lllinois Lawmakers Strike a Deal in Education Spending Impasse

By Quint Forgey Features Dow Jones Newswires

Illinois's Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have struck a tentative deal on K-12 school funding that appears to have the support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

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A weekslong stalemate between the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the governor has already delayed two rounds of state aid payments to more than 850 school districts -- the majority of which have already begun classes.

Lawmakers emerged from closed-door talks Thursday saying they reached an agreement in concept on the funding model, which would allocate state aid to the neediest school districts first. Negotiators will meet again this weekend, and if those discussions go well, the state's House of Representatives could vote on a compromise measure as early as Monday, legislative leaders said.

Mr. Rauner applauded the effort to reach "a consensus on historic school funding reform," the governor's office said in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this month, the governor rejected a funding formula that passed both houses of the legislature. It would have distributed a roughly $350 million increase in K-12 school funding included in a $36 billion state spending plan the legislature passed in July.

But Mr. Rauner claimed that bill gave preferential treatment to the hard-pressed Chicago Public Schools district, so he used his veto powers to make sweeping changes to the measure. That included stripping more than $463 million in funding earmarked for Chicago from the original proposal, according to an analysis from the Illinois State Board of Education.

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The Senate rejected the governor's changes on Aug. 13, and his rewrite failed to garner a single "yes" vote in the House of Representatives last week.

The governor and legislative leaders wouldn't discuss the details of their new compromise plan.

The current backlog of vouchers awaiting payment by the comptroller to school districts totals roughly $1.2 billion, part of the $4.6 billion backlog of unpaid bills the state racked up during its record-breaking fiscal impasse.

Illinois's Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have struck a tentative deal on K-12 school funding that appears to have the support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A weekslong stalemate between the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the governor has already delayed two rounds of state aid payments to more than 850 school districts -- the majority of which have already begun classes.

Lawmakers emerged from closed-door talks Thursday saying they reached an agreement in concept on the funding model, which would allocate state aid to the neediest school districts first. Negotiators will meet again this weekend, and if those discussions go well, the state's House of Representatives could vote on a compromise measure as early as Monday, legislative leaders said.

Mr. Rauner applauded the effort to reach "a consensus on historic school funding reform," the governor's office said in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this month, the governor rejected a funding formula that passed both houses of the legislature. It would have distributed a roughly $350 million increase in K-12 school funding included in a $36 billion state spending plan the legislature passed in July.

But Mr. Rauner claimed that bill gave preferential treatment to the hard-pressed Chicago Public Schools district, so he used his veto powers to make sweeping changes to the measure. That included stripping more than $463 million in funding earmarked for Chicago from the original proposal, according to an analysis from the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Senate rejected the governor's changes on Aug. 13, and his rewrite failed to garner a single "yes" vote in the House of Representatives last week.

The governor and legislative leaders wouldn't discuss the details of their new compromise plan.

The current backlog of vouchers awaiting payment by the comptroller to school districts totals roughly $1.2 billion, part of the $4.6 billion backlog of unpaid bills the state racked up during its record-breaking fiscal impasse.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 25, 2017 17:02 ET (21:02 GMT)