Republican legislative leaders in Springfield have supported Gov. Bruce Rauner’s calls for changes to the state’s worker’s compensation and limits to collective bargaining before approving a full state budget. But there’s one issue they say should wait until later: changes to the state’s school funding formula.
That’s a problem for Democratic Senate President John Cullerton. For him, passing a budget is a priority, but he also says the state desperately needs to change the state’s school funding formula.
After a meeting of Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s top legislative leaders this week, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said, “All of us did agree that the school aid formula is something that needs to be changed. It needs to be addressed. We’re not gonna handle it until after we resolve this budget impasse.”
“I’m not sure that’s something that’ll be on the agenda this year because of the complexity of it,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said.
Cullerton’s office responded. “I’d like them to go to any public school auditorium or gymnasium and stand in front of the teachers and the students and tell them that their issues are too complex and too hard for state leaders to lean into,” said Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon.
Phelon said Cullerton is recommending education advocates with Advance Illinois and Rauner’s administration, like Secretary of Education Beth Purvis and state Superintendent Tony Smith, attend future meetings between legislative leaders and the governor. Legislative leaders have said they hope to have another meeting next week.
So why is the funding formula so important to Cullerton? He says it controls how the state of Illinois funds local school districts and he says it’s fundamentally unfair because it doesn’t include areas with a high concentration of poverty into the equation. He says that means districts with many people living in poverty aren’t getting the state support they should.
Phelon says, while Cullerton believes changes to the school funding formula ought to be a priority for the state, he’s not going to make his support for a state budget deal contingent on an agreement on the funding formula.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.