Rauner: Illinois Lawmakers Holding Schools ‘Hostage'

The governor claims more money needs to be put into schools while a bipartisan school funding formula is worked out

During a speech at a suburban high school Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Illinois lawmakers holding out for a change in the school funding formula were holding the state’s schools hostage.

“This year they’re screaming and saying, ‘It’s gotta change this year and it can’t go further.’ And they’ve threatened to hold up school funding and school openings in the fall for a new school funding formula,” Rauner said during the speech. “That’s wrong. Our schools shouldn’t be held hostage.”

“We’ve got to put more money in schools while we continue to work on a bipartisan basis to come up with a school funding formula change,” he added

Rauner released his school funding breakdown last month. 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. 

Nevertheless, the state’s largest district, Chicago Public Schools, stands to lose $74 million under the plan. Other districts like East St. Louis and Naperville will also see funding cuts.

“Under the funding formula that’s been in place for a long time, every year certain school districts get more money and certain school districts get less money. That has always been the case,” Rauner said.

Senate President John Cullerton argued that Rauner’s plan would force cuts to schools’ services and staffs.

"Governor Rauner said in his budget speech that no schools should lose funding, and yet more than one-third of the school districts in Illinois lose money under his plan,” Cullerton said in a statement. “He would force schools across Illinois to slash services and staff. Some might not be able to open or stay open next year.”

State Sen. Andy Manar is currently working on a bill that changes the state’s school funding formula. Illinois Republicans have called the measure a “bailout” for CPS, according to the Sun-Times.

In the latest iteration of Manar’s proposal, CPS would get $174.9 million more next year.

Cullerton said Manar’s bill addresses the current formula’s faults.

“I am encouraged that the governor and Republicans recognize the current system’s failings,” Cullerton added. “They said they want a system that recognizes the needs of rural and low-income communities. Lucky for them, that plan is pending in the Illinois Senate and they will soon get the chance to vote for it."

The bill passed the Illinois Senate Tuesday and now heads to the Illinois House for a vote.

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