Illinois lawmakers will return to the Capitol this week on Wednesday for a special session dedicated to addressing the upcoming year’s state funding for schools. Governor Bruce Rauner called the special session Monday afternoon, after Senate Democrats missed a noon deadline to send their approved school funding bill, SB 01, to the Governor for final action.
Coming into the new General Assembly in January, there was widespread consensus that the existing school funding formula needed to be fundamentally changed. A bipartisan Education Funding Task Force studied the issue during the spring legislative session and ultimately determined that an evidence-based formula would be more equitable and fair for Illinois schools.
SB 01 was approved in May, but Senate Democrats used a procedural move to keep the bill from advancing to the Governor’s desk. The Governor has been vocal with his plan to issue an amendatory veto to the bill to remove what he considers to be a large bailout for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). If SB 01 becomes law, a large portion of funds would be channeled directly to CPS rather than through the new formula. As written, an additional $778 million would be invested in K-12 education for the 2017-2018 school year. CPS would receive $495 million of those new funds. That represents 64% of all new education money even though CPS houses only 19% of the State’s students. If the evidence-based model is the agreed choice for equity in school funding, why would the formula be skewed right out of the gates so it favors CPS?
House and Senate Republicans introduced a better proposal this year that would have ensured that every school district in Illinois was treated equally under the new formula. HB 4069, also filed in the Senate as SB 1124, included no special deals for CPS. This chart shows how that plan compares to SB 01. Unfortunately, both Republican bills were not allowed to advance to the floor for a vote.