Illinois Senate Overrides Rauner's Veto of School Funding Plan

The Illinois Senate voted Sunday to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of an education funding plan, as schools and parents across the state grapple with uncertainty surrounding the latest showdown in Springfield.

Lawmakers voted 38 to 19 to reject Rauner's changes to Senate Bill 1, with the entire Democratic caucus voting in favor of an override, joined by a sole Republican, Sen. Sam McCann, who has been contemplating making a run against the first-term governor in the 2018 GOP primary.

"The Senators who voted to override the governor’s veto aren’t casting a vote against Gov. Rauner; it’s a vote against the children of Illinois," a spokeswoman for Rauner said in a statement.

"There’s no question that Gov. Rauner’s education plan is better for almost every child in Illinois. Democrats have spent the entire summer playing politics with our kids. Enough is enough. It’s time to come together on historic education reform," the statement ended. 

SB 1 is a measure to move Illinois to an “evidence-based model” of education funding, which would take into account each district’s individual needs, as well as its local revenue sources, when appropriating state aid – prioritizing districts that are furthest from being fully-funded.

Without an evidence-based model in place, no state funding can be disbursed to K-12 schools across Illinois at all, due to a provision in the budget passed in July that makes aid contingent on an overhaul of the education funding formula, which currently ranks among the least equitable in the country.

Critics of SB 1, including Rauner, have called it a “bailout” for cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools because the bill as passed by the legislature takes into account the district’s $505 million in unfunded pension liability, plus $221 million in its normal pension payments, as well as the $203 million Chicago Block Grant, when determining how much it should receive in state funding.

The governor's amendatory veto earlier this month made several changes to the bill that included the removal of those considerations. [[419186634, C]]

An analysis released Saturday by the Illinois State Board of Education found that CPS would receive $463 million less under Rauner’s education funding plan than under the model passed by the General Assembly.

However, Rauner maintained that CPS’ net difference between the two plans is only $241 million when taking into account the state pick-up of the district’s $221 million pension payment, though money to do so has not been appropriated.

CPS slammed the governor’s plan following the release of ISBE’s analysis, and again on Sunday following the override.

“Today, superintendents, teachers and parents from across the state are glad that state senators rejected Governor Rauner’s plan to punish more than 400,000 low-income students this year and drive a majority of school districts in Illinois over a financial cliff in 2020,” a CPS spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Governor Rauner has jeopardized funding for every district in the state with his political games and sketchy math, and this override is an important effort in preventing his damage,” she continued.  

Now, at least 71 members of the House (a three-fifths majority) must also vote to override, or the legislation dies without a contingency plan in place. That may prove to be more difficult than it was in the Senate, as just 60 representatives voted for SB 1 the first time. [[432983263, C]]

Pressure continues to mount on all sides as the start of the school year inches closer. 

As a result of the impasse, the state missed its Aug. 10 deadline to make payments to K-12 schools for the first time in history on Thursday, according to Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who praised Sunday's action. 

“We encourage Illinois state representatives of both parties to listen to students, parents, teachers and school officials in their districts and vote to override Governor Rauner’s veto of equitable school funding, as state senators of both parties just did,” Mendoza said in a statement. “After the House votes to override, our office can begin sending schools the General State Aid they are owed.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has often sparred with Rauner throughout both the school funding battle and the two-yearlong budget impasse, weighed in on the override as well to once again criticize the governor. 

"Governor Rauner's education funding veto brought together rural, suburban and urban educations and legislators in bipartisan opposition to the governor and in support of today's veto override. This diverse group of educators and leaders knows the Senate's education bill is right for Illinois children and the governor's veto is flat wrong," Emanuel said in a statement.

"The Senate's vote is a bipartisan rejection of the governor's divisive politics and of his repeated attempts to pit children with different backgrounds and from different parts of the state against one another," he added.

The House is scheduled to be in session on Wednesday, and must act on the veto within 15 days. 

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