Illinois Senate Overrides Rauner's Veto on School Funding

By Quint Forgey and Douglas Belkin Features Dow Jones Newswires

The Democratic Illinois Senate voted to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a school-funding bill on Sunday, rejecting a sweeping series of changes the governor made to the measure that would have stripped hundreds of millions of dollars from the hard-pressed Chicago Public Schools district.

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A supermajority of the Senate disagreed with the governor's amendments, voting to send the bill to the Democratic House of Representatives. If House Speaker Michael Madigan can muster a three-fifths majority to override Mr. Rauner's veto, the funding proposal would become law in its original form, and the governor would be dealt his second repudiation by both chambers of the General Assembly in a little over a month.

If the House is unsuccessful in achieving an override, the bill dies and funding for all state schools will be paralyzed just weeks before the start of the new school year.

A failure could also have implications for the city of Chicago, which has promised to pay for any shortfall in funding from the state, including help with a big pension payment. Moody's Investors Service in July threatened to downgrade Chicago's credit rating if city administrators are forced to intervene on behalf of the Chicago Board of Education and CPS.

School funding has become the most recent flashpoint in a clash between Mr. Rauner and the General Assembly that resulted in $14.6 billion in unpaid bills and the longest state financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Illinois missed its deadline Thursday for the first round of state aid payments to kindergarten through 12th grade schools, and the current backlog of vouchers awaiting payment by the comptroller to school districts totals roughly $1.2 billion.

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The General Assembly passed a $36 billion budget package in July over the veto of the governor that 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 legislature approved a bill in May to enact an evidence-based funding formula allocating state money to the neediest school districts first, but the governor used his veto power to rewrite the measure earlier in August, eliminating roughly $200 million in grant money to CPS. Mr. Rauner also removed $221 million in extra funds meant to help cover the costs of Chicago's teacher pension system but has said he wants to reintegrate that money into a separate bill.

Write to Douglas Belkin at doug.belkin@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 13, 2017 18:37 ET (22:37 GMT)