As expected, Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued an amendatory veto against a school funding formula bill he said is unfair to most Illinois school districts.
Senate Bill 1 is an evidence-based school funding formula that would boost the amount of funding received by low-income school districts. A "hold harmless" provision in the bill would ensure no school district in the state loses money on a per district basis. It would also provide a pickup of more than $200 million in pension costs for Chicago Public Schools, the only district in the state paying for its own teacher pensions.
In his amendatory veto message, Rauner recommended moving from a per-district hold harmless in the 2020-21 school year, shifting to a per-pupil hold harmless based on enrollment numbers every three years. That means districts with decreasing student enrollment could see school funding drop accordingly after the hold harmless period ends.
He also recommended removing a minimum funding requirement he said would jeopardize funding for some schools.
Rauner said the Chicago pension cost pickup should be part of a separate bill that also changes statewide pension funding, a position he has previously advocated.
“These changes included in my amendatory veto reflect years of hard work by our education reform commission and our ability to overcome our political differences for the good of our young people’s futures,” Rauner said. “I urge the General Assembly to act quickly to accept these changes and let our students start school on time.”
Democrats expressed displeasure with the amendatory veto. The bill was sent to Rauner's desk Monday afternoon, two months after Democrats in the House and Senate approved the bill.
“I am profoundly disappointed that the governor has vetoed this new formula that would guarantee all schools are fairly funded. Despite the governor’s veto, I believe that negotiations should continue in order to fix the formula. Should those talks fail, I support overriding the governor’s veto," said State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria).
Democratic gubernatorial candidates were also quick to weigh in.
“Apparently 736 days worth of damage done by Bruce Rauner wasn't enough. Now he is holding school funding for Illinois children and families hostage and pitting communities against each other again by vetoing Senate Bill 1,” said JB Pritzker, a Chicago businessman. “Bruce Rauner is so blinded by his crusade against Chicago’s children and families that he seems incapable of understanding a very simple fact: every child and every school district benefits under SB 1."
"Bruce Rauner has once again proven that he cares more about his own political future than the futures of millions of children across Illinois. And the fact that Rauner’s political future requires sacrificing our public school system says everything you need to know," said State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston). "Pitting school children, parents and teachers against one another for political gain is not just brazenly cynical, it's utterly disqualifying for someone who wishes to be governor of the whole state of Illinois."
Republican leaders pushed for passage of the education bill as amended.
“There is no question, this General Assembly must now double its efforts to ensure our schools open on time with a fair and equitable funding formula. After finally receiving the school funding legislation, the Governor took swift action and laid out a path to achieve that goal. Our caucuses stand with the Governor's recommendations and will oppose efforts to override his veto," said Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) in a joint statement. "With the support of Democrat legislators whose schools fare better under the Governor’s plan, we believe the amended SB 1 should become law."
The bill now heads back to the General Assembly, where lawmakers can opt to attempt an override of the governor's veto, accept the bill as amended, or let the bill die. Democrats would need Republican support to pass an override in the Illinois House. As part of the state budget passed in July, an evidence-based school funding formula must be passed for school districts across the state to receive most of their state money this year.
Read Rauner's full amendatory veto message here.