School funding may finally be fixed

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Illinois Senate approved a new school-funding formula Tuesday that would give the Chicago Public Schools about $450 million more than a year ago - by allowing city officials to hike most homeowners' property taxes by 2.5 percent, officials said. "But a package that permanently provides more money for IL schools and puts us closer than ever to fixing Illinois' broken school funding system is too important to let partisan differences get in the way".

State Reps. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, and Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, were among the 34 legislators who voted Monday against the funding plan.

It moved to the Senate on Tuesday, where it passed 38 to 13, with 4 voting present. By passing the bill, he is hoping to improve long-term morale in the state, but in the short-term, Rauner's decision has led to nothing but controversy.

While those who voted in support of bill admitted they did not support every aspect of the bill, they acknowledged that was part of compromise. The most recent debate over school funding, the last remaining piece of the budget, began three weeks later and was similarly fraught with infighting between the governor and the General Assembly. He says he's enthusiastic about the bipartisan compromise and his district will get roughly $180,000 more under the plan.

The bill restructures how money is paid out to districts, aiming for a more equitable system. "That right there tells you there is a discrepancy".

Rauner came to the House floor after the vote to shake hands.

"But I'm not put into office to represent Gov. Rauner".

"I've been here a lot", he said.

"As much as I respect and appreciate the groups who negotiated it, it just didn't do enough for me". The measure also provides $75 million for tax credits for people who contributed to private school scholarships.

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Edward Flavin, spokesman for the Diocese of Joliet, said "quality education is best for everyone" and the tax credit will more children access to it.

Furthermore, Rauner, an advocate of school choice, can declare a win with the establishment of a fund that will give an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 low-income children scholarships to attend private school, to be paid for by private donations in exchange for state tax credits up to $100 million. "This is what we needed to do in order to fix a flawed system that we became recognized for across this country", Lightford said.

"What we need is in this bill".

Rauner says the law will be phased in over the next two years. "It will affect what we do going forward".

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he would sign the measure, even though it contains $150 million more for CPS than the original school funding measure that the Republican governor derided as a bailout of Chicago's mismanaged schools.

"I never had a problem with any of the funding formulas", he said.

But the compromise includes the controversial private school scholarship and tax-credit program that critics have dubbed "vouchers". That is a very good thing.

School superintendents across IL are giving a proposed school funding overhaul mixed reviews. "Education is about opportunities".

The legislation filed Monday provides a tax credit worth 75 percent of a taxpayer's annual contributions to a scholarship fund, with a maximum credit of $1 million annually. "We have to stop doing business this way." he said.

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