News Local/State

Governor Signs Funding Bill For State Education Funding

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

In this March 20, 2015 file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation Wednesday making appropriations for education in Illinois. The Republican governor's signature means Illinois schools will be able to open on time this fall ... despite an ongoing budget stalemate in Springfield.

Schools not having the money to operate had been a worry, given Gov. Bruce Rauner's condemnation of the spending plan passed by Democratic legislators.

It isn't anymore. Democrats' budget is broken into some 20 different pieces.  And Rauner has signed one of them -- the bill that funds education.

From the onset, Rauner has tried to position himself a champion of education.

"For years, state support for education has been cut, even when it didn't have to be", Rauner said back in February in his budget address to the General Assembly. "It's time to make education our top priority again."

The measure he's signed into law gives millions of dollars more to preschool through high-schools.

Even as he slashes state funding elsewhere, Rauner says in a press release that he'd prefer even more money go toward schools. Rauner had proposed raising education funding by $344 million. The measure he signed Wednesday raises it by $269 million.

"I would have done more for our school children, but I am taking action today to ensure our teachers are paid and our schools are open and funded", said Rauner, according to the press release. "I refuse to allow Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform".

Rauner signed House Bill 3763, which makes appropriations for General State Aid, Early Childhood Education, Bi-lingual Education and the Teachers' Retirement System.

The rest of the state budget -- including money for state universities (which Rauner has recommended be cut 30%) remains in limbo.

Rauner has said he won't approve Democrats' full spending plan, which made smaller cuts to those programs but is more than $3 billion short of revenue.