Illinois Governor Vetoes Education Funding Bill Over Private School Concerns
By Monique Garcia
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday vetoed a bill that was designed to clear the way for a major overhaul of how the state distributes dollars to public schools, saying issues remain that would prevent about three dozen private schools from participating in a new scholarship program.
Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite the measure, which sponsors said was requested by the Illinois State Board of Education so officials could move forward on a new school funding formula that would prioritize poor and needy schools.
While Rauner has listed the new funding formula as one of his top achievements as he seeks re-election, the Republican governor said Monday that lawmakers failed to address a technicality that would prevent at least 36 Catholic and independent schools from benefiting from a new scholarship program he's pushed.
Under that program, individuals and corporations can give money for scholarships to private schools in exchange for a tax credit worth 75 percent of their donation.
"Inclusivity was the spirit of this legislation to begin with, and we simply must ensure that we follow through with the appropriate language to get the job done," Rauner said in a statement.
However, supporters of the funding formula rewrite say Rauner's veto could mean struggling schools left waiting on an influx of state dollars will have to wait even longer as legislators weigh the governor's changes. Lawmakers can vote to accept the changes, reject them with an override, or choose not to take them up at all, in which case the legislation would die.
"Not a single penny of the new money has been spent on school districts to date," said Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill in central Illinois who sponsored the funding changes. "Because of this veto, they are going to continue to wait for the very thing Bruce Rauner is taking credit for on television -- equitable school funding."
Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said it was "unfair" for critics to say the amendatory veto would delay implementation of the new funding formula, saying the board of eduction "continues to work on the new funding formula" and money is "still several months from being sent out."
An education board spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the agency is "evaluating the impact" of the governor's proposed changes.
Rauner's issue centers on language that would require nonpublic schools to be "recognized" by the board of education to participate in the tax program. He says that eligibility should be expanded to schools that are "registered" with the board.
Though Rauner eventually embraced the new school funding formula last summer, he initially vetoed the proposal, saying it amounted to a "bailout" for Chicago Public Schools. While CPS still got a major cash infusion with Rauner's signature on the funding rewrite, the governor also claimed a win with the tax credit program, which he said would give families more choices in picking schools.
The program received $36 million in pledges for private school scholarships on its first day. Annual donations are limited to $100 million.
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