Mitchell sides with Rauner on education funding


BLOOMINGTON — Democrats shouldn’t expect to find State Rep. Bill Mitchell on their side again this week.

“The school districts I represent do much better under Gov. Rauner’s plan than (Democrats’),” said Mitchell, who represents Decatur and parts of McLean County. “This is an argument about whether downstate is going to get our fair share versus Chicago.”

Lawmakers are under pressure to approve a new school funding system after including in the budget a provision that requires one before schools can get state money. Districts have already missed an Aug. 10 payment.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly approved a plan this summer, but Rauner didn’t sign it, opting for an amendatory veto changing the bill. The state Senate voted Sunday to override the veto with only one Republican, but Democrats don’t hold enough House seats to override without more help.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said he can’t say how he’ll vote until he has a specific proposal. Brady backed Rauner in the budget fight.

Rauner said he vetoed the education bill because it benefits Chicago by making state taxpayers cover the district’s teacher pensions — as they do for every other Illinois district — without taking away compensatory funding.

Democrats countered that his proposal would hurt downstate districts by distributing funding by student without a permanent funding floor, harming schools with declining enrollment but rising costs like building maintenance.

“It gets down to a numbers game. Whose numbers are you going to believe?” said Brady.

Brady said he’s frustrated the process has put school operations in danger despite years of negotiations. It’s also put additional pressure on legislators who continue to talk, without Rauner, about a compromise. 

“For someone in my position, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said Brady. “It’s very confusing to try to follow, and that’s usually where things get overlooked.”

Mitchell said he expects the House will fail to override the governor, paving the way for legislators to negotiate.

“There are a lot of different things he could do,” said Mitchell of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, a frequent target for Rauner. “Does he want to play games, or is he serious about working with Republicans to get something done? Let’s hope he’s serious about working with us.”

Area GOP lawmakers Keith Sommer and Tom Bennett did not return calls seeking comment.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh



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