Senator Tracy Reflects on State Budget & School Funding

Posted August 30, 2017

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate passed an earlier version of a school funding formula bill in May that Rauner extensively rewrote under his veto power.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the house failed to pass the compromise measure on the first try - only 14 Democrats voted for it - but that was a largely symbolic act orchestrated by Democrats to show their disdain of one of the bill's unpopular aspects: a $75 million private school scholarship and tax-credit program that teachers unions oppose.

Supporters, though, argued that lawmakers should focus on the larger goal of the bill: invest more money into schools over time, with the most money first going to the poorest districts.

"Illinois already has the most competitive marketplace for workers' compensation insurance in the nation - reversing course and putting the state in charge of setting prices for workers' compensation insurance will do nothing to fix the true cost drivers of Illinois' workers' compensation system", said Steve Schneider, vice president for state affairs, Midwest region, in a press statement. Will Davis, the bill's sponsor.

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Republican state Senator Kyle McCarter: "I said this could be the last straw, and every day I'm feeling it worse".

Legislators from both parties have said for years that the way IL distributes money to schools is unfair, but they've been unable to agree to a way to change it. In the meantime, schools haven't received any aid money from the state this academic year.

Lawmakers said they have confidence the bill will pass in the Senate on Tuesday, which could send money to the hands of schools across the state. The plan was hammered out by legislative leaders in closed-door meetings.

The Illinois Senate is expected to take up a school funding overhaul that will increase aid to all of the state's more than 800 districts.

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"I wish I could say (I know)", Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school district Superintendent Jeremy Darnell said. Opponents objected to a tax credit program to fund $75 million annually for private school scholarships, which teachers unions derided as an effort to introduce school vouchers to IL. The credit is a five-year pilot program.

Scholarships would be available to assist the tuition of students with a household income of less than $72,900 for a family of four, a figure that would rise to $97,200 the following year if a student had previously gotten a scholarship. Religious leaders, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, have lobbied for the credit. "Aligned with the framework provided by the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission - a bipartisan, bicameral working group chaired by the Secretary of Education - this bill has much to celebrate". Lane says it is up to an individual if they want to attend a private school, but he doesn't think taxpayers should be helping. Gov. Bruce Rauner was in the Senate for the vote.

Before passing the compromise, state representatives tried to override his veto, but they were eight votes shy of the three-fifths majority necessary. Monday's vote garnered 63 yes votes.

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