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posted: 7/24/2017 6:49 PM

Editorial: The deepening prospect that classes won't open on time

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  • Flanked by state Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, left, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Gov. Bruce Rauner discusses school funding at a news conference Monday before he ordered lawmakers to return to Springfield Wednesday.

    Flanked by state Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, left, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Gov. Bruce Rauner discusses school funding at a news conference Monday before he ordered lawmakers to return to Springfield Wednesday.
    Associated Press

 

It's increasingly beginning to look as if classes at many schools around Illinois will not open on time - and systems that do open on time likely will have to close at some point until the state comes up with the money it is obligated to contribute.

That outcome seems unavoidable unless Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner or Democratic leaders Michael Madigan in the House and John Cullerton in the Senate budge from positions they've shown no inclination to abandon.

It is all simply a matter of timing. As our Kerry Lester explains elsewhere in today's edition, even if Rauner were to get the school funding bill today and veto it as promised, the Senate and then the House would have to act within 30 days to avert a crisis. In order to assure schools can open, lawmakers would have to either accept the governor's changes or override his veto, and neither of those prospects seems likely - especially not within the time frame the constitution requires.

So, we can't help but be pessimistic. And when it all happens, when the end of August rolls around and all the disruptions of a late start to the school year become grim reality, the debate won't be so much about school funding anymore but about who is to blame. And that, sadly, seems to be how leaders are positioning themselves.

You can blame Democratic leaders Michael Madigan and John Cullerton in the General Assembly who clearly are holding back an already-passed school funding bill until the last possible moment to put pressure on the governor and other legislators to accept provisions that benefit the Chicago schools. This all but assures the calamity that will befall thousands of students around the state.

Or, you can blame Gov. Bruce Rauner for line-in-the-sand hardheadedness that sees his refusal to cave as a refusal to compromise while marshalling anti-Chicago regionalism to his side. Where was he when a compromise proposal was needed to avoid this disastrous confrontation?

To some extent, it won't matter who's to blame. Many schools will be closed and many lives will be upended.

By our calculation, it easily could be a month after schools are due to open before the matter finally gets resolved, and unfortunately when it does, it likely will be a winners-and-losers proposition guaranteed to continue Springfield's toxic intransigence.

What a sad state of affairs.

In fact, that should be the new motto for the Land of Lincoln. "Illinois, a sad state of affairs."

Put it on our license plates. We won't be telling anyone in the rest of the nation anything they don't already know anyway.

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