Rauner Addresses School Funding Reform

Rauner said he was open to a revamped funding formula but doesn't want schools to suffer while a plan is worked out

Gov. Bruce Rauner addressed the state’s school funding formula during a press conference at a New Berlin school Wednesday.

“We need to change the way we fund our schools and it needs to be done on a bipartisan basis and I support that,” Rauner said. “What I’m speaking out against is leaders who are, yes they are from Chicago, who’ve said they want to hold up school funding this year and not let schools open on time unless the funding formula is changed before then and Chicago gets more money.”

The Illinois Senate approved a new school funding bill Tuesday that opponents say is a bailout for the financially struggling Chicago Public Schools. The bill passed the Illinois Senate Tuesday and now heads to the Illinois House for a vote.

Rauner said the state's schools "shouldn't be held hostage" while lawmakers hold out for a revamped funding formula Tuesday.

Rauner released his school funding breakdown last month. The plan used the state’s current funding formula. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the plan calls for increasing funding by $120 million, fully funding the general state aid to schools instead of using proration, which has been used the past seven years to help balance the state’s books. 

“We have got to put more money in our schools,” Rauner said Wednesday. “The General Assembly has cut school funding four times in the last ten years.”

Rauner also said he was open to a joint funding measure that covers K-12 education and the state’s beleaguered institutions of higher education.

“If the leaders in the General Assembly want to do an education funding plan that’s clean and and simple and is supportive, I’m very open-minded to it,” Rauner said. “The big thing we gotta do is make sure K-12 schools get more money and they can open on time while we argue through other topics.”

Nevertheless, the governor noted that higher education funding is complicated because the state’s public colleges and universities have significant sources of revenue that K-12 schools don’t. He also noted that he was worried about bureaucratic waste in the state’s colleges and universities.

During the stop, Rauner stressed the need to halt deficit spending and said he was open to tax increases.

“If [Democratic lawmakers] do want to do an increase in tax revenues, I will go along with that,” Rauner said. “It’s not my first choice, but they’ve got to understand, they can either pass the tax increase themselves because they’ve got a supermajority or I will sign a revenue bill and a new revenue increase. But we’ve got to do that in the context of pro-growth reforms.”

“If we don’t do that, we’ll never have long-term balanced budgets,” Rauner added.

When pressed, the governor declined to go into further detail about potential tax increases.

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