Special Session On School Funding

Lawmakers returned to the Capitol July 26 after Gov. Rauner issued a proclamation calling for a special legislative session on school funding in Illinois. Though Senate Republicans were disappointed that little was accomplished during the week, prior to adjourning on Friday the Governor asked key Republican lawmakers to reach out to their Democrat colleagues to negotiate on a bipartisan school funding reform plan that could be presented to him by July 31.

Even though an “evidence-based” school funding formula must be signed into law before Illinois schools can receive their state funding, Senate Democrat leaders continue to retain a parliamentary hold on legislation that would do just that—further delaying an inevitable amendatory veto that the Governor has repeatedly said he will issue.

Senate Republicans have repeatedly asked Democrat leaders to immediately send Senate Bill 1 to the Governor so he can make changes to the bill that would make school funding fair and equitable to all 852 Illinois school districts. Despite calls from Republicans to act, Democrats have refused to send Senate Bill 1 to the Governor for action, even though the legislation was approved more than eight weeks ago on May 31.

On July 28, the Governor issued a statement noting that if the Democrat majority refuses to send the bill for action, then they should be willing to negotiate with their Republican

colleagues to achieve compromise that maximizes education funding for all Illinois students and schools across the state.

Reforming education funding is critical. Republicans have stressed that by stalling Senate Bill 1, Democrat leaders are manufacturing a crisis—placing school payments in jeopardy and leaving students, teachers and parents waiting to find out if their schools will open on time. 

Senate Bill 1 as currently written distorts the intent of the evidence-based model, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from rural and suburban districts across the state to Chicago, to address the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) pension debt.

Unlike other payments to other state pension funds, Senate Bill 1 places the payment for CPS pensions within the education funding model itself. By diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in state education dollars to pay for CPS pensions, 851 school districts get less state money for their schools and students. 

Curbing Government Costs

Also during the week, the Governor signed legislation to curb government costs. House Bill 643 prohibits the automatic cost-of-living adjustment raises for State lawmakers, and other executive government personnel, which were to take effect July 1. The bipartisan legislation also reduces the reimbursement for per diem and mileage to rates that were set in 2012.

Chapin Rose

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