* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service…
Of the grand bargain bills, Senate Bill 1 changes the state’s school funding formula. It passed, 35-18, with three lawmakers voting present. Under the legislation, the state picks up $135 million in annual pension payments for CPS while continuing to pay the school district about $250 million in annual block grants, which are not given to other Illinois school districts.
“How is that fair to other districts?” Illinois Sen. Jason Barickman asked on the Senate floor. “This keeps that Chicago block grant in perpetuity, forever. It picks up the Chicago Public School pension costs forever.” Barickman said Democrats like to talk about parity, but “giving special deals and special rules to Chicago isn’t parity.”
Rauner’s administration said the education funding bill passed by Senate Democrats Wednesday is not what was negotiated.
“This bill is not consistent with the framework of the bipartisan, bicameral School Funding Commission,” Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis said in a statement. “Senator [Andy] Manar abandoned our bipartisan process, departing from agreements already finalized in the commission and forcing a Chicago bailout at the expense of every other school district in the state, some of which are in worse financial straits than CPS.”
* The gist of the sponsor’s response to the Chicago bailout allegation was briefly described by the AP…
The sponsor of the Senate proposal, Democratic Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, maintains that holding all districts harmless includes ensuring CPS does not lose funding.
That’s basically what Senate President Cullerton told reporters as well yesterday. The Republicans are pointing to money that CPS is still getting without mentioning that all districts are being held harmless.
* Manar’s press release was chock full of heat, but very little light…
“The Rauner administration and Republicans want to behave like this is a vexing new problem that Illinois has never tried to tackle before. The truth is this is a more than 20-year-old problem that we have studied to death, repeatedly debated and willfully ignored.
“In Gov. Rauner’s perfect world, Illinois’ aging public schools would feature teachers that are paid less, support services that are outsourced and very little accountability to the communities they serve.
“That’s not the world we live in. We owe it to our students of today and our students of tomorrow to deal with Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula now. Educators, parents, taxpayers, students and advocates are clamoring for change, and we would be remiss to not get this done before May 31. Gov. Rauner knows this, and so does his education secretary, Beth Purvis.
“Here’s the bottom line: The only opposition that exists to Senate Bill 1 is from Bruce Rauner and his enablers, who for some reason refuse to show independence from the governor when it comes time to do the right thing.
“Gov. Rauner and his team can put out all the statements they want claiming I abandoned the bipartisan process. I can sleep at night knowing I’ve never abandoned Illinois students or leveraged the state’s future for a political agenda.”