Illinois Lawmakers Send Education Bill to Governor

By Quint Forgey Features Dow Jones Newswires

Illinois's Democratic legislature sent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a school funding measure Monday he already has vowed to veto, setting the stage for another clash in a state that had failed to produce a budget for two years.

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Mr. Rauner called a special session that began last week focused on approving a new K-12 school funding formula before the start of fall classes. The $36 billion budget package passed earlier this month over the veto of the governor following a historic, 736-day impasse. It included a funding increase of roughly $350 million to K-12 schools, but the state must still establish a mechanism to distribute the new money.

The General Assembly approved legislation two months ago to enact a funding formula allocating state money to the neediest school districts first, but the governor pledged to use his veto power to rewrite the bill.

The governor has said the new funding formula, outlined in Senate Bill 1, favors the hard-pressed Chicago Public Schools district -- the only school district in Illinois that funds its teacher pension system without state aid. Senate Bill 1 would allocate CPS about $221 million in extra funds to help cover those pension costs.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton declined to release the bill before Monday in the hope that a compromise with the governor could be reached, but talks between Democratic and Republican negotiators from both chambers broke down Monday afternoon.

Since the special session began Wednesday, Democrats in Springfield said they were unsure what amendments the governor planned to make to the measure once it arrived at his desk, while Mr. Rauner has accused Democratic lawmakers of manufacturing a crisis by refusing to send him the new funding proposal.

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Backers of Senate Bill 1 say it attempts to establish adequate funding levels for school districts based on students' and institutions' individual needs, and takes into account factors such as districts' property tax contribution to school funding.

Officials with the state Board of Education said the new funding formula must be signed into law by early August to give the board enough time to issue vouchers for state aid payments to the Illinois State Comptroller by Aug. 10, when most school districts are expecting their first payments.

The current backlog of vouchers awaiting payment by the comptroller to school districts totals about $1.2 billion -- another repercussion of the state's budget stalemate.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 31, 2017 19:01 ET (23:01 GMT)