,” Emanuel said. The state has long paid teacher pension costs for all districts outside Chicago but contributed little toward Chicago teacher pensions.

Emanuel was tight lipped about the deal and wouldn’t say how taxpayers might be affected. The negotiations reportedly included talk of allowing CPS to raise property taxes above a state cap. All a satisfied Emanuel would say is that this tentative deal would give CPS what it had expected under the vetoed school funding bill “and more.”

Story source: WILL