Democrats reject compromise, ram through Chicago school bailout

SPRINGFIELD – On Friday, May 27, Senate Democrats once again muscled through a bailout for the bankrupt Chicago school district, instead of working with Republicans to help all Illinois schools, according State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

“We should be here working on a balanced budget, improving school funding and reforming state government,” said Sen. Syverson. “But instead we’re voting on a bill to bailout Chicago schools to the tune of half of a billion dollars.”

House Bill 3190 would rewrite the state school funding formula, first through a formula that already failed to gain traction in the House, Democratic Senator Andy Manar’s controversial Senate Bill 231. Then the legislation would enact another funding mechanism in the second year, for which the Illinois State Board of Education hasn’t been able to analyze yet.

HB3190 is now headed to the House where it faces an uncertain future.

 “They expect us to vote for a plan they just filed hours before with no warning,” said Sen. Syverson. “It’s clear that Democrats have turned their backs on negotiations and are back to the same old 11th hour political maneuvers.”

Proponents of the legislation claimed it would create equity in school funding, but Senator Syverson noted that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) already receive an outsized share of state resources. CPS represents 19.4% of Illinois students but receives 36% of all state funding. This is despite the fact that CPS’ student population has been on a steady decline. In addition, the district has many schools with extremely low attendance and there have been recommendations to close at least 50 to 100. CPS also has over 1500 employees earning over $100,000 per year.

Senator Syverson added that part of the funding issues in Chicago stem from the fact that Chicago has the lowest residential property taxes in the state and has never held a referendum to increase their funding.

When Chicago School District makes the tough cuts and raises their own property taxes like we have had to in Winnebago County, then they will have the right to talk about equity in school funding,” said Sen. Syverson.

With just two and a half scheduled session days left for the spring, little time remains to fund schools or pass a full balanced budget.

“Democrats need to do their jobs and get back to the bargaining table,” said Sen. Syverson. “The only way we can finally end this devastating impasse and ensure that schools open this fall is through good faith negotiations and compromise.”

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