Legislators discuss Senate veto override on funding formula
By AGNES CONNOLLY
Some legislators offered statements regarding the Illinois Senate’s override of Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, a bill that would change how funding is distributed to school districts.
The override passed by a 38-19 vote on Aug. 13. Rauner vetoed the bill in July after previously calling it a "bailout" for Chicago Public Schools’ pensions. Before the veto, CPS was to be provided with almost $250 million more than other districts to help with pension funds. Rauner’s veto removed about $500 million in funding from CPS. This money would be distributed to other Illinois school districts.
The bill moves to the House where the override will need to pass with 71 votes. With 67 Democrats in the House, the vote will need to pick up at least four Republicans to pass.
A highlight from the Sunday night vote, according state Senator John Mulroe (D-10), was from Senator Sam McCann (R-50) who said, "There is one thing worse than one-party control, and that is one man control." McCann said, instead of fearing the governor, "fear the mirror."
Mulroe voted to override the governor’s veto and said his vote was "to provide adequate funding for school districts without any losers."
"The only person who likes the governor’s version of this bill is the governor," Mulroe said.
According to Mulroe, Rauner’s Secretary of Education Beth Purvis said the governor liked "90%" of SB1 but still vetoed the bill.
"In politics, if you get 90 percent of what you want, most people would take it," Mulroe said. "I guess I just don’t really understand why you wouldn’t take 90 percent of what you want."
"Every time we get close to something, they (Republicans) always add another ingredient," he said. "They are never willing to vote."
Mulroe also said that any accusations from either Republican legislators or the governor that there have been no negotiations are "totally untrue."
When it comes to the vote in the House, Mulroe said that he is "hopeful" for the Representatives and calls for the "brave souls" of Republicans who are willing to help Democrats get to their necessary 71 votes.
"(Republicans) need to worry about their school districts instead of worrying about the governor for the next election," Mulroe said.
"Senate Bill 1 is the result of four years of hearings and negotiations. Though the governor attempted to drastically change this bill in the eleventh hour and take away resources from certain districts, I’m glad that the Senate was able to override his veto and do what’s right for all students in Illinois," Mulroe said in a statement after the override.
State Representative Greg Harris (D-13) said that he would wait to vote on the override like the rest of the House.
"(The governor’s veto is) trying to hurt the city of Chicago as we saw in trying to reform the pension system, as we saw in safety net hospitals, and now we see it in the school funding debate," Harris said.
Harris said he wants to see Chicago treated fairly and believes that the governor is trying to use school systems as pawns.
Harris said the House will have "a lot of work in communication" when it comes to a vote to override.
State funding was to be distributed to schools starting on Aug. 10 for the upcoming school year. There are some schools that have already opened for the fall school year or quickly approach their first day. Harris said although schools that were scheduled to open did open, more uncertainty lies ahead. CPS recently released their own budget that relies on state funding.
"If this is dragged out, there will be a question of how long those schools will stay open," Harris said.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said in a statement "With this bipartisan vote, the Senate moved our state one step closer to getting rid of the worst funding system in the nation. I hope the House will be able to do the same and finally bring the reform Illinois public schools need."
State Senator Heather Stearns (D-7) said in a statement, "The governor attempted to remove equity for Chicago from Senate Bill 1 in his amendatory veto and force Chicago Public Schools’ students to pay for a pension problem they did not create. To be truly equitable, school funding reform must recognize the fact that Chicago is the only school district in the state that is responsible for its own pension payments. Senate Bill 1 corrects this inequality and provides pension parity for Chicago Public Schools."
A statement from state Senator Laura Murphy (D-28) stated, "Governor Rauner attempted to insert anti-business provisions into a school funding reform bill when he vetoed it. His changes would have shifted even more of the costs of funding schools onto property tax payers and hurt our communities’ economic development efforts. I could not support the governor’s efforts to burden the middle class and homeowners. I proudly voted to fix our school funding system so that schools are adequately funded without overly relying on property taxes."
State Senator Omar Aquino (D-2) said that a "majority of those enrolled in CPS are students of color. Nearly half of all CPS students are Latino. When the governor vetoed our school funding law, he once again demonstrated his unwillingness to invest in our communities. Today, my Senate colleagues and I acted to deliver certainty, stability and resources to public schools in Chicago and across the state."
"Our current school funding system disproportionately harms minority and low-income students. The governor’s plan does nothing to fix that. In fact, it makes the situation worse by taking nearly $500 million from Chicago Public Schools. The governor’s plan pits Chicago against the rest of the state to score political points. Our children are not political pawns, and we must support the only plan that ensures a fair and equitable education for all students," state Senator Iris Martinez (D-20) said in a statement.