Rauner To Call Another Special Session, Amid School Funding Dispute

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday he will call lawmakers back into special session starting Wednesday, after Democratic leaders refused to send him school funding legislation he plans to rewrite to slash money for Chicago Public Schools.

Money to get schools across Illinois open on time hangs in the balance, and Rauner said it’s Democratic lawmakers who would be to blame if they don’t send Senate Bill 1 to his desk, so he can use his amendatory veto power. The governor had given the Illinois Senate until noon Monday to send him the legislation.

SB1 would change the way Illinois public schools are funded, by using what’s known as an “evidence-based” formula. A clause in the state budget lawmakers approved over Rauner’s veto would prevent schools from receiving state funding without the new “evidence-based” formula in place.

The governor accused Democrats of holding schools hostage to an attempt to bail out teachers’ pensions in Chicago.

“It was hijacked at the last minute by the majority in Springfield, and a poison pill was inserted to force payments to a pension system that’s broken, unsustainable, and it needs reform; and we together should reform that pension system, and help Chicago fix its pension problem. We should do that, and I personally am committed to that. That is a separate issue” he said.

Rauner has said he supports evidence-based school funding, but he believes the plan approved by the House and Senate provides too much money for CPS at the expense of other school districts in Illinois, calling SB1 a bailout for cash-strapped Chicago schools.

The legislation includes $215 million to help CPS fund teachers’ pensions, and a $250 million special block grant.

“What the majority in the General Assembly is trying to do is divert money from the classroom to fund Chicago pensions. Money that should go to our communities in Lawndale, and Austin, and Englewood, and Cicero, and Waukegan, and North Chicago, and Aurora,” he said.

However, the governor has declined to say how he would change the legislation if he gets it.

“You can read my amendatory veto, and you’ll see what I’ll do,” he said. “See, they don’t want the truth, they don’t want open debate, they don’t want this to be out in public, because the truth is so bad for their position.”

Senate President John Cullerton said the governor should put down his veto pen, and talk to the four legislative leaders about the school funding overhaul, but Rauner said there’s nothing to talk about until he gets the legislation.

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