Lawmaker warns suburbs will lose in school funding plan OK'd by Senate

Lawmaker issues warning in school funding fight

A plan approved in the Illinois Senate Tuesday to redistribute education funding would eventually cost many suburban schools, leading one lawmaker to warn, "If you're a suburbanite, they're coming after you."

The plan from state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is intended to send more money to less-wealthy districts. The Senate approved it by a 31-21 vote after Republicans and Democrats sparred for a week about disputed sets of numbers showing how districts would fare in future years under the plan. No school districts would lose money in the first year.

All of the plan's supporters were Democrats, but some from the suburbs voted against it, including Sens. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park, Julie Morrison of Deerfield and Laura Murphy of Des Plaines.

School districts in the suburbs have both supported and opposed the effort. Some potentially would see increased funding under the plan.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, called the plan a "bailout" for Chicago schools and a "huge redistribution of wealth.

"If you're a suburbanite, they're coming after you," Murphy said.

"Think long and hard, ladies and gentlemen, about this vote, because there are going to be a lot of people who are paying property taxes back home who going to pay close attention to how you handle this issue."

Manar argued the existing education funding system already creates winners and losers, pointing to a budget plan from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for next year that would see cuts to a school district in East St. Louis and gains in others that have more local property tax wealth.

"When you add in the formula today, we cut East St. Louis and supplement Arlington Heights," Manar said. "That is a nasty mix."

For months, some Illinois Senate Democrats have talked about overhauling the state's education funding system.

Tuesday's fight showed the regional divides that have defined the issue for years, but it's unclear how big a role the issue will play as lawmakers try to put a long-overdue state budget together going forward.

Manar said during the debate he doesn't think the push to change the system should hold up a schools budget for next year.

The plan now goes to the House, which has been having its own education discussions and might not be inclined to follow along with the Senate's ideas.

Regional and partisan politics have mixed with immensely complex policy to drag this issue out for years already, making it a nearly constant battle at the Capitol.

In recent weeks, Rauner has renewed his call for lawmakers to approve a "clean" education plan that leaves the formula for handing out money alone but raises overall spending. The push comes at a time when he and Democrats remain sharply at odds on the budget due last July, much less the one due in the coming weeks.

Last year, Rauner signed Democrats' education budget to ensure schools opened in the fall.

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Roll call

State senators on Tuesday voted on legislation that would change how Illinois sends money to school districts. Supporters say the plan would help less wealthy districts compete and opponents argue the plan is a "bailout" for Chicago schools.

<b>VOTING YES</b>Don Harmon, Oak Park Democrat; Linda Holmes, Aurora Democrat; Terry Link, Vernon Hills Democrat; Michael Noland, Elgin Democrat

<b>VOTING NO</b>Pam Althoff, McHenry Republican; Tom Cullerton, Villa Park Democrat; Dan McConchie, Hawthorn Woods Republican; Karen McConnaughay, St. Charles Republican; Julie Morrison, Deerfield Democrat; Laura Murphy, Des Plaines Democrat; Matt Murphy, Palatine Republican; Chris Nybo, Elmhurst Republican; Jim Oberweis, Sugar Grove Republican

<b>VOTING PRESENT </b>Daniel Biss, Evanston Democrat; Melinda Bush, Grayslake Democrat

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