Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) vetoed part of an education funding bill Tuesday, making it uncertain how much state money — if any — public schools across the state will receive for the about-to-start new school year. In a claim that belongs in the why-let-facts-get-in-the-way category, he said the legislation was a “bailout” of the financially beleaguered Chicago school system, the third-largest in the country. It wasn’t.
According to WBEZ, public schools are supposed to receive first state payments for the new school year Aug. 10, but some have said they will have to borrow money or make cuts, “and they warn of more dire circumstances if f the standoff drags on.” As is often true, the school districts at the most risk are those in poorer areas, where there is less income from property taxes than in wealthier areas to make up for state shortfalls.
The bill, SB1, would have ended a two-year budget feud between Democratic lawmakers, who are a majority in the state legislature, and the Republican governor had Rauner signed it. It would have gone a long way toward reconstructing the state’s highly inequitable school funding system.
Illinois is nearly last among states in how much it invests in public education, and when it does send funding to school districts, the poorer ones get less than wealthier ones. In fact, the difference in education funding between wealthier and poorer districts is the widest in the country; a 2015 report by the nonprofit advocacy group the Education Trust found that Illinois’s funding gap between poor and wealthy districts “stands out for its unfairness,” with the highest-poverty districts receiving nearly 20 percent less in state funds than the lowest-poverty districts.
Chicago Public Schools has been especially hard hit, with annual budget deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Chicago officials say that the city’s public school district has 20 percent of the state’s students but only gets 15 percent of its funding.
The system has also been hurt by mismanagement of funds and failed education policy, but Moody’s, the bond ratings agency, said in July that it was planning to review billions of dollars’ worth of the district’s bonds — already rated as junk — for a possible downgrade, and the reason was the state government’s refusal to address the Chicago district’s funding issues.
Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, said this of Rauner after the veto: “His math is fuzzy, his claims have been proven false and the only thing the governor’s action advances is his own personal brand of cynical politics.”
PolitiFact Illinois checked Rauner’s claim that the bill was a bailout for Chicago schools, and decided that it was “rooted in political histrionics” rather than actual numbers. It noted that Rauner hasn’t said how he would change the legislation, and added:
Nor has he addressed the inconsistency in arguing that the Chicago pension system is undeserving of state help because it is “broken” when it is still in healthier financial shape than the state-run pension system for all other teachers in Illinois.
Why did the governor do this? WBEZ notes:
Rauner, who faces reelection in 2018 in a heavily Democratic state, recently reshuffled the governor’s office and has hired aides from a conservative think thank who have been waging political combat with Democrats.
Says it all, doesn’t it?