News Local/State

School Funding Bill Clears Procedural Hurdle

Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) chats with advocates representing suburban school districts Wednesday.

Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) chats with advocates representing suburban school districts Wednesday. (In observance of the annual "seersucker caucus" day at the capitol, he's wearing a white-on-white seersucker suit.) Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

Lawmakers of both parties, and even Gov. Bruce Rauner, agree that Illinois doesn't fund schools in an equitable manner. But with the legislative session scheduled to end on May 31, they still can't agree on exactly how to fix it.

One plan earned bipartisan approval in a House committee today, clearing a procedural hurdle that positions it for possible speedy passage.

As session winds down, lawmakers are jockeying to ensure their bills can move on a moment's notice. State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, sponsors a bill designed to achieve more equity among school districts. His proposal earned approval from the House committee on elementary and secondary education appropriations, with a vote of 16-3, marking the first time Manar's plan has earned Republican votes. But today's committee vote was based on the promise that the bill will be held on second reading in the House, to be amended later.

After the meeting, committee chair and fellow Democrat Will Davis said that change would pertain to Chicago Public Schools.

"In my opinion, they just want a bucket of money. And it's just not possible to do so, and certainly not at the expense of helping students in the rest of the state,” Davis said.

"I appreciate what Chicago is to the state of Illinois economically and otherwise, but you know my job is the entire state of Illinois, it's not just Chicago."

Davis, from suburban Homewood, sponsors a very similar school funding bill in the House. The main difference between the two measures: Manar's includes payment for Chicago Teacher Pensions, and Davis's doesn't. Chicago is the only district responsible for its own pensions.​