Education Chicago Public Schools headquarters, Chicago, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Governor misleads voters over education funding veto

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Governor misleads voters over education funding veto

By Illinois Senator Steve Landek

State Senator Steve Landek, Democrat 12th Illinois Senate District

State Senator Steve Landek, Democrat 12th Illinois Senate District

In recent weeks, you may have heard Gov. Bruce Rauner justifying his opposition to an historic education funding reform bill by calling it a “Chicago Bailout.”

That narrative is false and purposefully misleading. The governor’s veto is nothing more than an attempt to weaken Illinois’ investment in our public schools.

Senate Bill 1 is a long-overdue, landmark reform plan that is backed by education experts, non-partisan school finance professionals and nearly everyone who supports a modern, fair and equitable system for investing in our schools. The plan Rauner vetoed invests $350 million in new funding to K-12 education, millions of which is gained by schools in our area.

The meticulous 27-point funding method stops the practice of simply throwing money at schools and instead bases investment on the specific needs of every district. For example, JS Morton High School receives an added $1,062 per pupil, the largest increase of any district in the state. In fact, 268 school districts see a greater investment than the $192 Chicago does per pupil, including Cicero 99 ($750), Berwyn South 100 ($766) and Berwyn North 98 ($565). No schools receive less funding than they did the year prior.

Publicly, Gov. Rauner said he vetoed Senate Bill 1 because it includes a so-called “bailout” payment of $221 million to the CPS teacher pension fund. Don’t be fooled. That payment accounts for less than 3 percent of the total spending in the bill, and it simply puts Chicago on level footing with the rest of the state, as CPS is currently the only district in Illinois whose pension costs are not already covered by the state.

English: Chicago Public Schools headquarters, ...

Chicago Public Schools headquarters, Chicago, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The governor’s veto also strips CPS of annual funding totaling $250 million – funding that was designed and approved by a Republican-controlled legislature in 1995. The funds are provided for programs like special education and transportation, which other districts around the state also receive.

Under the governor’s veto, Chicago is the only district to receive less than they did a year ago.

While these points of contention fit in neatly with the governor’s attempts to divide the state on geographic lines, his true motives are apparent when looking at the 100-plus changes demanded in his veto. The more malicious amendments include:

Punishes schools for community economic development efforts

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a development tool that helps build communities and create jobs, but it decreases the tax money received by local schools. When the valuation of land increases, the added tax revenue funds community development but is inaccessible to local schools.

Berwyn, Cicero, Bridgeview, Brookfield and other communities in our area rely on the important investments of TIFs. Senate Bill 1 did not count TIF revenue against school districts, because it is not theirs to spend.

Rauner’s plan removes this protection entirely.

Removes inflation protections, diverts money to voucher program

Part of the reason Illinois schools are currently so inequitably funded is because the old formula did not adjust for inflation. Senate Bill 1 does account for inflation, but Gov. Rauner has stripped this protection from the bill as well.

Another Rauner demand creates millions of new corporate tax giveaways (or loopholes) to support a private school voucher program that will drain needed resources for public schools.

Plunges school districts back into uncertainty.

Had the governor simply signed Senate Bill 1, every school district in Illinois could have begun the march toward funding adequacy with certainty and stability. Instead, Gov. Rauner retreated to the familiar throes of obstruction, blaming his favorite scapegoat—Chicago—and signaling once again his ultimate goal is chaos.

At this point the governor has shown his hand – he doesn’t want to move forward. Those of us who do will continue to fight for the implementation of Senate Bill 1.

(Steve Landek is the State Senator representing the 12th District. He is a Democrat.)

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