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Rauner Signs School Funding Bill, Sending $450M More To CPS

By Heather Cherone | August 31, 2017 3:23pm | Updated on August 31, 2017 5:33pm
 Gov. Bruce Rauner hailed the measure as a compromise that will fund Illinois' schools fairly.
Gov. Bruce Rauner hailed the measure as a compromise that will fund Illinois' schools fairly.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

EDISON PARK — After months of political wrangling, Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday signed a new school-funding formula into law to give the Chicago Public Schools about $450 million more than last year, officials said.

Rauner traveled to Ebinger Elementary School in Edison Park for the bill signing ceremony, where he was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, putting a cap on the nine-month fight over school funding that prompted the one time friends and business associates to repeatedly criticize each other in the harshest terms.

[DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

"We finally got it done," Rauner said, after receiving a standing ovation.

In his remarks, Emanuel thanked Rauner for signing the bill.

“Its a historic moment because we’re finally fixing a historic wrong," Emanuel said.

He signed the bill sitting at a school desk surrounded by students and later told reporters "this is a good compromise bill."

State Sen. Andy Manar, who represents a Downstate district, who led the push to change the school funding formula to increase state aid for all schools and send more money to schools with a high percentage of low-income children.

The bill "ends a great racial divide," said Manar, who joined several state lawmakers in using their remarks to express optimism that the deal means the end for political gridlock in Illinois.

Speaker of the House Mike Madigan did not attend the ceremony, but said in a statement the bill signing is a "victory for our schools." Madigan and Rauner have been at loggerheads since the Republican governor took office.

Rauner signed the bill even though it contains $150 million more for CPS than the original school funding measure that the Republican governor vetoed and repeatedly derided as a bailout of Chicago's mismanaged schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel thanked Gov. Bruce Rauner for signing the bill that will give Chicago schools more money. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

According to CPS officials, schools will receive an additional:

• $221 million toward employee pensions

• $76 million under the new formula that sends more money to districts with a high percentage of low-income students

• $18.5 million for early education programs

• $13 million for bilingual education programs

CPS will lose $4 million from other programs under a variety of changes approved as part of the state budget, officials said.

In addition, the legislation signed Thursday by Rauner would allow the Chicago Board of Education — whose members are appointed by Emanuel — to generate $125 million by hiking property taxes about 2.5 percent for the average homeowner, district officials said.

That tax hike could account for about half of the $269 million that CPS needs from the city to make ends meet.

The measure also 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 effort criticized it as a voucherlike program that could "decimate public schools."

In a statement Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union leaders said the new school funding-formula was a step in the right direction.

“The stark reality is that it’s premature to celebrate a bill signing that does little to address persistent funding shortfalls and what our schools really need to restore art and music, school librarians, clean classrooms, special education teachers and wraparound services,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.

The union said the voucher program — which makes Illinois the 18th state to offer some form of public support for private or parochial schools — was "parasitic" and designed "to to create a tax shelter that will benefit big corporations and billionaire patrons like Ken Griffin."

Illinois' richest man, Griffin was the biggest contributor to Emanuel's most recent political campaign, and gave $13 million to Rauner's bid for office.


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