Rauner now criticizes leaders' school funding reform deal

 
By Travis DeNeal
Daily Herald Media Group
Updated 8/25/2017 9:08 PM
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  • Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses the Marion Chamber of Commerce Friday at the Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses the Marion Chamber of Commerce Friday at the Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion. Kristin Moore/For Daily Herald Media Group

MARION -- Gov. Bruce Rauner used an appearance before the Marion Chamber of Commerce Friday to say the tentative school funding bill worked out by the Democratic and Republican leaders still gives too much money to Chicago schools, and that he'll likely address that in future bills.

Only a day before, Rauner's office issued a statement thanking the legislators for their leadership and saying he "looks forward to the coming days when the legislation is passed by both chambers."

Still, the governor told southern Illinois business leaders he is optimistic legislators will approve the school funding bill soon.

Republican and Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, have worked behind closed doors to find a compromise after Rauner vetoed SB1, which would change how state money is distributed to local schools. In vetoing it, he said the bill diverts too much money from downstate schools to Chicago, which he reiterated on Friday.

Rauner's plan also would have increased funding for 831 other school districts, including some in the suburbs, according to an analysis released by his office. The state Senate later overrode his veto; the state House was to hold its own, less certain override vote before the leaders worked out a new deal.

Leaders plan to meet in Springfield at 4:30 p.m. Sunday; the House convenes at 11 a.m. Monday to potentially vote on the school funding measure. Should the House pass what's presented, the Senate is poised to take quick action, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Rauner told business leaders gathered Friday at the Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion, "We're very close." But he reiterated his position that without changes, too much money still goes to Chicago schools.

"I think we're on the verge of what is largely good education funding reform," the governor said. "The bad news is Speaker Madigan's caucus took the bill, inserted a bunch of bad things in it. We're trying to get out as many of those as we can."

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown on Friday declined to comment to the Sun-Times on the governor's call for another bill but remained optimistic the deal can be finalized.

"There's no reason to believe anything has changed," Brown said.

Rauner also said he intends to put more money into state funding of education.

"I don't want to do it by creating higher taxes," Rauner said. "I want to do it by reducing bureaucracy."

Meanwhile, Democrats took aim at a provision in the school funding deal that would establish scholarships to help students attend private schools, the Sun-Times reported. Some are even willing to scrap the whole school funding bill because of it.

Part of the long-sought public school funding deal now includes $75 million in tax credits for donors who give for school scholarships. The addition of private school benefits in a public school funding bill is highly unusual and came about relatively late in the game, thanks to the intercession of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, who backed the proposed formula, urged his colleagues to oppose the whole deal because of the private school scholarship provision.

"Giving rich people a huge tax loophole for driving students out of public schools and into private schools goes against my most deeply held beliefs and the needs of our communities," he said, according to the Sun-Times. "There are a lot of critically needed components in this package. But I'm not willing to swallow this insidious right-wing plot in exchange."

State. Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, who's vying for the Democrats' nomination to run against Rauner, blasted the tuition tax credit, but he stopped short of opposing the whole deal, the Sun-Times reported.

"It is absurd that, in order to fund public schools, Governor Rauner and his allies are demanding a tax credit scheme that will just put more money in the pockets of millionaires and billionaires," he said.

Even some Chicago City Council members want the deal scrapped, though it's generous to Chicago schools, the Sun-Times reported.

"No self-respecting Democrat should accept this brazen

Rauner-Trump-DeVos tactic to decimate public schools, rob our children's classrooms of resources and weaken teachers unions," Alderman Scott Waguespack wrote in a statement, referring to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. "Democrats in Springfield and Mayor Emanuel must unite to reject this unacceptable proposal, and force the parties to get back to the table to negotiate a new deal."

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