By Illinois New Network

Democratic lawmakers passed sweeping reforms to the state’s education system that all sides agree is broken. Then, they put it in a drawer and went home.

Late Wednesday night last week, the state Senate entered the final vote needed to pass a new formula for evidence-based funding that supporters say gives more equity to Illinois’ school funding methods. But after the vote, Senate Bill 1 was put on hold using a procedural move by Chicago Democrat Donne Trotter.

A spokesperson for Senate President John Cullerton said that it was to allow for some time after a tense debate. He said in a statement Thursday morning that, “You heard a lot of heated, political and erroneous rhetoric from opponents yesterday. We’re going to give everyone a chance to get that out of their systems and let cooler heads prevail.”

He didn’t have a timeline on when the bill would be released from its hold and sent to Rauner.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, was one of those heated voices on the Senate floor. He said the longer Democrats wait to send this to the governor, the more chance people will see it for what it really is – a bailout for Chicago Public Schools.

“It really underscores the politics of this bill,” Barickman said Thursday. “The more time this waits around and lingers, the more time the public has to scrutinize this. I don’t think they’re going to like what they see.”

“When it comes to schools in high poverty areas like East St. Louis getting crumbs while CPS gets filet mignon, it’s not OK to just vote no,” Barickman said. “We need to stand up and explain why we’re voting no and try to defeat the bill.”

Barickman said the East St. Louis School District, with its 98 percent high poverty concentration, would receive an extra $237 per student while CPS, at 83 percent, receives more than $1,300 per student in additional funds.

Illinois is last in the country in state spending on local education, with the vast majority of funding coming from local property taxes. This is commonly blamed for the inequities in funding from one district to the next. High-poverty areas tend to collect less property taxes on less valuable homes.

In the continuing rift between Chicago Public Schools and the rest of the state, property tax money that should otherwise go to CPS has for years been diverted by designating tax-increment funding, or TIF, districts over much of Chicago’s highly valuable downtown area, state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Wheaton, said.

“Do you want to know who back-fills that money?” Connelly asked. “Every one of your constituents that doesn’t live in the City of Chicago.”

 

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