Illinois House Votes Down Contentious Education Funding Reform Plan

Illinois House Votes Down Contentious Education Funding Reform Plan

The bipartisan measure would provide general state funding for more than 800 school districts for the first time this academic year, using a formula that prioritizes money for the neediest districts and increases funding for all districts. The tax credits will be awarded proportionally around the state.

Earlier Monday, Chicago's school board president said he supported the bill, saying the benefit to Chicago Public Schools vastly outweighs a tax credit benefitting private schools.

"Automatic voter registration will bring hundreds of thousands of additional Illinoisans into the democratic process and the legislature is to be commended for marshaling the support to overcome Governor Rauner's veto a year ago", said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

The first-term Republican has objected to another proposal the Democratic-majority Legislature approved that's aimed at reducing disparities in per-student funding that exist between wealthy and poor districts.

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A proposal to overhaul the way IL funds schools would provide $75 million per year in tax credits for people who contribute to private school scholarships.

Later, during a news conference on the school funding announcement, Emanuel boasted it would give CPS everything it had wanted "and more" than the plan Rauner rewrote to try to reduce state aid to the district.

House Republicans had agreed to get 30 votes for the bi-partisan deal. Lawmakers said those credits would have gone to families of low- and middle-income private school students.

While Rauner's nemesis, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his top deputies supported the compromise, the vote shows the speaker didn't want the bill to pass as is.

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That aspect concerned some Democrats, specifically Chicago lawmakers, and is opposed by powerful teacher unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. He says "taxpayer dollars should be invested in our public school classrooms".

Critics of SB 1, including Rauner, have called it a "bailout" for cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools because the bill as passed took into account the district's $505 million in unfunded pension liability, plus $221 million in its normal pension payments, as well as the $203 million Chicago Block Grant, when determining how much it should receive in state funding.

Republican legislative leaders said Sunday that they're making progress on a bipartisan agreement to overhaul how IL funds schools, but Democrats declined to elaborate after a closed-door meeting at the state Capitol.

Republicans are calling it a "win-win" but Democrats declined to comment after a two-hour Sunday meeting at the Capitol.

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