IL Senate overrides governor's veto of school funding bill

The Illinois state Senate voted to override of veto of a school funding bill by Governor Bruce Rauner that will give the Chicago school system hundreds of millions of dollars.

The next move is up to the Illinois House, which is also expected to override the veto.  Lawmakers are under pressure because without the bill, many school districts across the state – including Chicago – will be unable to open their doors for the fall term on time.

Chicago Sun-Times:

The Illinois Senate voted 38-19 for the override, with one Republican voting in line with Democrats. The Illinois House has 15 days to act on an override, but the Senate on Sunday also passed a backup bill should the House fail. That, however, would restart the clock on solving the school funding mess.

State aid payments to school districts were to be sent out on Aug. 10 – but the state needs an "evidence-based" school funding formula approved before it can release those funds, per an agreement Democratic leaders inserted into a budget package.

The vote came a day after the Illinois State Board of Education released an analysis of the veto that found Chicago Public Schools would receive $463 million less in funding this next school year under Rauner's funding plan than the measure approved by the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly.

Rauner's office contends CPS would lose $242 million under the veto – not counting the CPS pension pickup of $221 million.

The governor's veto removed millions from what CPS would have received in the initial bill and redistributes funds to other districts. But Democrats contend districts with declining enrollment could lose money in the next few years under his changes.

The reason to change the funding formula is to gift the Chicago Public Schools nearly a half a billion dollars – a move that Rauner believes will starve suburban and rural school districts of much needed cash.  But the Cook County machine has spoken, and Democrats downstate are marching in lockstep.

During the override debate, bill sponsor State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said Rauner's veto takes away money from CPS – "one of the largest [districts] in the state that educates children that live in poverty to give to other school districts that educate children that live in poverty."

Manar said Rauner's veto does not create a system that creates equity and doesn't lead to "greater advocacy for public education."

But State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, urged senators to vote against the override, saying he wants further negotiations to discuss the measure's "inequities."

"We need honest brokers on both sides of the aisle," Barickman said.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, spoke of her frustrations over negotiations with Republicans. There have been bipartisan talks happening for weeks – with Republicans pushing for a private school voucher program, among other requests.

"You keep bringing items that were not even a part of the governor's amendatory veto," Lightford said. "We're talking about things that have zero to do with discussions that we've had for the last three years."

State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, who is mulling a run against Rauner in the March primary, criticized the governor's involvement in the school funding process and said he voted yes for the override. Of the governor, McCann said there is "one thing worse than one party control and that is one man control."

"Are we going to fear the governor? Are we going to fear his political operatives? Are we going to fear his money and his friends' money, or are we going to fear the mirror?" McCann said.

The funding problems of the CPS are a direct result of the school board's failure to face reality.  The board continues to fund schools (and CPS headquarters) as if there were no such things as a shrinking tax base and growing pension and health care benefits costs.  In 2016, the CPS faced a budget deficit of more than a billion dollars.  They eventually halved the deficit, but the nearly $500 million owed from last year hangs over this year's budget.

That's where the school funding formula change comes in.  Democratic lawmakers couldn't simply appropriate the extra cash for Chicago.  There's as much resentment against Chicago among downstate Democrats as there is with Republicans.  So they used the sleight-of-hand of the funding formula to gift the schools the cash.

The veto override will be successful, and schools will open on time.  But where does Illinois go from here?  Both Democrats and Republicans are kicking the can down the road, hoping that the next governor will be more compliant with their schemes to enrich themselves and their cronies at the taxpayer's expense.

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