Tentative agreement reported on Illinois school funding reform plan

The state’s four legislative leaders say they’ve reached a tentative agreement on a school funding reform plan.

After a meeting Thursday, both Democrat and Republican leaders released statements saying they have come to preliminary terms on a plan to allocate the money that was appropriated in the budget passed last July. Per the budget’s language crafted by Democrat leadership, school funding could not be distributed until the General Assembly adopted a new “evidence-based” funding formula.

“This afternoon, the four legislative leaders and the governor reached an agreement in principle on historic school funding reform,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader-designee Bill Brady said in a joint statement released late Thursday afternoon. “Language will be drafted and details of the agreement released once the drafts have been reviewed. The leaders will reconvene in Springfield on Sunday in anticipation of House action on Monday.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker Michael Madigan cancelled a session that had been scheduled for Wednesday, saying progress was being made behind closed doors.

During the spring legislative session, Democrats and Republicans were close to an agreement on education funding reform that many said more fairly distributes state dollars to districts most in need. But on the final day of session, Madigan added an amendment that gave Chicago Public Schools more than $200 million in additional state funding for the district’s pensions. Republicans pulled their support, saying suburban and downstate taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bail out a failing pension system they have nothing to do with. Rauner later vetoed the Democrat-passed measure to make changes to it, including removing most additional dollars for Chicago.

The Senate, with a supermajority of Democrats, voted last week to override Rauner’s veto with a single Republican breaking from the governor. The House, which would need at least four Republicans to join all Democrats for a successful override, has yet to take action, which now could come Monday.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, chief sponsor of the Democrats’ education funding plan, said Thursday’s news was encouraging.

“I am encouraged that the legislative leaders appear to have reached an agreement in concept on school funding reform,” Manar said in a statement. As many have reiterated time and again for years on end, the inequities that deepen with each passing day in our public schools are a horrible stain on our great state. The status quo is unjust and immoral. Our goal is simple: create a system that is both adequate and equitable for all children.”

The governor’s office released its own statement late Thursday thanking legislative leaders for their continued work.

“Governor Rauner applauds the four leaders in coming to a consensus on historic school funding reform that reflects the work of the School Funding Reform Commission,” a statement from the governor’s office said. “He thanks them for their leadership and looks forward to the coming days when the legislation is passed by both chambers.”

Senate President John Cullerton also has participated in the negotiations.

Story by the Illinois News Network. Visit ILNews.org 

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