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Chicago Officials Say Rauner's Plan To Veto More Money For CPS Is Illegal

By Heather Cherone | July 17, 2017 5:12pm | Updated on July 19, 2017 11:47am
 Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool (left) said Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to veto a bill that would add $300 million to CPS' bottom line is illegal.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool (left) said Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to veto a bill that would add $300 million to CPS' bottom line is illegal.
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CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner vowed Monday to veto part of a bill that would give the Chicago Public Schools $300 million more in state money — a move that Chicago officials said would be illegal.

The Republican governor demanded that the Democratic-controlled Illinois Senate send him Senate Bill 1, or SB1, which changes how the state funds schools throughout the state. Rauner warned that if the bill doesn't get to his desk soon, schools may not open as scheduled in the fall.

Rauner said he planned to issue an amendatory veto that would remove the $300 million the legislation would send to CPS to cover current and past-due pension payments, which amounts to a "bailout of Chicago’s broken teacher pension system" that the governor's office said would take "away critical resources from school districts across the state."

"It’s not right to give CPS more than its equitable share at the expense of other struggling school districts," Rauner said in a statement. "That’s not reform. It is the same old rigged politics that created this disgraceful system we are trying to fix."

However, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who is traveling through Europe to boost Chicago's technology businesses — said the bill would benefit all schools in Illinois and "finally begin to close the state’s worst-in-the-nation funding gap between wealthy districts and poor ones."

"This is an opportunity to achieve a goal that has eluded governors of both parties for decades and do right by students across the state, not to exert leverage — and it’s unfortunate the governor once again seems inclined to pursue the political path rather than the productive one," said Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath.

The recently approved $36 billion state budget included an additional $350 million for kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms. But no state education funding can be spent until the legislation outlining how that money is to be spent — SB1 — is approved, officials said.

The legislation passed both the Illinois House and Senate, but without veto-proof majorities.

Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for CPS, said that if Rauner does use his power to strike the part of the bill that changes how Chicago schools are funded, the move would not pass "legal muster and instead jeopardize the opening for dozens of school districts around the state."

The action the governor has vowed to take would change "a fundamental purpose of the legislation" by "making a substantial change to the legislation," CPS officials said.

That "exceeds the power of the governor under the state constitution," officials added.

Emanuel has said Chicago schools will open Sept. 5 as scheduled — regardless of what Rauner does.

Principals of Chicago's schools will get their first look at the budgets for their schools on Thursday, and for the third year in a row, those spending plans will rely on hundreds of millions of dollars that Rauner has vowed to veto.

"If we wait any longer for Gov. Rauner to do the right thing, principals will not be able to organize their schools, and we will use SB1’s funding parameters to plan, since there are no other options on the table," Bittner said in a statement.

Local school councils will have about a week to approve spending plans for their schools, officials said.