SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's office characterized a plan to overhaul of Illinois' school-funding formula as a "bailout" for Chicago Public Schools Wednesday, following Senate approval of the measure amid growing pressure to revamp the system before the Legislature's May 31 deadline.
Beth Purvis, Rauner's chief education adviser, told The Associated Press the governor won't support the proposal if it benefits the district "at the expense" of others. The Illinois Senate approved the measure 35-18 on Wednesday, one vote shy of the 36 needed to override a veto from the governor. It is aimed at eliminating Illinois' largest-in-the-nation gap in spending between affluent school districts and those serving poorer communities. A House committee advanced an amended version of a similar measure hours later, sending it to the chamber floor.
Both Democratic proposals would establish a funding target for each school district that reflects the needs of its student population, channeling new funds to lower income districts first. The money districts currently receive would be rolled into a funding minimum, ensuring no district gets less than they currently do.
The measures would allow CPS to continue receiving millions they currently get in grant money and also require the state to gradually assume some of the district's pension costs by factoring those expenditures into their funding target. Illinois currently funds retirement benefits for all other districts, but provides Chicago schools with a flat percentage of the overall funds the state allocates for needs like transportation and special education. Other districts must apply for them annually.
Purvis characterized factoring CPS pension costs into its funding target without nixing the block grant as a "special" deal for CPS.
"That is $250 million that is not being spread out among the other very low-income districts," said Purvis.
Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago fired back at Republican claims that the bill would give CPS preferential treatment.
"This (proposal) keeps the money that the block grant provided this year for Chicago," Cullerton said. "Because everybody gets to keep what they got this year."
Questions over how to treat Chicago, the state's largest district, have stymied previous efforts to alter Illinois' funding formula, which has remained unchanged since 1997.
The proposals are SB1 and HB2808.
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