Crusader staff report
After weeks of heated talks, compromises and revisions, the educational funding bill passed the General Assembly on Monday, August 28, giving hope to Chicago Public Schools and other struggling school districts that are in desperate need of financial help.
The legislation allows the Chicago Board of Education to impose a $125 million property increase for CPS.
The bill goes to Governor Bruce Rauner who’s expected to approve the bill as the first historic step in overhauling the way Illinois funds its 852 school districts. For decades, Illinois funded its school districts from property tax revenues generated from neighborhoods. Critics and educators complained that school districts in affluent neighborhoods benefit greatly from the system, while districts in poorer neighborhoods suffer.
After the 73-34 vote the bill now moves to the Senate, which may vote on the measure as early as Tuesday, September 5.
Legislators on both sides of the measure are optimistic about the bill’s chances of passing and are calling the measure a victory.
“Today we saw compromise,” said Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan in a statement. “Even if all members did not agree with 100 percent of what is in the final bill, this bill still delivers 100 percent of what schools throughout Illinois need.”
Rauner opposed other educational funding bills, saying they set aside too much money for CPS. Democrats opposed Rauner’s changes, saying his proposal was too broad and would have taken away the purpose of the funding bill.
In the new bill, a $75 million tax credit program will be in place to serve private schools, a measure opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union, who called it an assault on education.
Under the legislation, the Chicago Board of Education will be allowed to raise property taxes by at least $120 million. The state would make a much larger contribution toward Chicago teachers from $12.2 million last year to $221 million. CPS has largely suffered from low pension contributions because of years of skipped payments that have caught up with the district.
On Monday, the Chicago Board of Education passed its $5.7 billion budget that includes a $269 million deficit that will be filled by the education funding legislation.