House could be sticking point on school funding veto

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD — Although Democrats in the Illinois Senate on Sunday voted to override a key Gov. Bruce Rauner veto, it could still be hung up in the House.

The measure overridden in the Senate is Rauner’s plan to overhaul the system whereby state tax dollars are paid to Illinois’ more than 850 school districts. Local leaders in Springfield say the governor’s veto would hurt area districts, most notably those in cash-strapped communities like Rockford.

“The governor’s veto would remove protections from the school funding formula that take into account a school district’s ability to pay,” Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said. “Local districts like Rockford and Harlem are impacted by property tax caps and Tax Increment Finance Districts.”

Stadelman said in two years, Rauner’s plan will withhold funding from districts with declining enrollments, even while their costs remain the static. Stadelman said Senate Bill 1 (SB1) will come with $5 million is true revenue for Rockford—not the more than $9 million the governor projected.

“He did that by taking money from a handful of school districts and redistributed it around the state,” Stadelman said via Facebook. “This is a complex issue. Unfortunately, that allows people to cherry pick numbers and manipulate data to try and bolster their argument.”

On the other side of that argument is Rockford Republican Sen. Dave Syverson, a strong supporter of Rauner’s proposal and a fan of curtailing so-called bailout funds for the Chicago Public Schools. The longtime Republican says deep Chicago cuts will mean good news for Rockford.

“If the House also overrides the governor’s proposed changes, Rockford stands to lose up to $9.5 million in year one,” Syverson said.

Syverson also referred to Rauner’s projections that showed Belvidere School District 100 receiving an additional $2.9 million in the first year, Harlem getting $1.6 million, and Hononegah $707,000.

“The Governor’s veto made Senate Bill 1 a fairer solution to fixing our broken school funding formula, meaning more money for our struggling schools,” Syverson said. “This veto exposed how Chicago has exploited the tax system to gain additional funding and would rightfully put them behind needier schools in line for funding.”

The governor’s plan would slash Chicago Public Schools by more than $450 million for the 2017-18 academic year, funds Rauner tapped for other districts.

Some say the House could side with Rauner’s changes, although others have lambasted the plan, including Chicago Ald. and Democratic candidate for governor Ameya Pawar, D-Northwest Side, who called the proposed CPS cuts “racist.”

The House has 15 days to overturn the governor’s veto. An override will require 71 votes. There are 67 Democrats in the House.

“We sincerely appreciate the work done by the bipartisan bicameral negotiators, but believe the process can only reach conclusion with the involvement of the four legislative leaders,” Rauner said in a statement. “An agreement is within reach but time is of the essence to secure historic education funding reform.” R.

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