Illinois House Approves School Bill On 2nd Try

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — The Illinois House has approved a new school funding plan on a second attempt, minutes after lawmakers failed to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s changes to a separate plan preferred by teacher unions.

Lawmakers voted 73-34 Monday to send the legislation to the Senate. A vote could occur in that chamber as early as Tuesday.

The measure increases funding for school districts and distributes the money in a way lawmakers say is more equitable. It also provides $75 million for tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships.

Teacher unions opposed the tax credit, and many lawmakers said it was the reason they voted no on the measure Monday afternoon. But after they were unable to override the changes Rauner made last month on the other legislation, the new bill was called again and passed.

Earlier Monday, the compromise bill went down in flames, in a 46-61 vote, with another five House members voting “present.” Because this is a special session, it took 71 votes to pass the bill.

Top Republicans were confident the 550-page bill would pass.

“I believe a fair way of spreading resources so that every student in the state of Illinois benefits,” Sen. Bill Brady said.

However, progressive Democrats continuously pushed back against the $75 million plan to provide taxpayer subsidies for parents paying private school tuition.

Rep. Will Guzzardi said, “We’re not supposed to take public dollars and divert them away for our neighborhood schools and into our private schools.”

In a statement, the Illinois Education Association said, “We urge lawmakers to reject this. Vouchers should not be the price of progress.”

But supporters, including religious schools of all types, said the plan would provide students with options.

“We want children to have choice, we want them to have the opportunity to have the best quality education and the most appropriate educational environment,” said Shlomo Sorka, who’s with the Agudath Israel of Illinois.

And Democratic leaders urged their members to remember the big picture — an additional $350 million a year included in the bill, which would have been heavily directed toward the state’s poorest districts

“The quicker we get to adequate funding, the quicker we get to better outcomes with our young people, which is what everyone desires,” Rep. Will Davis said.

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