Rauner’s veto of SB1 a battle plan for waging war on public schools

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From punishing schools for enrollment declines to penalizing them for their communities’ aggressive job-creation efforts, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner appears to be lining up an all-out assault on Illinois’ long-standing commitment to public education.

And most of the unwitting victims in this battle are school districts that already are underfunded by the state of Illinois and struggling with growing numbers of impoverished students and other challenges.

“What Gov. Rauner outlined in his veto of Senate Bill 1 this week would cause the state to pull back from its investment in public education at historic levels and starve public schools everywhere,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and a longtime school funding reform advocate. Manar is the chief Senate sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

“This was never about a so-called ‘Chicago bailout.’ This is about Bruce Rauner seizing upon an opportunity to get what he wanted all along: divestment in public education and shifting costs onto local taxpayers.”

In his veto of Senate Bill 1, Rauner proposed more than 100 changes to Senate Bill 1. Among them were provisions that pit schools against local economic development efforts (tax increment financing districts) and penalize schools for losing students. (Click here to view interactive maps of how Rauner’s veto stands to harm downstate schools and communities.)

Many downstate communities utilize TIF districts for job creation and economic development, and more than 360 school districts have seen enrollment declines for various reasons.

In addition, Rauner’s veto language suggests the state should pretend school districts have access to resources that they don’t so that the state is on the hook for less funding, forcing districts to make difficult decisions about asking for local property tax increases or making cuts. He went so far this week as to accuse them of purposefully hiding property wealth.

Manar said the veto language goes against everything Rauner has led people to believe about his commitment to public education.

“Gov. Rauner has suddenly taken a hard right turn and abandoned all of his own policies and achievements to betray public schools – all within a matter of weeks,” he said.

“What the governor has proposed in his veto of Senate Bill 1 does not ‘make it a better bill,’ as he continues to insist. Every lawmaker who signed on to support this veto before they saw the language was sold a bill of goods.

“We need to override this veto, and we need to do it as soon as possible, because what Gov. Rauner has proposed will devastate Illinois schools and will set us back even farther than we are today.”

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