Illinois Budget School Funding

State Senate Republic Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington, left, listens as Gov. Bruce Rauner discusses school funding in the state during a news conference on Monday, July 24, 2017, in Chicago. Rauner reiterated his call on Monday morning for Illinois lawmakers to send him a school funding overhaul by noon, saying he will call a special session this week if it's not on his desk. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of a "no compromise" position on a school funding bill that's the source of the latest gridlock at the state Capitol.

The Chicago Democrat says the proposal is fair to all schools. The Republican governor has vowed to change it through his amendatory veto powers. Rauner says Chicago Public Schools receive a "bailout" in the bill, but he hasn't detailed what he'd change in it.

Madigan spoke to reporters on the first day of a special session, where attendance was noticeably light.

At issue is a plan the Democrat-majority Legislature approved that changes how Illinois distributes school money. However, the Senate isn't sending the bill to Rauner until Monday.

The special session is expected to continue through Friday and then again on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Rauner signed a measure that will halt increases of lawmaker cost-of-living pay adjustments, mileage reimbursement and other costs.

The Republican signed the plan into law at the Capitol at the start of a special session, calling it an important step for taxpayers. The measure received wide and bipartisan support.

Rauner called lawmakers back to Springfield in an attempt to resolve a school funding fight. He told reporters at the bill signing that he justifies the cost of a special session because "children come first."

Special session can run about $48,000 for a single day. The new law keeps that rate the same. It'll freeze legislator per diem at $111, instead of jumping to $142. It'll also keep mileage reimbursement at 39 cents per mile, instead of about 54 cents.

Rauner summoned the Democrat-majority Legislature to Springfield after they failed to meet his deadline to send him a plan that rewrites how Illinois doles out school funds. Rauner has threatened to veto and rewrite the plan over objections to additional money for Chicago Public Schools. Both houses of the Legislature approved the plan but the Senate has not yet sent it to Rauner for his consideration.

The overhaul is required because the budget lawmakers approved this month after a two-year stalemate says schools must get funding through an "evidence-based model." Both parties agree Illinois' decades-old school funding calculation is unfair, but they've clashed for years over how to change it.

To override Rauner's changes, lawmakers will need a three-fifths majority, including Republican votes. Lawmakers could also craft a new plan.

The back-and-forth is the latest clash between Democrats and the first-term governor. Illinois' unprecedented budget stalemate — which began when Rauner took office in 2015 — ended this month during a separate special session called by Rauner. He vetoed a spending plan lawmakers sent him that included an income tax increase, but lawmakers overruled him, including Republicans.

In the school fight, both sides accused the other of playing politics.

"The Democrats in the majority are playing political games with our children's education," Rauner told reporters this week. "They seem to be intent on holding up school funding until August when schools need to open."

Democratic leaders say the issue should be addressed by legislative leaders meeting the governor and two House lawmakers vowed to boycott Wednesday's gathering to hold a service day for students. House Speaker Michael Madigan accused Rauner of "political theater," and blasted him for refusing to detail his proposed changes.

"By calling a special session while he refuses to negotiate and even says 'there's nothing to discuss,' the governor is continuing to create a crisis that pits one child against another," Madigan said in a Tuesday statement.

The first state payment to schools is due Aug. 10. While most school districts say they have reserves to open on time, questions remain about how long they can operate without state funds.

The proposal in question funnels money to the neediest school districts first after ensuring no district receives less money than last school year. That includes additional pension help for Chicago, the only Illinois district that picks up the employer's portion of teacher pension costs.


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