ALTON - The Illinois Senate voted to override Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1 (SB1) Sunday.
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The bill, which is the first evidence-based school funding reform to pass both houses of the Illinois General Assembly in six years, was sent back to the General Assembly with an amendatory veto from Rauner to remove a "bailout" for the Chicago Public School system. After the Illinois Senate voted to override that veto, it goes to the Illinois House of Representatives Wednesday where many educational administrators hope the same is done.
However, due to the lateness of the legislation, school districts across Illinois missed their first general state aid payment, which usually comes on Aug. 10. A second such payment is scheduled for Aug. 20. If the veto is not upheld or overridden, that date may be fruitless as well for local districts.
Without those payments, both the Alton and Bethalto school districts may not be able to keep their doors open throughout this school year.
Alton School District Superintendent Mark Cappel said his district missed a payment of approximately $732,000 on Aug. 10. Another payment of roughly the same amount is due Aug. 20. Without general state aid, Cappel said the Alton School District would have to shut its doors by October.
If the governor's amendatory veto is overridden, however, the Alton School District will receive an additional estimated $950,000 annually as part of general state aid. Cappel is not sure if that amount will be spread across several payments or serve as a single payment. He said similar measures may be taken with the first missed payment, assuming the governor's actions are overridden by the Illinois House of Representatives Wednesday.
"I am hoping, if it is passed tomorrow, that we will get our Aug. 20 payment, and I know eventually, we will get our Aug. 10 payment, but I don't know how they will do that," he said.
That sentiment is also shared by the nearby Bethalto School District.
"The senate had the courage to override, and now we need the house to do the same," Bethalto School District Superintendent Jill Griffin said. "The amendatory veto issued by the governor takes out necessary provisions for school districts like maintaining a minimum funding level for districts, our proration protection is gone, there are no accommodations for districts to help absorb pension cost shifts. There are pieces in the amendatory veto that hurt districts for the next 20 years in exchange for one year of improvement through an initial influx of cash up front that may decline in subsequent years. The amendatory veto also requires that districts include TIFF districts within their boundaries as part of their local wealth, when school districts are legally not able to draw funding from these TIFFs and have no control over when or where they are created. These districts are essentially being punished twice, locally and at the state level."
Unlike Cappel, who is optimistic regarding the Aug. 20 payment, Griffin said she was told not to expect such a payment on that date. Missing both payments in August cost the Bethalto School District an estimated $800,000 already.
One argument Rauner has made about his amendatory veto is that it will provide more revenue for struggling downstate districts. While this is true, Griffin said the rest of the amendatory veto eradicates any benefit from that.
"Although some districts may see an initial increase in funding under the amendatory veto, the loss of future protections washes out any initial benefit," she said. "The initial increase is also at the expense of students in other school districts, students that are just as deserving as those in Bethalto. Overriding the amendatory veto is the best option to ensure that all students, those in Bethalto as well as districts across the state are treated equitably. Overriding the amendatory veto and making SB1 law is a solid solution for us all."