Senators seek to send governor school funding bill
SPRINGFIELD — The Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate sought to send Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill Monday overhauling how the state doles out education money, part of a continuing fight that’ll determine whether public schools get the funding before classes start.
Rauner has said he’ll use his amendatory powers to rewrite the bill and send it back to the Senate over objections to additional funding for Chicago Public Schools. But he has repeatedly declined to specify what exactly he’ll do.
Lawmakers are expected to convene in Springfield on Monday. To overrule Rauner, a three-fifths majority is needed. If that attempt fails, the bill dies.
There was little movement last week in the first three days of a special session, though late in the week both parties tapped a handful of lawmakers to negotiate over the weekend.
Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the initial bill, said legislators spoke for two days, but declined to elaborate on the details of their discussions until Monday’s session day.
“It was productive,” he said of the talks. “It was time well spent.”
A new school formula is required as part of the budget that legislators approved earlier this month. Without a new calculation, schools won’t get paid. The first payment to schools is due Aug. 10. Most schools are expected to open on time even without state funding, relying on reserves or borrowing. But questions remain over how long they’ll be able to continue to operate.
Both parties agree the 20-year-old calculation currently used to fund public schools in Illinois is unfair, but they’ve clashed over how to fix it.
The proposed formula channels money to the neediest districts first after ensuring that no district receives less money than last school year. It also includes pension help for Chicago.
Democrats insist the pending proposal is fair since Chicago is the only Illinois district that pays the employer portion of teacher pension costs. Republicans say the new formula means Chicago will continue to get money that it previously received as a block grant.