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CPS Gets $450 Million More Than Last Year In Bill That Clears Ill. House

 After a marathon legislative session Monday, the Illinois House passed a school-funding bill that the Illinois Senate is expected to pass and Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign.
After a marathon legislative session Monday, the Illinois House passed a school-funding bill that the Illinois Senate is expected to pass and Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign.
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CHICAGO — After a dramatic series of votes, the Illinois House approved a new school-funding formula late Monday that would give the Chicago Public Schools about $450 million more than last year, officials said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the measure's passage — with 73 votes, hours after initially failing with only 46 votes — "as an education-funding plan that provides parity and stability for children across Illinois."

The compromise measure passed on a second try — with two votes to spare — after House lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to override Rauner's veto of the original funding bill earlier during the marathon session.

In a statement, Rauner praised lawmakers for passing "historic education reform."

The measure is expected to be considered by the Illinois Senate Tuesday. If it passes, as expected, Gov. Bruce Rauner vowed to sign it, even though it contains $150 million more for CPS than the original school funding measure that the Republican governor derided as a bailout of Chicago's mismanaged schools.

In addition, the state will pay $221 million toward the pensions for Chicago's teachers, compared to nearly $12.2 million last year.

Under the legislation, the Chicago Board of Education would have the authority vote to raise property taxes by an additional $120 million to $163 million to pay for teacher's pensions.

The new funding formula gives school districts "much-needed flexibility" by lifting some requirements for the number of required physical education classes and allowing driver's education classes to be outsourced, Rauner said.

In addition, the measure includes $75 million for a tuition tax credit program that would offer families scholarships to send their children to private or parochial schools — or to pay the cost to send their sons or daughters to a public school outside their home school district, officials said. Opponents of that program criticized it as a voucherlike program could "decimate public schools."

"It protects the rights of parents to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children — providing more school choice for children from low-income families," Rauner said.

That provision of the law was backed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Blase Cupich, who said in an email to Emanuel that the program "would be an enormous boost to the Chicago schools and the thousands of parents who use our schools.”

Enrollment in Chicago's Catholic schools has been dropping for several years, leading to the closure of several  — including St. Benedict High School in North Center — and the merger of four Far Northwest Side Catholic schools into Pope Francis Global Academy.

The voucherlike proposal has been roundly condemned by parent-led group Raise Your Hand and the Chicago Teachers Union as "a double-whammy aimed at the heart of public education."

The City Council's Progressive Caucus and Latino Caucus opposed the voucherlike program.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) — who is running for governor — called the voucherlike proposal "wrong" in a tweet.

"Opening the door to additional school privatization and creating tax credits for parochial/private schools is no compromise," Pawar said.

Along with Pawar, gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy have also blasted the program. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur J.B. Pritzker did not take a position on the proposal.

Once state lawmakers act, Emanuel said he would detail how he thinks Chicago officials should spend the $269 million for Chicago schools.

"When it is done, we will do what we have to do," Emanuel said.

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