A press release from State Senator Karen McConnaughay:
Sen. McConnaughay Statement on Governor Rauner’s Amendatory Veto on School Funding Legislation
SPRINGFIELD – Saying all Illinois schools need fiscal stability and certainty, State Senator Karen McConnaughay urged her Senate colleagues to accept the Governor’s changes to Senate Bill 1, which put all schools on an equal playing field—or come to the negotiating table in good faith to work on a bipartisan alternative.
“The Governor and Republican lawmakers have proposed their alternative to Senate Bill 1, which is reflected in the Governor’s amendatory veto,” said McConnaughay.
“If my colleagues aren’t willing to accept this plan, then they need to meet us in the middle with a reasonable compromise that is equitable and fair for all of Illinois’ school districts.”
McConnaughay, who was a member of the bipartisan, bicameral Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, said the Governor’s changes bring the education funding reform proposal back in line with the recommendations of the commission.
“As passed by the General Assembly, Senate Bill 1 directed millions of more dollars to Chicago Public Schools. The Illinois School Funding Reform Commission was charged with identifying the most fair and equitable solution for funding all the school districts throughout Illinois.
“The Commission agreed that the evidence-based model is the best way to distribute education dollars in an unbiased manner.
“We should allow the formula to work as intended, instead of manipulating the system in order to artificially direct hundreds of millions of dollars to one school district—Chicago Public Schools (CPS),” said McConnaughay.
McConnaughay pointed out that the state’s 851 other school districts do even better when CPS’s “special deals” are removed and money is sent through the formula to be equitably distributed to all schools.
She noted that the bailout of CPS is even more egregious when taking into account the City of Chicago, despite hosting some of the most valuable property in the state, has retained low property values through its TIF system, which fixes the amount of property taxes available to CPS for extended periods of time, and diverts money away from CPS.
“Residents of Kane and McHenry Counties are burdened with some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
“Why would any lawmaker, particularly lawmakers in Kane and McHenry Counties, accept a school funding system that continues to funnel more money into CPS and away from districts that are struggling financially,” McConnaughay asked.
“That isn’t to say that CPS doesn’t deserve assistance, but if our goal is to create a level playing field for all school districts, then we need to let the school funding formula work as intended.
“Moreover, if Chicago wants to direct more money to its schools, perhaps the city needs to consider options for directing more local revenue into its school districts, as residents in many other regions of the state have chosen to do.”
McConnaughay said that Republican lawmakers remain willing to negotiate, but without engagement from all parties the only way to ensure schools don’t miss their first school aid payment is to accept the Governor’s changes.
She noted that fixing the school aid formula is the first step in a series of much-needed reforms to the state’s education system, saying the system needs to be fixed so lawmakers can move forward with changes to address the more than 100 unfunded mandates that plague Illinois schools—but which aren’t addressed in Senate Bill 1.
“The clock is ticking. The Governor has offered a fair alternative to Senate Bill 1 that reflects the recommendations of the bipartisan commission,” said McConnaughay.
“We need to move forward with this monumental change to school funding, and direct our attention to additional reforms that are desperately needed in suburban schools.
“Let’s get our schools funded, and then direct our attention to providing much-needed mandate relief to schools struggling to deal with the punitive costs and red-tape that hinders our administrators and our teachers.”