Rauner vetoes education funding plan, rewriting Democrats' proposal

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday vetoed a sweeping education bill, saying the proposed funding formula Democrats sent him “put Chicago in line for millions more” that would be “diverted from other, needier districts.”

Rauner rewrote the measure to take away a $250 million block grant that Chicago Public Schools has long received and also changed how the funding formula weights CPS pension funding when dividing up new money for schools.

“This is not about taking resources from Chicago,” Rauner’s veto message reads. “This is about making historic changes to help poor children in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly issued a statement accusing the governor of “fuzzy math.”

“The only thing the governor’s action advances is his own personal brand of cynical politics. It is well past time for Gov. Rauner to stop playing politics with our children’s futures, start demonstrating leadership, and ensure a child’s education isn’t determined by their zip code or his political whims.”

The fate of the bill now rests with Democrats who control the General Assembly. But if they’re going to override Rauner, they must find Republican lawmakers to help like they did with a tax hike and budget vote last month. Failing that, they would have to negotiate a new education funding plan with the governor.

The governor’s long-promised rewrite came a day after the Illinois Senate sent the governor the bill following a two-month hold.

Minutes before Rauner spoke at the Capitol, Democrats asked for more time to try to cut a deal.

“The only stumbling block is time,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and lead education negotiator.

The measure sent to Rauner would put in place sweeping changes to the state’s formula for distributing money to school districts. Critics have long said the current plan benefits wealthy schools while shortchanging those in need, including CPS and Downstate districts. Without a new funding formula in place, state government has no authority to cut checks for schools, thanks to a provision Democrats inserted into the state budget.

Waiting are the state’s roughly 855 school districts counting on the state making its first aid payment as scheduled Aug. 10. While it is unlikely schools will not open on time if the money doesn’t arrive by then, some districts may have to cut programs, borrow money or tap into reserves. And neither Democrats nor Republicans want to shoulder the blame should the disagreement continue and schools eventually have to close their doors in the coming months.

Though Rauner has said he supports large portions of the legislation, he’s taken issue with a provision that sets aside $215 million to help pay for Chicago teacher pension costs, which the state already covers for districts outside the city. The governor also has raised concerns about another $250 million CPS has long received in the form of a special block grant.

The action on the school legislation is the sequel to the more than two year standoff between Rauner and legislative Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan that left the state without a comprehensive full-year budget.


Twitter @MoniqueGarcia

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