The Illinois State Board of Education on Friday warned that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of school funding legislation created a “disruption” that could cause “confusion” for the state’s 852 school districts.
The comments represent a rare rebuke of Rauner by a board whose members he appointed. Earlier this week, the Republican governor used his veto powers to rewrite a bill aimed at cleaning up errors in a sweeping rewrite of how the state distributes money to public schools.
In its statement, the board said it requested the follow-up bill after officials discovered that calculations for 178 districts were incorrect. If left unfixed, those schools would get less state money than lawmakers intended. The board said it asked Rauner to sign the bill, but “on the last possible day, the governor issued an amendatory veto to SB 444 which has caused a disruption for the agency as it continues preparations” to put in place the new funding formula.
“The state board is continuing to gather and clean data needed to distribute tier funding as we wait for the General Assembly to act on this amendatory veto,” board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said in a statement. “Time is of the essence to ensure that what districts receive from the state this year is equitable and fair.”
If the bill Rauner vetoed doesn’t become law, those 178 school districts “will see a reduction in funding based on their inability to access local resources,” according to the board. The formula rewrite lawmakers approved and Rauner signed was supposed to include a provision that would exclude property wealth some districts can’t tax when the state calculates how much money it should send each district.
As the law is written, the adjustment won’t take effect. Therefore, districts could get less state money than expected as a result.
For Chicago Public Schools, the loss may amount to $44 million, according to a legislative source and a district source familiar with the matter. Matthews declined to comment on the specific impact to individual districts, and CPS officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Asked about the potential that some schools could lose out on additional funding, a spokeswoman for Rauner called on lawmakers to “move quickly” to approve his veto. Lawmakers can vote to accept the changes, reject them with an override or choose not to take them up at all, in which case the legislation would die. Lawmakers return to Springfield later this month.
“The General Assembly passed a trailer bill to address unintended errors in the new formula. The governor’s amendatory veto calls on them to fix all the identified problems,” Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said.
While Rauner has listed the new funding formula as one of his top achievements as he seeks re-election, he said he vetoed the follow-up legislation because it failed to address a technicality that would prevent dozens of Catholic and independent schools from benefiting from a new scholarship program he’s pushed.
Under that program, individuals and corporations can give money for scholarships to private schools in exchange for a tax credit worth 75 percent of their donation.
Rauner’s issue centers on language that would require nonpublic schools to be “recognized” by the state Board of Education to participate in the tax program. He says that eligibility should be expanded to schools that are “registered” with the board, which does not require the same level of vetting.
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