CHICAGO – Flanked by school children and legislative leaders, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed school funding legislation that he says puts children first and makes lasting changes he believes will help generations of children to come.
“The passing of this historic legislation was no easy feat, but it’s a reminder of the good things we can accomplish when we put politics aside and focus on what’s important: our children and our future,” Rauner said. “I am proud to sign this bill, which will bring more money to school districts based on the needs of the children, guaranteeing that all Illinois students have access to adequate education funding.”
The compromise plan creates an evidence-based model that uses a formula to send new state education dollars to less-affluent schools that need it the most. No school districts lose money under the plan, supporters said.
The measure creates a school choice plan that would give up to 6,000 lower-income students annually an opportunity to attend the private school of their choice. The compromise plan would allow for voluntary, tax-deductible donations, capped at $75 million annually, toward school choice scholarships. The pilot program would expire after five years unless renewed.
“This historic first step ensures our schools stay open now and that from this day forward the resources invested in public education are committed to providing equity and fairness for all students regardless of where they live in Illinois,” said Senate President John J. Cullerton, D-Chicago.
Under the compromise legislation, the majority of education funds will go to those districts that have the largest gap between their adequacy targets and available local resources. The legislation also provides school-choice protection for parents who want the best education possible for their children. This is accomplished by ensuring that district-authorized charter schools receive equal funding and by offering families with limited financial resources better access to private schools through a tax credit scholarship program.
“This new school funding law, born of bipartisan collaboration and compromise, is exactly what Illinois schools need and deserve,” said Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. “I want to commend Gov. Rauner, who recognized that if we’re going to improve our schools and ensure every student gets a quality education, then we needed to work together to ensure all 852 school districts in Illinois are treated fairly and equitably.”
“Today is a victory for our schools, our students and our communities,” said House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago. “It’s also a victory for compromise that I hope we continue to build on. By working together and in good faith, even when we do not totally agree, Democrats and Republicans have created a plan where every school district wins. As we move forward, it will be vitally important that the Legislature remain vigilant in protecting the funding mechanism passed and that we ensure all students throughout the state are receiving the support they need to be successful.”
“This historic measure is the result of thousands of parents, teachers, school superintendents and students working together over the last four years with one common goal: fixing the most inequitable school funding formula in the nation,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, the chief sponsor of the bill. “Thanks to their hard work, generations of children in every corner of our state will finally receive the quality education they deserve.”
This compromise also provides much-needed mandate relief for school districts and presents avenues for property tax relief to homeowners.
“I’ve said for the past two-and-a-half years that we can make progress on the major issues facing our state as long as both sides respect the priorities of the other, and that’s precisely what happened,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. “This compromise ensures that all Illinois children will have access to an education that is funded fairly and equitably. It also provides flexibility to school districts and relief to homeowners through lower property taxes and expands opportunities for school choice for children from low-income families. My hope is that, moving forward, this will serve as an example of what can happen when we put partisan bickering aside and negotiate in good faith to get things done for the families of Illinois.”
“This new law finally gives equitable education funding to all students regardless of where they live, making the dreams of our students more possible,” said state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, a chief co-sponsor of the bill. “Our teachers and students will gain critical new resources, which will provide for more opportunities. The mandate relief will give better flexibility for school districts. There is also a mechanism to lower property taxes in districts that are overtaxed. This new law is a win for every student now and for future generations.”
“In addition to this law ensuring that new state funding goes first to the poorest kids who need it most across the state, it ensures that no district loses funding and begins to put tools into the hands of property tax payers in those districts that are overfunded to seek relief,” said state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, who was a member of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. “This is an important step in providing both equity in school funding and relief from our fundamentally broken system.”
“For an entire generation of students, we have perpetuated an education funding system that does not send our state dollars to the schools who need it most first,” said state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, who was a member of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. “Getting school funding right is the most important thing we can do for our children, for their future and for Illinois’ future. This is a good compromise that fixes the formula and gives the next generation of Illinoisans better opportunities for a high quality education.”
“This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our public school funding system adequate and equitable,” said state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who was a member of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. “I am delighted that we in Springfield stepped up to the challenge.”