CHICAGO — Chicago schools are a step closer to suffering midyear cuts for the second year in a row as the deadline for the Illinois House to override Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of $215 million for the Chicago Public Schools passed Friday.
CPS had planned to use that money — which it included in its 2016-17 budget — to pay employees' pensions when that bill comes due in the summer.
But Rauner vetoed the bill, saying that Democratic leaders had not done enough to solve the state's pension crisis and reach a long-term deal as negotiations over a state budget ground to a halt over the governor's demands for term limits and a property tax freeze.
Illinois has not had a budget for two years. A stopgap measure allowed schools to open in the fall.
In a message to legislators, Rauner said he would not sign the bill because it would amount to a "bailout" for CPS.
"Without reforms to solve our structural problems, taxpayer money would continue to be wasted on bailout after bailout," Rauner said.
Almost immediately after the governor's announcement, the Illinois Senate voted to override Rauner's veto. But the issue was never called for a vote in the Illinois House.
Chicago Public Schools Forrest Claypool had vowed to "fight with everything we have" to persuade the Illinois House to override the governor's decision.
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner Friday declined to answer questions about how CPS plans to fill the gap.
At the Dec. 7 meeting of the Board of Education, School Board President Frank Clark said the loss of the $215 million is "unthinkable."
The board is prepared to amend its budget at its meeting Jan. 25 if the money doesn't materialize, Clark said.
CPS, which has a low credit rating, would be hard pressed to borrow the money, forcing officials to impose cuts at schools across the city or increase taxes.
Claypool said there would be no way to prevent cuts from being felt in the classrooms.
"The fact that it comes in the middle of the year means it will inflict maximum damage," Claypool said after the governor's veto.
Principals have been warned to expect cuts in January, according to parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand.
Claypool has said that without the extra money, the way the state funds Chicago schools "violates the civil rights" of the city's children and could prompt a court challenge.
The Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to be back in session for a brief period before newly elected legislators are sworn into office. However, if the bill passes both the House and Senate and is vetoed —again — there would be no opportunity for an override vote.
That means the fight would shift to the next session of the General Assembly.
State law requires CPS to pay $700 million to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund on June 30.
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