Schools Scramble for Answers as Funding Impasse Drags On

With funding for the new year still up in the air, downstate and suburban schools are scrambling for answers as a potential cash crunch looms.

State lawmakers recently passed Senate Bill-1, which would have narrowed the gap in spending between downstate schools and schools in Chicago. That goal has long been sought after by elected officials, but the bill was hit with an amendatory veto from Governor Bruce Rauner.

Now, lawmakers are evaluating their options, as they have less than two weeks to decide whether to override the veto, do nothing, or allow the veto to stand.

With that uncertainty in place, school districts could be forced to borrow money to keep their doors open this fall.

 “We only have approximately 25 days of reserves on hand,” Dr. Jeff Craig, West Aurora Superintendent says. “We will fight tooth and nail to make sure we have our doors open on Aug. 16, and to keep them open to provide kids with the highest quality education we can.”

The bill was vetoed by Governor Rauner over concerns that it unfairly benefited Chicago Public Schools, which are dealing with a funding crisis and a pension funding crunch.

State Senator Andy Manar believes that the bill brings more balance to the school funding formula, and that schools from all over the state would benefit from it.

“Every teacher in Illinois is expected to produce the same result,” he said. “They take the same tests, but we have school districts spending $35,000 per student, and school districts spending $6000 per student.”

Manar, an architect of SB-1, expects a Senate override of the governor’s veto, and supporters of the bill say that evidence-based funding will help poorer school districts.

Governor Bruce Rauner disagrees however, saying that Chicago Public Schools will not receive a bailout, and that the district has mismanaged its funds.

Regardless of where one lands on the political spectrum, school officials just want some certainty before the first bell rings later this month.

“Let’s make decisions in the best interests of all of our students and all of our schools,” Dr. Craig said. 

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