Durkin demands school funding bill be sent to Rauner
Illinois Democrats are holding back education funding as a malicious form of political gamesmanship, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) suggested at a press conference on Monday with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has called legislators back for a second special legislative session.
“Starting next month, approximately 2 million students in 852 school districts throughout Illinois are to begin their school year,” Durkin said. “Let’s be clear: The Illinois school funding system is antiquated and unfair. SB1 does not fix the decades of problems of school funding but rather worsens it. The Democratic leadership in Springfield for no legitimate reason has been holding SB1 from the governor since the end of May. That is 54 days.”
SB1 would fund Illinois’ schools via an evidence-based model but has yet to be sent to Rauner despite passing both houses of the General Assembly. Rauner told lawmakers to get back to work on it starting on Wednesday and continue through July 31.
“There is no reason that we can’t have school funding completed and signed off on and done by July 31 so our schools can open on time, every school in the state of Illinois can receive proper support from the state and every child in a low-income community – every child from a disadvantaged circumstance – can receive a better education, a better future,” Rauner said.
A major point of contention for many Republican lawmakers is an alleged last-minute hijacking of SB1 by Democrats to insert a provision that would provide more funding to Chicago Public Schools and its pensions. Rauner contended that pension reform is still on the table but should not be a priority over the students.
"In no way at no time should the money from the classroom for current teachers and our students be diverted and given to a broken pension system," Rauner said. "That should never happen, and that is what SB1 does in its current form.”
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) openly admitted to the Chicago Tribune that his party “slowed down the process in the Senate in order to let everyone blow off some steam, politically speaking.”
Republicans including Rauner described the move as using students as political pawns.
“The further they hold it, the more likely that the Democrats want to create and manufacture a school funding crisis,” Durkin said. “I want all schools funded fairly. I want all schools opening on time and so does my caucus. We are going to open schools on time. The Democrats cannot stay silent on this issue. Send the bill to the governor.”