We are offering this joint op-ed this week to explain our support for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to fix the current school funding formula bill, Senate Bill 1.
SB 1 has passed the House and Senate, but is currently being held back from the governor’s desk because of a procedural maneuver. The purpose of this stall tactic is purely political, with the Chicago Democrat-led super majority in the Senate using the potential crisis of some schools not opening as leverage in their scheme.
This is unacceptable.
Imagine a would-be kindergartner eagerly awaiting their very first day of school, only to be left at the bus stop with no bus to ride and no school to attend because Chicago politicians are more focused on continuing their never ending pursuit of crisis-driven politics. The people of Illinois are tired of political cliffhangers. This is absolutely the wrong issue to play politics with. The Chicago Democrats’ political games are no laughing matter and we will not tolerate their attempts to bail out Chicago and keep Illinois schools from opening.
The recently passed budget contains $778 million in funding for K-12 public schools. The major complaint that we share with the current version of SB 1 is that Chicago would receive a disproportionate share of these education dollars. The way the bill currently reads means that 64 percent of all new funds ($495 million of the $778 million) for education are directed to Chicago Public Schools, despite the fact that they only have 19 percent of the state's students.
Also, $215 million of the $495 million allocated to Chicago in the current version of SB 1 would be used to pay Chicago teacher pension system payments in perpetuity. That redirection of state funding would be unprecedented and is not something we can support. That pension payment, in combination with the block grant that Chicago Public Schools gets for special education and transportation services, along with regular general state aid payments to CPS would give Chicago schools three bites at the funding apple.
That is fundamentally unfair.
The plan that we can support eliminates that extra $215 million payment to CPS pensions and allows that money to be redistributed through the new evidence based model formula.
In order to fix SB 1 to reflect our priorities for public schools in Illinois, we are supporting a plan offered by Gov. Rauner that includes a “re-write” of SB 1 via the amendatory veto tool that the Governor has. Eliminating those extra pension payments for Chicago would result in a more fair and equitable distribution of funding to K-12 schools.
Our two representative districts are home to dozens of public schools. Using the most up to date analysis made available by the Illinois State Board of Education, almost all public schools in the 115th and 117th districts are considered to be in the category of those most in need of additional state funding. Applying the governor’s proposed fix to SB 1 would mean that all of the schools we represent will receive more funding than if the bill becomes law with the Chicago bailout language included.
We urge Senate President John Cullerton to release his hold on SB 1 and allow the Governor to amendatorily veto SB 1. This will ensure our schools will open on time and that Chicago does not get a bigger piece of the education budget than they should. We need a deal that is fair to all taxpayers. The right plan is Gov. Rauner’s plan to fix Senate Bill 1.