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Illinois Senate To Take Up School Funding Overhaul

Madigan at a podium
John O'Connor
House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, earlier this month in Springfield.

The Illinois Senate on Tuesday is expected to take up a school funding overhaul that will increase aid to all of the state's more than 800 districts.

Lawmakers are set to convene Tuesday to vote on the measure, which the Illinois House approved late Monday. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he'll sign the bill.

Supporters have called the legislation “historic” because it will reduce huge disparities in per-student funding between districts. The measure also provides $75 million for tax credits for people who contributed to private school scholarships. Teacher unions opposed the credits, saying taxpayer money shouldn't be used toward private schools.

But even some legislators who initially opposed the measure changed to “yes” votes late Monday. They feared that without another funding plan available, schools would run out of money.

Republican State Reps. Dan Brady of Bloomington, Keith Sommer of Morton, and Bill Mitchell from Forsyth all voted for the bill. Brady said schools can now count on state funding, which is a positive, but there is still work to be done in the future.

“I believe it was a positive step. Obviously it was a positive step for schools,” Brady said. “Did everybody get what they wanted? No. And that’s where the compromise comes in.”

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, is one of the top negotiators on the school funding bill.

“I am encouraged that the House of Representatives voted to advance bipartisan school funding reform legislation to the Senate. It is important to remember that the status quo is no longer an option. For years, members of both sides of the aisle have highlighted the inequities of the current system that unfairly treats schoolchildren based on where they live,” Barickman said.

“We now have an opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation that allows us to fix the formula, enable school districts and taxpayers opportunities to lower their costs, and create new educational opportunities for many Illinoisans. That is why I'm urging immediate action and support for this plan in the Senate,” he added.

State Rep. Will Davis, the Homewood Democrat who carried the bill, was proud of the final product.

"Even with the tweaks of the compromise, the tax credit notwithstanding, the rest of that bill represented things that we wanted to do, that we thought we should do, things that were important to do,” Davis said.

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