After months of back-and-forth and two votes last night, the Illinois House voted to approve a school funding reform bill.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1947, looks to implement a new funding formula meant to direct the most state money to school districts that need it most. Also included in the bill is $415 million dollars in new money to Chicago schools, a new system to measure how much help local school districts need from the state, and a new $75 million dollar tax credit for those donating to private school scholarships.
On the first try, the bill was defeated by a vote of 46 to 61. However, that vote occurred prior to the House’s attempt to override Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1. When the override only got 63 votes of the 71 needed, the House voted a second time of the compromise bill, ultimately approving it by a vote of 73 to 34.
Local State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer voted against the bill on its second try. Davidsmeyer explains what influenced his decision.
“Ultimately, my decision was based on our ability to pay for it. At the end of the day there was no funding for all of the promises that were in there. I didn’t have a feud with the funding formula, I think it was probably a step in the right direction. But unfortunately, there were a lot of add-ons that were thrown in there for Chicago, some others for a tax credit program for private school scholarships, and at the end of the day, it all costs the state more money that we do not have,” says Davidsmeyer.
One of the points of contention throughout this process was the extra money for Chicago schools. Davidsmeyer says while the pension money for Chicago schools was taken out of the funding formula, it will still be difficult for the state to afford.
“Unfortunately they locked in $250 million every year for all years into the future for the Chicago block grant, they locked that into Chicago’s base funding, which is not right. They actually took the pension payments out of the school funding formula, which was a step in the right direction, but once again, but once again, $221 million that we can’t afford right now. We’ll end up paying $40 million a year out of money that should be going into classrooms to pay for Chicago’s decision to skip ten years of pension payments. That was their decision, they made it on their own, I think they need to take responsibility for that,” explains Davidsmeyer.
Davidsmeyer says while it’s a positive step to have school funding, the consequences of passing this bill will have effects for years to come.
“I think everyone out there believes that we need school funding. We need to make sure schools can plan and make it through the next year and hopefully all years in the future. But we have to realize that the last funding formula was in for twenty years, so this is going to have effects for longer than just the next five, ten, fifteen years. It’s going to cost us a minimum of $23 billion over the next ten years, and there’s no cuts in there to pay for it, there’s no new funding to pay for it, so it’s all I-owe-you’s and unfunded promises. It would be a 5.5 percent income tax today, but if they wait until year ten, it could be almost seven percent income tax. And I’m not willing to make those decisions for future legislators and future taxpayers,” Davidsmeyer says.
The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it today. If approved by the Senate, the bill will then be sent to Governor Rauner’s desk before going into law. Rauner indicated last night that he would ultimately sign the bill if he receives it.