Bertino-Tarrant says alleged leak made schoolchildren political pawns
Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) called the alleged leak of erroneous school funding information an example of politics sinking to its lowest level.
“It is a violation of what is right and what we should be doing and what we should not be doing," she said at a press conference a day after the information became public. “When your integrity is in jeopardy because of this information, that, to me, doesn't sit well. The governor and the Republicans have turned children into a political game, and that is wrong.”
Bertino-Tarrant is supporting Sen. Andy Manar's (D-Bunker Hill) call for the state to investigate after a Kankakee Times story broke down school funding in his Senate Bill 1 district by district — wrongly, Manar claimed during a press conference.
The Senate passed SB1 on May 17. Following the Senate vote, the Times, which is affiliated with the Will County Gazette, reported how the bill would affect the Kankakee County school districts, relying on an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which was performed using formula changes Manar previously proposed. The information has been available on ISBE's website since last summer.
The Rauner administration responded by questioning how readily available information could be considered "leaked."
“The Senate Democrats today jumped the shark,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Rauner, said in a statement. “One cannot leak something that is on a public website. Their false and outrageous accusations have been disproven, and they should apologize for manufacturing blatantly false accusations.”
During the press conference, where Democrats claimed the "false and erroneous" information was leaked to the Times by Gov. Bruce Rauner's office, Manar said the figures were inaccurate because the bill had been revised. A new ISBE analysis was not performed before the Senate voted on the bill, he said. As a result, legislators couldn't refute the previous analysis with new data.
Senators who voted for the revised bill never saw an analysis of how the plan would impact school districts, Manar admitted. But he said that's not unusual.
"We’ve requested them," he said. "It takes time. I don’t think there is anything going on here other than what the normal process is."
The Times is not affiliated with Rauner or the governor's office.
Describing Manar's efforts to get a school reform measure put together as a journey in which he had visited people all across the state, Bertino-Tarrant bristled at the way politics appeared to derail everything.
“We had a process," she said. "We had a hearing two weeks ago where things were vetted out. To do this was pure politics."
A Rauner spokesperson also denied the information came from the office.
“One cannot leak something that is on a public website," Eleni Demertzis said. "Their false and outrageous accusations have been disproven, and they should apologize for manufacturing blatantly false accusations."