Bill to overhaul how Illinois pays for public education stalled in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill to overhaul how the state pays for public education is stalled in Springfield, as Democrats and Republicans negotiate to keep the keep the bill from being rejected by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Now state lawmakers are scrambling to figure out a way to fund education before the school year starts in less than a month.

Lawmakers were negotiating at the speaker’s office Monday afternoon.

Nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle agrees that Illinois has a problem when it comes to funding education.

But instead of addressing the problems with a new state law, there is now a state of limbo.

Despite a promise to send the governor the state’s education funding bill known as SB 1, the state Senate adjourned without doing so.

The bill has been held up in the Senate for nearly two months.

In the State House Monday, Democrats and Republicans argued over the measure.

“SB 1 hurts no school district, it helps every school district. I urge Governor Rauner to be the hero for school children in Illinois, sign SB 1 and continue to fight to make Illinois the best place for quality education,” Lashawn Ford (D-Chicago), said.

“Senate has not sent SB 1 to the governor so there’s nothing for him to sign. The men and women on this side of the aisle are willing to work to make sure public schools can open on time and get more money in a fair and equitable way,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.

The bill designed to fix Illinois’ broken school funding formula has been harshly criticized by the governor.

The bill was drafted by a bi-partisan panel of lawmakers –10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and five people appointed by the governor.

It sought to find an “evidence based” approach to increasing funding and distributing money to all of the state’s 860 school districts but the controversy surrounds only one school district, the state’s largest: Chicago.

For the Chicago Public Schools, local taxpayers pay for teacher pensions. In all other districts, state taxpayers pay for pensions.

In addition, CPS argues that it educates 20 percent of the state’s students, but only receives 15 percent of state spending under current law

The bill proposed two would have changed requiring that "the state shall contribute $215,200,000” to pay Chicago teacher pensions and that the "state board of education shall award to school districts block grants."

The pension payment and the block grant are considered an unfair "Chicago bailout" by the governor and other critics of the bill.

Lawmakers said they’re only now negotiating over sticking points in the bill.

“We would ask him to commit to further negotiations with us, because we do believe we are making progress,” State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 60 to 52. The house would need 71 votes to override the governor’s veto.

In the Senate, the bill originally passed by a 35 to 22 vote, and the chamber would need 36 votes to override the governor.

One negotiation session has wrapped up Monday afternoon.

With state lawmakers declining to specify what the sticking points are or what time table might be, the pressure will mount August 10 gets closer—that’s when checks have to go out to schools, so they can open their doors on time.

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