Rauner calls education funding session: 'I want all schools opening on time'
Gov. Bruce Rauner has called another special session, this time in the hopes of providing funding to public schools throughout the state in time for fall classes.
While the first special session provided Illinois with a budget — as well as a 32 percent income tax hike — it did not provide for funding schools. SB1, an evidence-based funding measure, has passed both houses but not been sent to Rauner because of language in the bill added by Democrats that would provide extra support for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and its pension problems.
Democrats are said to be waiting to drum up enough support to override Rauner's expected veto, the same way they did with his vetoes of budget measures.
“The Democrats in the majority are playing political games with our children’s education,” Rauner said on Monday at a press conference. “They seem to be intent on holding up school funding until August when schools need to open, and they seem intent on denying days of education to our children to advance their own political agenda. This is wrong. Fundamentally wrong and unfair. We’ve got to put our children first, our families first.”
The new session is to begin on Wednesday and last until July 31, at which point Rauner hopes lawmakers will have removed the additional Chicago provisions. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who was with Rauner on Monday, criticized Democratic lawmakers for changing and then withholding SB1.
“SB1 [in its current form] does not fix the decades of problems of school funding but rather worsens it,” Durkin said. “The Democratic leadership in Springfield for no legitimate reason has been holding SB1 from the governor since the end of May. That is 54 days. The further they hold it, the more likely that the Democrats want to create and manufacture a school funding crisis. I want all schools funded fairly. I want all schools opening on time, and so does my caucus.”
Newly appointed Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) echoed Durkin and Rauner’s criticism, saying Rauner is right in calling for a special session.
“The governor’s absolutely right to demand Senate Democrats to send him [a revised] SB1 so he can act and ensure schools stay open for the children and the parents that we represent,” Brady said. “This is embarrassing. This is the time of year when parents should be buying backpacks and supplies for their students instead of worrying whether or not the schools are going to be open for their children. Teachers are worried. Administrators are worried. It’s been long enough.”
The Illinois GOP has criticized Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) for acknowledging that Democrats are “intentionally holding SB1 from reaching Governor Rauner’s desk” when he told the Chicago Tribune that Democrats “slowed down the process in the Senate in order to let everyone blow off some steam, politically speaking.”
The Illinois GOP claims that House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and his allies in the Capitol are holding schools and children hostage for a Chicago bailout.
“They are trying to use our children’s education as a leverage for Madigan’s Chicago bailout,” the group said in a press release.
As lawmakers prepare to go back to Springfield, Rauner urged them to do their duties as public servants.
“All of us in public service should actually perform public service,” Rauner said. “Put the best interests of our children ahead of all else. Our children should come ahead of political games and political brinkmanship. There is a good historic new school funding bill that is ready to be implemented. It was hijacked at the last minute by the majority in Springfield, and a poison pill was inserted to force payments to a pension system that is broken, unsustainable, and it needs reform.”
Rauner reiterated his commitment to pension reform but said iit should be a separate issue and not supplant school funding.
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