Public education is society’s most important responsibility. Education affords every child the opportunity for the American Dream, regardless of background or family circumstances. With a great education, you can be whomever you want to be, get a good job and provide for your family.
This is why, as governor, I am fighting to overhaul the way our state funds public schools.
At the beginning of my term, I established a bipartisan School Funding Reform Commission. Democrats and Republicans alike have complained about our state’s school funding formula for decades, and my administration took on this challenge.
Although it often seems like nothing gets accomplished in the political chaos, this bipartisan commission rose above the discord in Springfield. After many months of hard work, we came together to produce genuine bipartisan reform.
Unfortunately, our work is not yet finished. I was disappointed when the majority party took the commission’s work and inserted political goodies for special interests.
Then they sat on their bill – for two months. Democrats in the Illinois Senate used a procedural quirk to keep their version of the education funding bill from reaching my desk. They sought to breed fear, uncertainty and create a crisis.
When the bill finally came to my desk, I issued an amendatory veto within hours, and began earnest discussions on a compromise.
My amended bill allows for the fairest and most equitable path to funding our public schools. It levels the playing field so that all the property value of every community is accounted for. I’ve charged the General Assembly with ensuring that the new school funding formula serves all the children in our state, with equal respect for disadvantaged children in all regions of Illinois.
With my changes to the bill, I’ve placed my administration’s cards on the table. You know who I am and what I am fighting for: you, your children and their education.
The General Assembly now has a responsibility to act in that same spirit. I genuinely hope both parties can come to a fair compromise that puts our children first.
The choice before your legislators is simple: do they side with the children and families of Illinois, or do they side with those who have manipulated the system for decades, robbing our children of critical resources?
The legislative majority too often chooses the latter, but it does not have to this time. Illinoisans who pay their fair share deserve a fair deal in education funding. Bureaucracies that have mismanaged their finances should not expect bailouts at the expense of disadvantaged children in other school districts. Communities that hide property tax wealth from the mechanisms of education funding should be compelled to step up and contribute.
This is fair. This is equitable. Outside the walls of the Statehouse and beyond the political machine, it is noncontroversial.
There is no reason Illinois schools shouldn’t open on time and stay open for the duration of the school year; but some legislators want to play chicken with your children’s education.
Illinois children deserve better. They deserve the best public education system in the nation. Teachers and school administrators who labor with love and professionalism deserve the resources to ensure that every child can succeed.
Illinois is close to making a historic change in education funding that will improve education for poor children in Chicago and throughout the entire state. We have a chance to show the people of Illinois that elected officials can work together and put our children’s futures above political differences.
Let’s work together and reach a compromise that makes long overdue reforms in the way we fund our schools.
Rauner, a Republican, is governor of Illinois.