Some things need to be above politics.
Educating our children should be at the top of the list.
Yesterday was the time to end the chess game between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly. Illinois, at long last, has a budget in place, but that will be meaningless to the state’s schools if a new funding plan isn’t put in place.
Some Southern Illinois schools have said they can only operate a few days with the cash currently on hand.
There appears to be a ready solution … appears being the key word in that statement. The last remaining hurdle, while not insignificant, is not insurmountable. Time is running out. Let’s show the rest of the country we can actually be adults and get the bill signed and implemented.
Senate Bill 1, which has passed the House and Senate, will change the way Illinois schools are funded. Currently, schools operate largely on funds raised through property taxes, although the Illinois State Constitution provides that the state be the primary source of funds.
The property tax model created a well-chronicled system of haves and have-nots. The new plan calls for monies to be distributed on the basis of need — need being defined by the number of students living below the poverty level and the ability of a district to generate tax revenue.
Sounds simple enough. Sounds like a no-brainer — except for the fact this is Illinois.
Over the course of the past two weeks, Gov. Rauner has said he likes the bill, he wants to veto the bill, he wants to veto part of the bill, and then, he said he likes it again. The sticking point is the status of Chicago public schools.
Since the state does not currently contribute to pensions for teachers in Chicago Public Schools, an amount has been earmarked for that purpose. That is being labeled a “bailout” by opponents of the bill.
Conversely, Gov. Rauner pointed out that Chicago public schools also benefit from a $250 million block grant. His point being that if the purpose of the new funding program is to put schools on even footing, Chicago’s public schools shouldn’t receive the grants and the additional pension funds.
We believe the solution is to take the Chicago pension funding off the table to expedite the signing of the bill and deal with it as a separate issue. Amazingly, that seems to be acceptable to both the governor and the General Assembly.
Rauner told The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board the state should take out the “pension baloney” and leave the rest of the plan in place.
Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), one of the primary proponents of the plan, also finds that acceptable.
“The goal is to have a statewide system,” he said in a Friday interview. “The goal is to correct inequity, that’s not going to happen if we don’t deal with Chicago Public Schools.”
In the meantime, it’s time for the two sides to quit bickering and put a plan in place.
Rauner complains SB1 was passed six weeks ago and hasn’t made its way to his desk. Manar said the bill hasn’t been presented because Rauner has continually moved the goalposts.
“The governor’s position is erratic,” Manar said. “It is inconsistent. It is contradictory in nature. It changes by the day. It makes it impossible for serious people like me to try to navigate compromise.”
Schools are scheduled to open their doors in just a couple weeks.
Our children have a right to an education.
It is time for a pragmatic approach. Take out the Chicago pension funding provision and get the bill to the governor’s desk. And, the governor has to keep the goalposts in place and affix his signature.
Don’t let politics block the school door.