Manar, others tout school funding reform bill
Posted on 08/19/2014
Sen. Andy Manar said Tuesday he hopes legislators will enact a school funding reform law before another school year begins, but acknowledged his plan will need changes before the House is likely to accept it.
Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, appeared with Springfield schools officials and members of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good who called on lawmakers to approve the funding reform bill. Springfield schools could see an additional $2.6 million under the revised funding bill.
Manar drafted Senate Bill 16, which allocates state assistance to schools mostly on the basis of need. Currently, less than half the money the state provides to public schools is based on need.
The bill passed the Senate last spring, but has yet to be considered in the House.
“We have to make sure this issue is dealt with,” Manar said. “That calls for the House of Representatives to pass this bill, not in its complete entirety, but pass a bill that gets us toward greater equity.”
Manar said it “remains to be seen” if the House will pass the bill in the post-election veto session.
“It took us a year in the Senate. It’s only logical that it will take the House some time to sift through this,” he said.
Scherer said she supports the bill and will work to get it passed.
“I feel we have our work cut out for us,” Scherer said of passing it during the November veto session. “It (the issue) needs to be presented as fair, just and equal.”
Lawmakers, though, could face a busy session even without the school funding issue. They could be asked to address whether or not to extend or make permanent the temporary income tax increase during the veto session. Much of the increase will roll back on Jan. 1, taking with it $2 billion or more of state revenue.
There’s also the prospect that Republican Bruce Rauner could get elected and break the Democrats’ stranglehold on power in Springfield. That could prompt Democrats to press for other bills that could be passed before splitting power with the GOP. All of that could push the funding reform bill to the background.
If the school funding bill isn’t approved before a new General Assembly is sworn in, the process will have to start all over.
“It’s time to put an end to the broken formula,” Manar said. “Many of the problems that are faced right here in (Springfield’s schools) begin with the broken formula on the state level.”
Springfield School Superintendent Jennifer Gill noted that over 65 percent of the district’s students live in poverty, which generates special needs in the district. The district also loses substantial property tax income because of the large numbers of tax-exempt government buildings.