On day schools miss regular checks, comptroller sends them $429 million

As the battle over school funding in Illinois wages on, the state comptroller Thursday released $429 million to schools to help with cash flow.

Chicago Democrat Susana Mendoza's payment was aimed at helping out schools after the state missed its first set of regularly scheduled payments for the 2017-18 academic year, which were due Thursday.

Those checks are unable to be sent until lawmakers act on GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a school funding overhaul bill.

The $429 million comes in the form of categorical payments - funding for special programs such as transportation, special education and bilingual education - that schools were owed last year. The state was behind in those payments as part of a massive backlog of unpaid bills that piled up during Illinois' two-year budget standoff, which ended when lawmakers finally passed a budget in July.

Mendoza's office said about $135 million of the funds were directed to Chicago Public Schools but did not immediately respond to a request for how much specific suburban districts would get.

"The categorical payments are no substitute for the general state aid that parents, school administrators and, most importantly, the students, deserve to keep schools open through the entire school year," Mendoza spokesman Abdon Pallasch said in a statement. "They will provide some relief, but this does not solve the current K-12 funding crisis the governor's veto ... has created."

The Illinois Senate is scheduled to return to Springfield on Sunday for a potential override vote of the governor's veto.

The House will return Wednesday - a day that also happens to be governor's day at the state fair in Springfield.

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