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Chicago Schools Budget Counts On Money Rauner Expected To Veto

The budget Chicago Public Schools is building for its upcoming school year counts on an extra $300 million in state funding, relying on a bill Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he will veto, CPS officials confirmed Friday.

Counting on increased state funds has burned CPS the last two years. The money in those two years never materialized, leading to mid-year budget cuts. This time, CPS is assuming a massive overhaul of the state’s school funding formula known as SB1 will become law. The bill passed both chambers of the state legislature in late May, but Rauner has threatened to veto the bill, calling it a “bailout” for Chicago. 

Until the state passes a new school funding formula, Illinois has no mechanism for handing out funding for the upcoming school year, affecting not just Chicago but all districts in Illinois, CPS noted. The first state school aid payments are historically due to school districts on Aug. 10.

“The major difference this year is that Chicago’s funding is inextricably linked to the funding for every other school district in the state,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement. “If Gov. Rauner vetoes SB1, school districts around the state will be in an unprecedented situation, and we will all have bigger issues.”

Bittner said CPS officials feel confident moving ahead with the funding laid out in SB1. State law requires all districts to pass a budget by the end of August. 

“If we wait any longer for Gov. Rauner to do the right thing, principals will not be able to organize their schools,” she said. “We will use SB1’s funding parameters to plan, since there are no other options on the table.”

Rauner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment but earlier on Friday he made it clear that his views on SB1 haven’t changed.

“Our education funding system is broken. We need to fix it in a way that’s fair for everyone in the state of Illinois — fair for people here in Gurnee, and in Libertyville and in North Chicago and in Danville too — and the system is not hijacked to benefit one school district and take money away from other school districts,” Rauner said Friday after a tour of flood damage in Gurnee. 

CPS on Friday also told principals to expect their individual school budgets next week. This comes just seven weeks before the start of the next school year, the latest date Chicago schools have gotten their budgets in recent memory. 

Principals will receive those budgets — how much they have to spend hiring teachers and buying supplies — on Thursday and will have to six days to finalize them. Ideally, principals get their budgets in the spring.

Principals will see changes in the way special education services are funded this year and an increase of approximately $15 million, CPS officials said. Last year, the school district was sharply criticized after overhauling the way it gives money to schools for special education. CPS officials say they have been getting feedback from principals and are using it to adapt their approach.

The school district also said it’s sticking with its existing method of allocating money to schools called student based budgeting. That per-pupil funding method hands out a stipend for each student. CPS had contemplated altering it but opted against any change.

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