Rauner tasks commission with sorting out school funding

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants lawmakers to find a way to spend more money on schools while taking less from local property taxpayers.

The governor is giving his new School Funding Reform Commission three goals: he wants the state to spend more on elementary and high schools, lawmakers need to relieve the burden on local property taxpayers, he wants to shrink the parity gap between rich and poor school districts.

“We need more equity, and we need to increase the overall state support,” Rauner said on Tuesday. “We need both equity and an increase in the funding level.”

Illinois is on pace to spend nearly $7 billion on schools this year.

The governor didn’t say how much more he wants to spend or where he’ll get the new money.

“I am an anti-tax person, and I ran to try and bring down the tax burden,” Rauner said. “But I’ve also said that in the context of significant reforms … to get more value for taxpayers, I am open to new revenues.”

State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, is on the commission. He said the key is Illinois lawmakers will finally get past a “winners and losers” discussion of how much the state pays for education.

“Now here’s an opportunity to truly reform the way we push money out to schools,” Davis said. “Using an evidence-based model that examines what a school district needs.”

Rauner said he is paying particular attention to Illinois’ relationship between local property taxes and school funding. Local taxpayers pick up between 60 percent and 70 percent of the cost of education in the state. Rauner said that is not fair, and it punishes low-income families.

“When a family that has a lower income has a home that’s not capable of supporting the taxes necessary to support a good school in the community, we have a duty as a state to help that school get the resources so that families can get a great education.”

Rauner didn’t specify whether he wants to lower the state’s reliance on property taxes to pay for schools or end it altogether.

lllinois’ legislative leaders are each appointing five lawmakers to the commission. The governor is appointing five more.

Rauner is giving the commission a February deadline. The governor said he wants to see legislation called for a vote by May.

–Illinois News Network

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