Despite Pressure, Rauner vetoes SB 1
CARLINVILLE, Ill., Aug. 3, 2017 — Despite the efforts of Illinois’ top Democrats and school officials across the state, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 1 Tuesday, which jeopardizes the state’s ability to make the first state aid payment to public school districts prior to the start of the school year.
During a July 27 town hall meeting at Gillespie High School, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza made it clear there isn’t enough money in the state’s coffers to for her make the Aug. 10 payment without passage of funding reform.
“We are at a point, in the very near future, where the state of Illinois, for the first time in history, may not be making a payment to general state aid,” Mendoza said at the town hall meeting, adding, “This is inexcusable. It’s unacceptable and it’s completely avoidable.” A new school funding formula is a requirement of the budget approved in July.
“When do I stop telling teachers to fundraise for materials for their classroom? When do we stop selling candy bars to buy curriculum materials? When do I stop telling principals, teacher, bus drivers, service workers to do more with less?” said Tieman, who added that the teachers and staff of CUSD 7 are constantly asked to do more with less and he expects the same out of “our leaders in Springfield.”
Several districts across the state have reported it will be difficult for them to remain open without the state aid payments.
Among his changes, Rauner used his authority to eliminate money earmarked for the Chicago Public Schools’ pension system through a block grant. Chicago Public Schools funds its own pensions, while teachers in other districts across the state have their pensions funded by state payments to the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). Historically, instead of making pension payments for Chicago Public Schools into TRS, the money has been paid directly to the district in the form of a block grant.
Although Democrats say the pension assistance for Chicago included in SB 1 is justified because Chicago is the only district funding its own teacher pensions, Rauner has consistently referred to the assistance as a “bailout.”
In a statement following Rauner’s amendatory veto, State Senator Andy Manar responded by saying, “Gov. Rauner has chosen to imperil years of work and negotiation on school funding reform against the wishes and advice of thousands of superintendents, educators, parents and experts throughout the state.”
Manar went on to say, “Senate Democrats are reviewing his veto, which on its face appears to have significant challenges –both legally and functionally– that would be disastrous for the least-funded schools in Illinois. I want to reiterate that Democratic lawmakers believed we could get to a reasonable compromise with the governor through negotiations that would have alleviated his concerns about Senate Bill 1.”
Senate Bill 1 will now return to the legislature, where it must receive a three-fifths majority in both the house and the senate to either approve the governor’s changes or override his veto. If the three-fifths majority cannot be achieved, the bill will die.
“Fortunately, we remain confident that we still have the opportunity to come to a reasonable compromise through further negotiations with our Republican colleagues, despite the governor’s action today,” Manar stated.
During the town hall meeting, area superintendents Joe Tieman of Gillespie, Brad Skertich of Southwestern and Dan Cox of Staunton, expressed their frustration at the state’s funding situation.
“Illinois has the worst education funding in the nation,” said Cox. “Tonight, we’re standing here fighting for the bare minimum.”
“Our area schools have lost millions of dollars in state funds. Programs have been eliminated. Class size has been increased. Jobs have been dismissed,” said Skertich, referring to all the money that has been prorated since 2013, which the districts will never see, and the uncertainty of when and how much each district will receive in current state aid payments.