Just before Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a long-anticipated amendatory veto of an education funding reform bill in Springfield, top political fact-checkers cast doubt on one of the governor’s biggest criticisms of the legislation.
In a July press release published by the governor’s office, Rauner claimed Senate Bill 1 – an evidence-based funding model aimed at fixing Illinois' broken education funding formula – includes “a bailout of Chicago’s broken teacher pension system.” But PolitiFact on Tuesday rated Rauner’s claim as “false,” saying the pension piece of the bill can’t even be called a perk, let alone a bailout, because it’s simply giving Chicago Public Schools “what every other school district already has.”
“Attempting to parse a political buzzword like ‘bailout’ might be impossible if not for the clear direction provided by Rauner’s own Illinois Education Funding Reform Commission,” the article states. “It called for an ‘evidence-based’ school funding formula but also recommended a ‘hold harmless’ provision that would ensure no district received less this year than last.
“By that dictate alone, CPS should not be in line this year for a cut in the size of its block grant. What’s more, SB1 does do away with the CPS block grant starting with the 2018-19 school year, poking a major hole in Rauner’s ‘bailout’ claim.”
After passing through both the state House and Senate, the governor promised to issue an amendatory veto of SB1, removing the CPS pension dollars while keeping the rest of the evidence-based funding model included in the bill intact.
Democratic legislators backing the bill had held it in the Senate on a procedural vote to keep it from reaching Rauner’s desk. But after Rauner called a special session last week, Democrats on Monday finally turned over the bill. Rauner had promised immediate action, and announced his amendatory veto Tuesday morning.
Bill sponsors had said they were continuing negotiations Tuesday and asked the governor to hold off on issuing a veto, which they said will “kill the bill.”
In giving an overview of the bill’s history, PolitiFact editor Matt Dietrich said the governor hasn’t announced specifics for how he plans to change SB1 and seemingly ignores the fact that a CPS block grant that’s been in place for more than two decades will be eliminated in the second year of the legislation.
“Numbers are sure to fly fast and furious as Rauner and lawmakers duke this out in Springfield in the days ahead,” Dietrich wrote, “but we find Rauner’s generalization that SB 1 is a ‘bailout’ for Chicago schools to be False.”
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner also called Rauner's objections to the bill “as baffling as they are false” saying his claims are “bogus.”
A Rauner spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the article. But Rauner himself referred to the notion that SB1 isn't a bailout as “false spin” during a press conference in Springfield Tuesday.
“The math is very clear,” he told media, saying SB1 as written would divert “money from all the schools around the state to one district.”
This story has been updated to include CPS and Rauner's comments.
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July 31: The future of school funding is now in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s hands, after Democrats finally sent him legislation he’s made a show of demanding they release. Now the question is what Rauner will do with it.
July 26: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on the governor’s frame of mind: The latest on the special education funding session in Springfield.
June 7: The Democrat-backed bill would increase state funding to every public school district in the state. But it still faces an uncertain future as critics chide what they see as preferential treatment for Chicago Public Schools.