Thursday, March 4, 2021

As budget passes in Illinois, eyes turn to recovery


It has been a little more than two years since the state of Illinois had an actual budget, but yesterday, the Illinois House passed one by overriding gubernatorial vetoes, turning the attention of school districts and colleges toward how they will recover and put this historic impasse behind them.

Cause to celebrate: Illinois passed a state budget on July 6. (U of I – Springfield / Flickr CC)

School leaders can be expected to be overjoyed, given the many signs around the state and grassroots campaigns that have come and gone over the last two years begging lawmakers to pass a budget. Jason Leahy, executive director of the Illinois Principals Association, tweeted:

In order to accomplish the deal, lawmakers had to override a veto from Gov Bruce Rauner, a Republican, who was trying to stop a tax increase and keep the budget stalemate going. The Illinois House yesterday voted to override his predictable vetoes on a few important bills that originated in the Senate, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Democrats voting with House Speaker Michael Madigan were joined by enough House Republicans, just long enough, to override the vetoes and increase the state income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. A person earning a net income of $50,000 will pay an extra $600 a year to the state as a result.

The University of Illinois system, which has survived the impasse a little less broken down than other universities in the state, still lost about 400 full-time-equivalent administrative staff members. That has “stretched us relatively thin,” the Chronicle of Higher Education quoted Timothy L Killeen, the system’s president, as saying. Faculty members at the U of I managed to escape layoffs, and in-state tuition for students has remained flat during the two years.

However, a number of professors fled the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, and Mr Killeen told the Chronicle the university hopes to increase recruiting efforts for faculty, now that the budget is passed. After all, a drive to increase enrollment during the economic uncertainty helped and allowed the tuition for in-state students to hold steady.

School districts will have a longer road, because many of them dipped into reserves to meet expenses as the state failed to send them amounts they were scheduled to receive. I expect news will be forthcoming with many stories from school districts as they decide how to move forward. For the moment, though, they seem generally relieved:

Mr Belville is an elementary school principal in Chicago. And from Jeff Craig, the superintendent of West Aurora School District 129, we read further gratitude that lawmakers were at last able to overcome whatever obstacles stood in their way to pass the Illinois budget:

The acronym “EBM” refers to an “evidence-based model” that the Illinois for Educational Equity group hopes to enact, one that will help to ensure equity in school funding across the state.

“Not only do we have to fix the formula, but we have to put enough money into the formula so the fix will take,” the Chicago Defender quoted state Rep Babara Flynn Currie as saying. “It’s easy to say fix it, but at the end of the day, if you’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul, you’re just transferring money from one little pot to another. And since nobody’s pot is big enough or full enough, then you really haven’t done the job.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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