* Gov. Rauner was asked repeatedly by Statehouse reporters today to explain his planned school funding reform changes. First up, who did the district-by-district analysis?…
REPORTER: Did ISBE score this version of your amendatory veto?
RAUNER: Uh, I don’t know. We, we’ve done the calculations.
REPORTER: Who is we?
RAUNER: Our administration in conjunction with, uh, our legislators and in conjunction with, uh, school officials.
Well, that totally explains everything. I’m so relieved. He’s out there spouting numbers and isn’t even sure where they came from. Excellent work.
* On to what it does. As you’ll recall, Rauner’s own website (which also has the district-by-district breakdown) explains his amendatory veto this way…
The SB 1 number accounts for CPS’ tier funding and FY18 new pension pick-up, and the Governor’s plan number accounts for CPS’ tier funding, FY18 new pension pick-up, and net result of Chicago Block Grant elimination.
* But we don’t have any actual language yet, so a reporter asked him about it…
REPORTER: Your website said you were eliminating the Chicago block grant.
RAUNER: OK. So, what we are going to do is make sure that the pension payments are treated separately. Chicago has received a special block grant that no other school district gets. Auburn doesn’t get any of that money. Springfield, Decatur doesn’t get any of that money. And that was put in place more than 20 years ago because Chicago pays its own pensions. So, we, all of us in Illinois, taxpayers have been funding, um, Chicago extra money. $250 million per year, in large part because Chicago pays its own teacher pension. That’s a, that was the, that was the tradeoff, that was the negotiated agreement.
* This is from Gov. Rauner’s own legal filing in defense of a lawsuit brought by CPS over its state funding…
In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation providing for an annual “block grant” to CPS in lieu of separate funding for each program that the categorical grants fund for non-CPS schools. 105 ILCS 5/1D-1. CPS receives block grant funding for, among other things, bilingual education, the State lunch and free breakfast program, educational service centers, special education (funding for children requiring services, orphanage, personnel, private tuition, summer school, and transportation), regular and vocational transportation, agriculture education, early childhood education, and truants’ optional education. [Emphasis added.]
So, CPS didn’t get the block grant because of their pension payments, as Rauner claimed today. CPS got the block grant in lieu of categorical funding that every other district receives.
* The governor went on to say that after years of not properly funding their pensions, CPS wants both pension funding and a block grant and that’s just not fair. Except the block grant replaced categoricals and CPS is the only school district in the state that pays its pension costs, including its legacy costs.
However, according to the governor’s legal filing, CPS is currently receiving the same proportion of funding for its block grant as it did in 1995. So, there is most definitely an argument to be made against that block grant. What the governor said today isn’t that argument.