4 Top Leaders Meet in Springfield Ahead of Education Funding Reform Votes

Illinois' four top legislative leaders met in Springfield yet again Sunday to iron out details for the "historic" school funding reform deal ahead of a vote in the House. 

Democratic leaders, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, met once more with their Republican counterparts, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady Sunday afternoon. 

On Thursday, the leaders announced that they had reached a tentative agreement on education funding reform, though in the days since, some lawmakers have said they're anxious that that compromise may be in trouble. 

Part of the agreement causing some turmoil is a potential tuition tax credit program that would give families sending their children to private schools tax credits. 

Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Jim Brady are optimistic that the bill will pass, even with opposition from some progressive lawmakers and teachers unions over the $75 million in funding.

Those funds are earmarked for low and middle-income private school students, and parents like what they ‘ve heard about the new funding. 

Some progressive Democrats have positioned themselves against the program as well, while Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has also voiced his own criticisms of the deal as a whole. 

Rauner told business leaders in southern Illinois Friday that lawmakers were "on the verge of what is largely good education funding reform," but again blamed Madigan for inserting "a bunch of bad things in it," like funding for Chicago Public Schools that the governor said "shouldn't go to Chicago."

"It’s not fair but it’s going to end up being a compromise," Rauner said. "It’s not where we’d like it to be and what I’ll try to do is fix the problems with it in subsequent legislation."

Other politicians, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are in favor of the bill. Emanuel says that it gives Chicago Public Schools some of the fixes they've needed, including pension reform that has strangled the district's finances. 

Specifics of the deal – hammered out through a series of closed-door meetings like the one on Sunday – have not yet been made public. Legislators were briefed on its broad details Friday, though the legislation has not been formally introduced.

The House is expected to vote on the plan Monday, followed by a vote on Tuesday in the Senate - which already overrode Rauner's amendatory veto, but would need to approve any further changes to the bill. 

The leaders will return to Madigan's office on Monday morning at 9 a.m. to further discuss the bill. 

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