Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that will increase state funding for education and allow school districts across the state to remain open even if a partial government shutdown were to occur.
While the governor said he would not approve the final bill, which is over $3 billion short of expected revenues, he did approve the school funding measure, as he said education is “the most important thing we do as a community.”
The bill approved by Democrats in the General Assembly offered an additional $269 million for early childhood, elementary and secondary education starting in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. However, Rauner had proposed an increase of $344 million, along with increased cuts to social services and other programs including Medicaid healthcare coverage. These cuts were much larger than those proposed by Democrats, who believe cuts of that size could end up hurting the middle class, reports Sara Burnett for The Northwest Herald.
House Bill 3763 also provides funding for bilingual education, as well as required payments for the downstate teacher pension system.
“Education is the most important thing we do as a community,” Rauner said in a statement that accompanied the bill signing. “I would have done more for our schoolchildren, but I am taking action today to ensure our teachers are paid and our schools are open and funded.”
If an agreement cannot be reached by Rauner and the General Assembly by July 1, payments will stop for social service agencies, state vendors, and Medicaid providers.
School districts throughout the state had expressed concerns that state funding would not reach their doors if the impasse were to continue into August, with the first school aid payments due on August 10. That funding goes toward school costs and paying teachers. However, signing the bill will allow schools in the state to open on time without worry.
“I refuse to allow Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform,” Rauner said in his statement.
According to the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the budget offers a boost to general state aid, which will offer districts the ability to receive 92% of the funding they are supposed to receive rather than 89%, writes Doug Finke for The State Journal-Register.
“We are relieved that school districts can now plan for the new school year knowing that the state budget for education is in place,” said Brent Clark, the association’s executive director. “Educating our children is the single best long-term investment the state can make, and we are pleased that the governor and the General Assembly have made it a priority in the middle of these tough budget negotiations.”