Local Lawmakers React to School Funding Bill

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Illinois now officially has an evidence-based funding model for how it gives out money to schools. We checked in with some of our local legislators to see how they voted on the bill.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1947 into law on August 31, ensuring schools in Illinois are able to remain open.

Originally introduced by Democrats as Senate Bill 1 and then amended into SB 1947, the legislation had support from across both sides of the aisle, with Republican Representative Grant Wehrli voting “yes.”

“When you’re in the minority party in any form of government, you’re not going to get everything you want, and you’re certainly not going to win games by hitting grand slams. You have to be able to compromise, get what you can out of a piece of legislation that helps you as best you can. SB1947 was that language,” said Wehrli, who represents Illinois’ House District 41. “There’s things in there such as a tax credit system to allow low income students in Illinois to go to a different school other than a public school. So that was something beneficial in my eyes.”

However, some other local Republicans and Democrats did not vote in favor of the bill.

Republican senator Michael Connelly voted “no” because he feels the funding formula features a flawed assessment of Chicago’s property values.

“The largest town in our state obviously is the city of Chicago and their property, about a quarter of the property is in a tiff district and it’s under assessed. So it’s not fair and equitable to the rest of the state that Chicago is allowed to back out, essentially about half a billion dollars a year in local available resources,” said Senator Connelly, who represents District 21 in the Illinois Senate.

While Democratic Representative Stephanie Kifowit voted ‘no’ because she felt the amendments to the original bill brought too many costly changes.

“While I understand it was bipartisan, 37 Republicans voted for this bill, to me over spending, spending money we don’t have, voting on a bill that just got filed on a Monday morning, on a Monday afternoon without a committee meeting hearing, without any public input,” said Representative Kifowit, who represents District 84 in the Illinois House. “In addition to, our schools get the same money as in SB1, we don’t get any extra, and Chicago Public Schools gets extra.”

While Illinois was without a school funding formula, the state missed two payments to schools. Now that the bill is law, schools should soon receive those funds.

Our local schools are currently assessing how the funding formula will affect them.

The approved funding model also provides relief from some unfunded mandates, allows communities with fully funded schools to lower property taxes and gives Chicago Public Schools the ability to raise their property taxes.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.