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Legislative Update 8.29.17

8/29/2017
The school funding deal negotiated by the four legislative leaders and the Governor (SB1947) has been approved by both the House and Senate. 

Yesterday, the House voted initially to reject the deal, then a vote to override the Governor’s amendatory veto of SB 1 failed. After those unsuccessful attempts, the House took a second vote on the school funding deal, passing it 73-34-3. The Senate approved the plan today by a vote of 38-13-4. 

The evidence-based model of school funding contained in SB 1 remains largely intact in this measure. However, there were some changes and key additions included which forced the IFT to oppose the legislation. 

Simply put, Governor Rauner leveraged his veto power to insert a private school voucher scheme into the legislation and to pass “mandate relief" that will harm students and educators. After the House passed the measure, IFT President Dan Montgomery issued this statement:

"Tonight, state legislators moved Illinois closer to doing what we have needed to do for decades – treat our poorest students and communities fairly. Unfortunately, it came at a very disappointing cost. Governor Rauner capitalized on the crisis he created when he vetoed the original bill and used it as leverage for private school tax credits that benefit the wealthy while working families continue to struggle."

SB1947 includes a program under which contributors can claim a tax credit for donating to private school scholarship funds. Wealthy businesses and individual donors will have access to as much as $75 million of credits each year for the next five years. This component creates a $75 million hole in the state budget and robs our public schools of students and resources. 

The bill also includes mandate relief in the form of relaxed requirements for contracting out drivers’ education services. Specifically, school districts may now contract out for drivers’ education services without seeking a waiver from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). (A public hearing and school board approval are required.) SB1947 also reduces the current physical education requirement, allowing districts to offer PE just three days per week (instead of five). Students in grades 7 through 12 may also opt out of physical education if they participate in interscholastic or extracurricular sports. 

A number of education stakeholders and concerned organizations joined the IFT to oppose the legislation, including the Illinois Education Association (IEA), School Management Alliance, League of Women Voters, and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Rather than pass SB1947, the IFT strongly advocated for an override of the Governor’s amendatory veto of SB1 or for passage of a compromise bill that didn’t include tax credits and mandate relief. 

Despite the significant flaws in this package, there is some good news. For the first time since 1997, Illinois will begin to move away from its archaic, inequitable school funding system and towards an evidence-based approach that ensures every district in the state receives the support it needs to educate students.

"We’re on a better path toward equity and adequacy, and we must move forward in our classrooms and communities," concluded President Montgomery's statement. "But it’s clearer than ever that this Governor does not prioritize public schools, and we must fight for one who does in 2018.”  

The Governor is expected to sign SB1947 into law. Stay tuned for updates. 
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