Less than five months ago, schools on the brink of closure breathed sighs of relief. With a controversial scholarship fund attached, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a historic new school funding formula into law, but left out of the spotlight was the bill which pushes the money through.
That passed in November and it wasn’t until Monday Rauner took action, adding a few tweaks. Thirty-six independent schools, once counted out, could be eligible for the state’s private school scholarship fund.
In his veto message, the governor states, “Inclusivity was the spirit of this legislation to begin with, and we simply must ensure that we follow through with the appropriate language to get the job done.”
While the intent appears good in nature, many fear it could have negative effects.
Chief architect of the bill, Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), says he’s perplexed and puzzled by the governor’s action. He fears it will delay funding to school districts.
He released this statement: “Underfunded schools that have been subjected to an unfair formula for decades will have to continue to wait because of Bruce Rauner’s inexplicable actions.”
Lauren Davis, the spokesperson for the Illinois Association of School Administrators, representing roughly 1,700 school officials statewide, says the news is concerning.
“We don’t want to put thousands of kids at risk for the sake of these 36 schools,” says Davis.
Right now, districts are being paid but it’s based off old numbers. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, it means districts are receiving 95% of their funding.
Davis says districts were told they’d receive full funding by March. Those numbers would be based on the state’s new formula. That’s what many districts budgeted for.
According to ISBE, they’re evaluating if the governor’s action will stall plans.
“It’s very difficult for superintendents to plan budgets and things of that nature without knowing how much money is coming from the state and, more importantly, when it’s coming from the state,” says Davis.
Representative Tim Butler (R- Springfield) says he agrees with Rauner’s intentions but the timing was off.
“If I was a school administrator, I would be frustrated because I would hope that this stuff would be taken care of and the new formula would be in place as soon as possible, but I understand the state board has to crunch the numbers.”
Due to “InvestinKids” lacking popularity, Butler believes lawmakers will vote to override the veto.
“I think people would like to see this enacted as it passed in the General Assembly and then move on into the spring and try to address some of these other concerns with the scholarship program.”
The earliest lawmakers can vote will be January 30. It’s the first day the Senate is back in session.
A spokesperson from the governor’s office says, “It’s unfair to critics to say the amendatory veto will delay implementation. The Illinois State Board of Education continues to work on the new funding formula, and tier-funding is several months from being sent out.”