The battle over school funding in Illinois heated up Monday, as Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans to issue an amendatory veto of a major reform bill – a move that Chicago Public Schools quickly claimed he cannot legally do.
State aid for K-12 schools is contingent on changing Illinois’ funding formula to an “evidence-based model” like that of Senate Bill 1, which passed the legislature in May.
SB 1 which would change the way new school funding is distributed statewide to make Illinois’ system (among the most regressive in the nation when it comes to serving low-income students) more equitable.
It is currently being held on a procedural motion, as lawmakers seek more time to negotiate after Rauner vowed to veto the measure, decrying it as a “bailout” for CPS.
On Monday, Rauner called on Senate President John Cullerton to send the legislation to his desk so he can issue an amendatory veto to remove certain funding considerations for cash-strapped CPS.
“We have a chance to make history and adopt a new school funding plan that, for the first time, ensures all school districts in Illinois are equitably and adequately funded,” Rauner said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Democrats want to turn this historic opportunity into a bailout for the CPS pension system. The point of this school reform bill is to help low income students across the state, including those in Chicago, get the education they deserve – not to bailout CPS’s mismanaged teacher pension system.”
At issue is the way the bill factors CPS’ finances into what would become the new statewide funding formula. SB 1 eliminates the Chicago block grant, which automatically appropriates specific funding to CPS each year, but takes that $203 million into account – plus the district’s $221 million in employer pension contributions – when calculating the district’s baseline funding minimum.
That, plus the $505.8 million reduction in the bill’s assessment of Chicago’s local fundraising capabilities based on its unfunded pension liability, is what Rauner said led to his decision to issue an amendatory veto.
However, a spokeswoman for CPS said the governor cannot legally use an amendatory veto on SB 1, saying it would exceed his power under the Illinois Constitution.
“Governor Rauner’s stunt won’t pass legal muster, and instead jeopardizes the opening for dozens of school districts around the state,” CPS spokewoman Emily Bittner said in a statement, adding that an amendatory veto would change “a fundamental purpose of the legislation” – a power not granted by the Constitution.
A spokesman for Cullerton said the legal constraints aren’t quite that explicit, and the situation still remains very much up in the air.
In short, the legislature will have to wait to see how Rauner changes the bill before choosing to accept his veto, override it – both of which would take a 3/5 majority in the House and Senate – or ruling that it exceeds his authority, in which case the legislation would die and lawmakers would have to start from square one.
No matter what, something must be done to move Illinois to an evidence-based model of funding like the intent of SB 1, otherwise no state aid will be disbursed to schools – rendering many unable to open in the fall.