Lawmaker: Controversial school funding plan won't move soon

  • State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, says she won't advance a controversial school funding proposal until at least the spring.

    State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, says she won't advance a controversial school funding proposal until at least the spring. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 10/23/2014 7:14 PM

The suburban Democratic state lawmaker who controls the fate of a controversial school funding proposal that has scared superintendents throughout the suburbs says she won't push it forward until at least the spring, after a new class of lawmakers has been sworn into office.

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, wrote in a letter last week that the proposal needs more work. It would change how Illinois schools get money from the state in order to send more cash to poorer districts. Officials at relatively wealthy school districts in the suburbs have pushed back hard because estimates show them losing big chunks of their state funding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The legislation has brought attention to the need for ensuring equal opportunity to quality education and to the fact that our system if failing our students," Chapa LaVia wrote. "However, let me be clear that the proposal in its current form will not become law and there is still much more work to be done."

Chapa LaVia said she plans hearings on the plan after the election, but substantive action won't be taken until at least the spring.

Republican lawmakers have held forums in the suburbs in recent weeks to draw attention to the issue and its potential effects on local schools.

Estimates from the Illinois State Board of Education showed at least 27 suburban districts could lose more than half of their state money and at least nine would come out winners.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, told the Daily Herald editorial board this week that the issue could still come up in the coming months in a different form, despite Chapa LaVia's promises.

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The controversial proposal could be used as political leverage as lawmakers debate taxes, pensions and other issues before the new class of lawmakers is seated in early January.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said the GOP hasn't been involved in recent Democratic talks about the plan, and she said overhauling school funding is too complicated and important for one party to handle alone, particularly on a tight timeline.

"We cannot do that effectively with one party at the table," Radogno said.

The proposal was molded by state Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from downstate Bunker Hill, and approved by the Illinois Senate in the spring. Chapa LaVia took control in the House and has the power to decide what happens next with the legislation.

On the trail

As the profile of this idea has risen in recent months, school funding has become a campaign issue. But clarity is hard to come by.

Both Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner say changing how the state hands out school money is worth review. Neither has backed the proposal that has raised concerns in the suburbs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Who wins the governor and who wins the top contests for the Illinois General Assembly will affect how -- or if -- this issue continues to play out in the years ahead.

Think before you post

Voting can be exciting.

And what better way to advocate for your political beliefs than to post a photo online of your completed ballot? It's much more modern, after all, than those pesky "I voted" stickers.

"Look, everyone," you might want to say. "Here is proof I support all those people I post on Facebook about."

I asked an attorney at the Illinois State Board of Elections about it. Ken Menzel said the board doesn't do legal opinions about criminal law.

That should be a red flag by itself, but here's what the law says: "(A)ny person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony."

Of course, someone would have to decide to prosecute you over your Facebook sharing, and that doesn't appear to be happening to anyone.

Still, it's best to know the law before you hit "post."

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