With about a month left before students return to their classrooms, public school districts across Illinois are in danger of not having the funds to open their doors on time.
At the crux of the issue is Senate Bill 1, which is a provision that ties a large majority of school funding from the state to an evidence-based model of funding. Meanwhile, time is of the essence as a number of schools throughout Illinois, including some in the local area, don’t have the reserves to survive more than a month or two.
Waverly Superintendent Dustin Day, whose district has enough reserves for another school year, explains how the process has become delayed, and what the consequences could potentially be.
“Part of the budget agreement was that this funding for K-12 education actually had to have an evidence-based funding formula model, which is the hang up that’s going on right now. So the public and the superintendents were excited for about ten minutes when the budget passed, and unfortunately, it was like it was given to us then taken away, because without this evidence-based funding formula, all the districts in the state of Illinois will not receive any funding August 10th, when we’re supposed to receive our first payments for this fiscal year,” says Day.
Day says that he’s thankful for the work of area lawmakers, specifically State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer and State Senator Sam McCann, for the efforts they’ve put in to try and get funding for local schools. However, Day remains frustrated by the entire situation..
“Unfortunately, we’re at limbo right now. The Governor has spoken that he wants Senate Bill 1 to move to his desk so he can veto it. I’d like to see a plan B. If there is a better plan, by all means let’s move that forward, but it is July and we have until August 10th before these payments are supposed to start coming in,” Day explains.
Day says the time for state lawmakers to make a decision is now.
“If this is not going to happen, and they’re not going to have an evidence-based formula like Senate Bill 1, then what is the other one? How has this not been put before the legislature now? We’re running out of time. I want to try and give them the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately (lawmakers) have had two years. Yet, we are at the brink where schools will absolutely start closing. They have used up their reserves, and you are going to see schools, unfortunately, make a very, very difficult decision very quickly, unless they decide on something,” says Day.
The Governor has asked the legislature to send the bill to his desk a number of times. The measure alters the way money is doled out to Illinois school districts, and also includes what Rauner describes as a bailout for the Chicago Teacher’s Pension System. And while Rauner has said he supports more equitable funding for schools, he plans to issue an amendatory veto, removing the part of the legislation that deals with the Chicago Teacher’s Pension System.
While the provision was included as part of the state budget passed earlier this month, legislators have prevented Senate Bill 1 from advancing to Governor Rauner’s desk, in turn keeping Rauner from taking action on, or making changes to the legislation.
During a visit to Auburn High School today, Rauner gave lawmakers an ultimatum: send the education funding reform bill to his desk by Monday, or he will call a special session.