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Illinois schools need to know now if they have money to open

Belleville News Democrat

Friday, August 4, 2017  |  Editorial  |  By The Editorial Board

Education Funding (36a)
Are you all finished yet? Are you done playing games?

The folks in Springfield by now should all have their sound bites. They’ve all gotten their political bonus points and damaged their opponents and proven their power.

So can the state lawmakers just get back to work and either pass Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendments to Senate Bill 1, the school funding bill, or override them?

Up or down. Just vote, and let our students, parents, teachers, administrators and workers know what to expect.

When lawmakers passed a budget for the first time in more than two years it excluded school funding. The idea was to fix the school-funding formula that everyone agreed was out of whack and had been for decades, get extra money to poorer districts and generally spread the funds in a fair manner.

All was well, and it had bipartisan support, until Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Co. inserted a bailout for the Chicago Public Schools pension system on May 31. That district had been funded differently for decades, and the state money intended for pensions never went there.

Rauner immediately said he would take that Chicago pension money out, but the Illinois Senate sat on the bill for two months, until July 31. They released it at the last minute, trying to create a crisis and essentially holding students hostage. Rauner used his amendatory veto to remove the Chicago pension money, as he said he would, and now the Illinois Senate has 15 days to act, after which the Illinois House also gets 15 days to act. A month or more of uncertainty.

Lawmakers can agree to the changes, override the changes or be cowards and let the bill languish. Democrats have the three-fifths majority needed to agree or override in the Senate, but they need Republican votes to get anything done in the House.

If they do nothing, the bill dies, and our school year dies with it. At the least, the school year will be thrown into such chaos that a million individual schedules, child care arrangements and extra costs would hit every student’s family and every school worker’s family in Illinois.

So much mayhem for so little political gain.

If state lawmakers were students pulling this stuff, they’d be in the principal’s office. Good thing they outlawed corporal punishment, or the swats would last a while.
Best you can do is mete out punishment at the ballot box. Remember who gave your kids that extra summer break.