Debate continues over IL school funding formula bill

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Democrats have passed such a plan through both chambers, but Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, says he'll veto parts of it. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who has spearheaded SB1 and the need to change to how IL funds its schools, said Rauner has never directly contacted him to discuss problems with the bill or with ways both sides could come to a compromise.

Meanwhile, the $36 billion fiscal 2018 budget the Illinois General Assembly enacted last week over Rauner's veto prohibits the flow of state money to schools in the absence of an evidence-based funding model, raising concerns over whether the state will make a looming August payment to the school districts.

Rauner has suggested he will veto the new funding method because he contends that it unfairly provides extra money to the nation's third-largest school district in Chicago.

Manar, the bill's sponsor, says Rauner should be working with lawmakers on an agreement rather than holding campaign-style events for TV cameras.

Unlike all other IL public school districts, which participate in a state-subsidized teachers' retirement system, CPS has its own pension fund, which receives minimal funding from the state.

"If we wait any longer for Governor Rauner to do the right thing, principals will not be able to organize their schools, and we will use SB1's funding parameters to plan, since there are no other options on the table", Bittner said in a statement. "They want to threaten to hold up school funding so schools don't open this fall", Rauner said, "to try to force a pension bailout for the City of Chicago on the backs of IL taxpayers". Rauner says this marks a historic change that will, over time, fix education inequity in IL.

Despite his veto threat, Rauner said Friday "We're going to make sure schools get open and we're gonna make sure that it's done on a basis that's fair for taxpayers all across the state, and it doesn't benefit only one community at the expense of residents of other communities".

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No matter what, something must be done to move IL to an evidence-based model of funding like the intent of SB 1, otherwise no state aid will be disbursed to schools - rendering many unable to open in the fall.

Emanuel has said Chicago schools will open September 5 as scheduled - regardless of what Rauner does.

Local School Councils will have about a week to approve spending plans for their schools, officials said. SB 1 supporters said the bill is not a CPS bailout.

"I can not stress how important it is to address this issue now to ensure that our state's elementary, middle, and high schools open without interruption, with the resources they need", she said. The new formula incorporates 27 different variables that weigh a school's poverty level, property values and transportation costs just to name a few.

Any protracted fight in Springfield over school funding would be devastating for local school districts, as the State Board of Education has told school districts that a funding plan must be approved by August 3 for normal payments to be sent to school districts by the start of the fall semester.

With little more than a month until many school districts open their doors, Springfield still hasn't finalized a school funding plan. If funds do not come in before that time, he said the district would be out of cash to pay its teachers and staff.

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