We wish we could say we were shocked.
We wish we could say we didn’t see this coming.
Just weeks after taking a minor step toward normalcy, Illinois’ state government shot itself in the foot once again by failing to act in a responsible enough manner to allow K-12 students to attend school this year. That’s not a really high bar to set.
Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto on the school funding bill last week, putting school kids in the middle of an ongoing political squabble between the legislative and executive branches.
After years of legislative haggling, the Illinois General Assembly finally crafted a school funding bill, SB1, that legislators viewed as equitable enough to pass. By and large, school superintendents supported the legislation.
The abridged version of the bill – it divorced school districts from relying totally on tax funds generated by local property taxes. Virtually everyone agrees with that basic premise of the bill.
In the meantime, Gov. Rauner’s position on the bill waffled. At times he appeared supportive. At other times, he threatened to veto the measure. The Democrats used his shifting positions as an excuse not to put the bill on Rauner’s desk.
The sticking point – pensions for Chicago public school teachers. The bill contained a $250 million block grant for the Chicago public school district as well as pension funding for teachers in that district. In the past, the district has self-funded pensions – the only district in the state that does so.
This is the music that set up the ensuing political dance. And, in this instance it took two to tango. Both sides tripped over themselves, making everyone look bad in the process.
The Republicans called the funding for Chicago schools a bailout. Democrats used that rhetoric as an excuse to allow the unsigned bill to languish for two months. And, when the bill finally arrived on the governor’s desk, he used his amendatory veto to carve out the funds for Chicago schools.
In delivering the veto, Rauner seemed unaware that it takes a legislative supermajority to uphold the veto. Getting a simple majority in the General Assembly these days is a chore, a supermajority for a bill that received minimal Republican support is a pipedream.
Springfield’s reaction to the latest dust up between Republicans and Democrats has been predictable – finger pointing.
Seriously? That’s the best we can do.
If we actually had a funding mechanism to send our kids to school, hopefully one of the things they’d learn in the primary grades is to take responsibility for their actions. That’s a lesson that could certainly be implemented around the state capital these days.
Before Rauner’s actual veto, there was a glimmer of hope that the state could actually function. Both sides seemed to agree that one of the revenue streams for Chicago Public Schools could be removed and debated at a later date.
That was a rational, lucid, adult approach to a problem that shouldn’t be insurmountable. So, what happened?
How did we get from there, to the possibility of schools being unable to operate, despite the fact that Illinois actually has a budget and money to distribute.
Please, Springfield. Enough with the games.
The citizens of Illinois have been political pawns in this charade long enough. It’s bad enough that state services have been curtailed and state employees have lost their jobs, but to throw school children into the middle of a political argument that could be resolved at a later date – that’s simply unconscionable.
Because the adults can’t play nice, school children stand to suffer.
We deserve better. The kids deserve better.
Yet, this is Illinois. We’re not surprised it’s come to this.