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Illinois Gov. Rauner vetoes parts of K-12 school funding bill, kicks it back to legislators

Members of the Chicago Teacher's Union take to the streets in during a strike in April 2016.
Charles Edward Miller | Flickr

Updated at 11:35 a.m. Aug. 1 with reaction from the Illinois Federation of Teachers — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner stripped millions of dollars for Chicago Public Schools from the school funding bill Tuesday and sent it back to the General Assembly just weeks before classes begin throughout the state.

Using what's called an amendatory veto, the Republican said in a statement ahead of a news conference that his changes make sure "enough resources flow to children in the poorest and most disadvantaged school districts across the entire state."

Rauner wants redistribute the CPS money — which was in the form of a block grant and pension considerations — to downstate districts. He also removed the minimum funding requirement. 

Earlier Tuesday, Democrats who backed the measure called for Rauner to sign it, not rewrite it. State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, says the veto sets the state "back decades."

Dan Montgomery, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, one of Illinois' largest teachers' unions, said Rauner is pitting "downstate communities against Chicago for his own political gain" and "playing politics with (students') first day of school."

The bill now returns to the Legislature, where three-fifths of lawmakers in both chambers must either approve or override Rauner's changes. Rauner himself appeared to not know they'd need a three-fifths majority to approve his changes, saying in the news conference that it only needed a simple majority.

If neither chamber can muster the needed votes, the legislation dies. And without a funding formula in place, Illinois State Board of Education spokesman Jackie Matthews has said, the agency will be able to distribute only $1.5 billion in state money and federal funds for roughly 850 districts. 

This is a developing story.

Read Gov. Rauner's letter to the Illinois Senate:

Original story from July 31: 

Illinois lawmakers sent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill Monday that overhauls how the state doles out education money for K-12 public schools, even though bipartisan negotiations broke down.

All of this comes as teachers, students and administrators prepare for the impending school year. Without a funding formula in place, Illinois State Board of Education spokesman Jackie Matthews has said, the agency will be able to distribute only $1.5 billion in state money and federal funds for roughly 850 districts.

The next step? Rauner says he’ll use his amendatory powers to rewrite the bill, redistributing some funding from Chicago Public Schools to downstate districts, and send it back to the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Rauner brought legislators back to Springfield last week for a second special session of the summer. During the first one, they passed the first state budget in two years. But little occurred this time, considering the school funding bill had passed both chambers during the regular session.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, hadn’t given it to the governor because of Rauner’s plan to trim CPS funding. Cullerton has said he has tried to talk with Rauner about the measure, but has been rebuffed.

Prior to the bill being sent to Rauner on Monday, a bipartisan group of legislators met behind closed doors after starting talks over the weekend. Sen. Andy Manar, who sponsored the legislation, said progress toward a compromise was being made and called on Republican colleagues to continue talks. 

"I think we see progress every step of the way, so i think it's important that the bill not be vetoed by Governor Rauner," the Bunker Hill Democrat said. "That's one reason why we've held the bill."

But shortly after Manar commented, Republican Sen. Jason Barickman of Streator said the opposite, accusing Democrats of political charades and failure to negotiate in good faith.

House Speaker Michael Madigan weighed in Monday afternoon, saying Democrats in his chamber would "continue to reach across the aisle and work with legislative Republicans in order to enact bipartisan education funding reform." The Chicago Democrat added that it was "being held back by a governor who is determined to pit one child against another for political gain."

Illinois’ education funding formula was called one of the most inequitable in the nation in 2015 by The Education Trust, a nonprofit advocacy organization, saying too much money goes to wealthy districts. Lawmakers changed the formula during the 2017 regular session, but it’s important to note that Illinois schools have gone without millions of dollars in state funding because of the two-year state budget impasse.

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Ryan Delaney contributed to this report.

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