Wednesday, March 3, 2021

With approved state budget, IL looks at schools


The Illinois General Assembly approved a state budget for the current fiscal year, despite vetoes from Gov Bruce Rauner, a Republican, earlier this month, after only two years of a historic impasse. But public school districts across the state still face the very real possibility of not receiving scheduled state payments on time, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Mr Rauner was quoted as saying he would demand legislators stay in Springfield for a special session unless he gets a school funding plan delivered to his desk by Monday morning, since schools are just a few weeks away from the 2017-18 school year. Although the new budget does include a $350 million increase for schools, the governor still objects to certain line items, notably the state support of pensions for Chicago Public Schools, and could veto that spending if it does not fit certain provisions, known as an “evidence-based model,” or EBM.

He basically thinks the state is sending too much money to Chicago’s schools, to the detriment of suburban and downstate districts, the State Journal-Register reports out of Springfield. The EBM provisions are part of a bill that was passed by both the Illinois House and Senate in May, a bill that promises gains that would be meaningful, albeit small compared to the budget of the Chicago Public Schools, for downstate districts especially.

“There’s no booby trap [in SB 1],” the paper quoted state Rep Will Davis, Democrat of Homewood and the legislation’s sponsor in the House, as saying. “It recognizes a direction we all want to go in,” a direction that presumably refers to the bill’s redirection of important funds to downstate districts that need them badly, taking those funds away from the Chicago Public Schools.

Note that the new budget does nothing to replenish cash reserves that have been depleted over the last two years. For some districts, the road to recovery will be a long one.

Mr Owen is the superintendent of unit School District 116 in Urbana.

SB1 is the right idea, though. The margin is smaller than what would be needed to override the governor’s veto again, but that was also the case with SB6 and SB9 before the vote was actually taken to override Mr Rauner’s veto of the budget. Furthermore, SB1 contains language that would presumably promote equity in school funding for the state.

“Why would we pour $350 million more into … a system characterized as completely broken?” wondered state Sen Andy Manar, Democrat of Bunker Hill and a sponsor of the bill in the originating chamber.

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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