Dozens of Metro East school superintendents made one thing clear Friday: They need state money, and they need it now.
Illinois’ new school funding formula is tied up in another political battle, one that could end next week when lawmakers have a chance to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto.
But the school leaders and board members who gathered in Belleville on Friday said the formula is better for all schools in the state, and worry that they won’t have money in time to pay for the coming school year, which starts next week in the Metro East.
Schools in Madison and St. Clair counties will see an additional $18 million in the first year of the new formula, Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, said. Granite City Superintendent Jim Greenwald said the new formula is already better for his and other Metro East districts.
“This is about all schools, from Chicago to Cairo to everywhere in between,” he said.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Thursday that for the first time in state history, her office could not send schools their first round of general funding; it wasn’t clear how much that was. Her office was able to distribute $450 million in grants for transportation and special education.
Sparta Public Schools don’t have bonding authority, so the district is borrowing from banks in order to open this year, according to Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer.
“So we’re kicking the can down the road and digging ourselves into debt further,” she said.
Democratic state lawmakers and education advocates talked Friday about their efforts to override Rauner’s veto and get money to the schools, which in the Metro East start a new year next week.
Rauner has said the formula, approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in May, gives too much money to Chicago’s public schools and wants to redirect millions away from Chicago to rural district.
“The governor’s veto shuts off the spigot” to schools, said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, “so that over time the state’s investment in public education goes down.”
Ruaner spokeswoman Laurel Patrick blamed the funding crisis on Manar for not sending the bill to the governor sooner.
“Senator Manar should be working with his colleagues to return to Springfield to take action on the governor’s changes or work across the aisle on a compromise,” she said in a statement. “We want schools to open on time and with a fairer funding system.”
The state Senate will reconvene Sunday and the House returns Wednesday. The House needs four Republicans to join every Democrat in order to override Rauner’s veto; Hoffman said he didn’t know whether there are enough votes.
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