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Senate passes Chicago Public Schools bailout bill; outlook in House not so sunny




SPRINGFIELD – Last year, there was one budget that Governor Rauner signed into law almost immediately – the one providing funding for the state's schools.

This year, it won't be so easy. Lawmakers say they are unhappy with the unfair funding formula now in place, so Democrats proposed a new formula with SB 231, sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). 

SB 231 is being branded the "Chicago Public Schools Bailout Plan," directing nearly $175 million in additional funding to Chicago public schools, while cutting from other districts. Initial numbers released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) showed that Senate Bill 231 would lead to about $197 million in losses in suburban and downstate districts — $66.3 million from collar county schools, more than $101.3 million from North Cook County schools, and more than $28.7 million in funding from downstate schools.

Manar's plan passed the Illinois Senate Tuesday 31 to 21, but the vote was not along party lines.

One downstate Republican – Senator Sam McCann of Jacksonville supported the bill, while suburban Democrats Tom Cullerton, Mike Hastings, Julie Morrison and Laura Murphy opposed it.

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Suburban Republican Senator Jim Oberweis explained his opposition.

"I agree that we need to reform school funding, but this is not the way to do it. This is a 500-page Chicago Public Schools bailout that few legislators understand. I suggested a simple approach. X dollars per student plus Y dollars per student in poverty plus Z dollars per student with special needs. That would be understandable by all and fair for all. I suggested a bipartisan panel to work on coming up with those three numbers," Oberweis said.

"But this is a bad bill. The Chicago Public Schools system needs significant reforms before we hand it $750 million worth of special deals, which this bill does."

The outlook in the Illinois House doesn't look too positive. 

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called Manar’s bill a “true bailout” of Chicago — detailing that Lyons Township would lose $1.9 million in his bill, while Chicago Public Schools would get an extra $375 million than the previous year.

“Let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s start working on it again, but to suggest that this is a condition of a budget that is going to fund K-12, I think [it] is irresponsible for them to say that has to be done first. And I think that the public isn’t going to accept that either,” Durkin said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

As of Monday, Governor Rauner said more work should be done on the plan – schools losing funds is not an option.

“That would make me uncomfortable,” Rauner said. “I don’t want Sen. Manar to give up. We should keep working together. Democrats and Republicans should keep working together on a school funding transformation of the state,” he said.

State Rep. Christian Mitchell of Chicago has picked up SB 231 to sponsor in the House.


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