CARBONDALE — Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday that his plan to change the language of a key K-12 funding bill would funnel more money into downstate schools and avoid an unfair “bailout” of Chicago Public Schools.
During an interview with The Southern’s editorial board, Rauner called for the General Assembly to send him the Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act, also known as SB1, which passed both chambers of the legislature on May 31 and has been held from the governor’s desk ever since.
Rauner announced his intent to issue an immediate amendatory veto of the bill at a news conference in Mount Zion earlier this week.
Specifically, the governor plans to strike out a provision that would require the state to fund the employer’s portion of teacher pensions for the Chicago Public School District, the only school district in Illinois currently responsible for covering its own teacher pensions.
“We’ve gotta get this right,” Rauner said. “Our schools are too important, our teachers and our kids. (House Speaker Michael Madigan is) trying to siphon like $300 million a year away from Carbondale and Marion and Mount Vernon and send it to Chicago pensions, and it’s just so wrong.”
As the bill stands, all 850 of the state’s public school districts would see an increase in funding, based on a formula that factors in local property wealth and other factors.
According to analysis on Rauner’s website, if his amendatory veto goes through, Du Quoin’s school district will receive $258,000 each year on top of the $586,000 they’ll receive under SB1 as it is; Murphysboro would receive $363,000 in addition to the $750,000 provided by SB1; Marion would be paid an extra $291,000 on top of SB1’s $301,000; Harrisburg would receive about $359,000 in addition to SB1’s $760,000; and Carbondale Community High School would receive an extra $46,000 on top of the $75,000 delivered by SB1.
The website states that the figures account for Chicago Public Schools tier funding, fiscal year 2018 pension pick-up and the elimination of the Chicago Block Grant.
“This is a lot of money, and it shouldn’t be diverted to Chicago pensions. This should be in our communities that need it. There’s a lot of low-income kids, there’s a lot of struggling families in these communities. They deserve the support. That’s what this whole effort is about, and (Madigan) hijacked it,” Rauner said.
Rauner said he would be happy to address pension reform in Chicago Public Schools but that he believes the matter should be considered separately.
“Up in Chicago, they accuse me, they say, ‘The governor doesn’t care about poor black kids or brown kids.’ As if there aren’t poor kids, minorities, in Peoria and Decatur and Danville and Rockford! I mean, come on, it’s insulting,” Rauner said.
The bill passed 60-52 in the House and 35-22 in the Senate — in both cases, below the three-fifths majority required to override a gubernatorial veto, the route the General Assembly took to pass a full state budget earlier this month after two years of gridlock.
That budget does allocate an additional $350 million to schools but requires the approval of a new funding formula to distribute the money. If SB1 remains stalled, it could pose a problem for schools counting on state money to open next month.
Rauner described the Chicago Public Schools pension funding as a last-minute addition by Madigan.
“… You can see how sort of hypocritical this is. (State Senator) Andy Manar’s working — I give him credit, he’s wanted to do education funding reform for years. We finally figured out how to do it — because I sort of pushed him to do it — and he has introduced several education funding reform proposals; he’s never had a pension payment for Chicago as part of it.”
In a statement issued Thursday, Manar condemned the veto. He said Rauner has “repeatedly dropped the ball when it comes to doing the right thing for Illinois public schools” and called the bill critical to fixing the state’s broken school funding formula.
“The oldest trick in the playbook is to show up in a downstate community and say, ‘Those people are the reason why you don’t have the things you need in your community.’ I’ve seen it a hundred times,” Manar said. “I’m not going to let Gov. Rauner’s divisive argument about geography derail school funding reform. We’ve come too far to let that happen.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Andy Manar as the Senate president. The Senate president is John Cullerton.