The Crusader Newspaper Group

Illinois Lawmakers scramble to control a crisis

Crusader staff report

With time running out, lawmakers as of Crusader press time were in Springfield Wednesday, June 29, trying to hammer out a temporary, 6-month state budget that would keep schools and other state government operating for another year. The last ditch efforts came as the deadline for a new state budget ticked away, while Democrats and Governor Bruce Rauner engaged in closed door meetings.

With the budget crisis two days from being a year old, both sides aimed to stop a crisis from spiraling out of control and shutting down more publicly-funded programs and services that have served the poor and the Black community for years.

If Illinois enters a second year without a budget, cash will stop flowing to local 911 centers, preventive health screenings, tuition grants for low-income college students, and social programs. Many services have been impacted already during the crisis, but the damage will be much worse if lawmakers turn up empty-handed by Friday, July 1.

The biggest concern is Chicago Public Schools, where the majority of students are Black and Hispanic. In Springfield, the District was a major hurdle between Democrats and Republicans trying to establish a temporary budget. While funding for public schools throughout the state is a concern, the real battle has been the mounting problems for CPS. The state’s largest school district has been crippled with a $1.1 billion deficit and a $669 million teacher pension fund payment that will nearly wipe out the district’s operating fund.

CPS said they plan to make the payment on Thursday, June 30 but what happens next remains uncertain. On Tuesday, June 28, CPS said its short-term cash picture “modestly improved.” While the outlook was based on a series of cost-cutting measures that were made in the last school year, CPS’ future looked murky in the final days as Rauner held out on agreeing to a bailout for a school district that he believes is broken because of poor management.

Democrats want $760 million more for Illinois roughly 800 school districts. About $100 million of which would go towards Chicago teacher pensions. Rauner wanted $240 million more for education, but his plan did not include a bailout for CPS.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Rauner’s proposal a failed formula that rewards wealthy children in elite communities over children in poorer communities in Chicago.

Democrats also wanted $1 billion for higher education. Last April, Rauner approved a $600 million emergency fund to keep colleges and university operations going until the fall. One of those schools, predominately Black Chicago State University, received $21 million to keep the institution afloat while lawmakers worked on the permanent budget.

Democrats also wanted more than $650 million for human services, including AIDS support, programs to help seniors and addiction treatment.




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