ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK
At the center of the school funding argument is the preferential treatment that Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican lawmakers say Chicago Public Schools would receive under the Democrats’ plan.
When Rauner filed his amendatory veto of the school funding formula, he said it removed much of that preferential treatment CPS would have otherwise received. He objected to suburban and downstate taxpayers bailing out Chicago’s underfunded teachers’ pension.
When asked Tuesday, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said Chicago has long been shortchanged by the state because the city is double-billed for pensions.
“Chicago taxpayers pay for our teacher pensions but we also get to pay for the downstate teachers,” Currie said. “The downstate school districts don’t pay for their teachers.”
But suburban state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said the original language in Senate Bill 1 not only made the state’s annual payment to Chicago Public Schools’ pensions part of normal funding, it also allowed only Chicago to add its legacy pension debt in the formula for determining a district’s ability to fund its own schools. This made the district appear much worse off than it otherwise would, qualifying it for more state aid.
“The Chicago pension system was treated differently in SB 1 than other districts in the state,” Reick said. “It contained a provision that would provide for normal pension costs for the City of Chicago to be included within that bill, as well as using the underfunded portion of the Chicago pension system as a means for reducing Chicago’s local capacity target, taking it from Tier 2 down to Tier 1.”
Tier 1 schools, as described in the funding bill, would receive more money from the state and get it sooner than Tiers 2, 3 and 4.
Reick said the extra money that would head to Chicago school pension funds under the Democrat plan is especially insulting since CPS has been underfunding its own pensions by more than $2 billion since given control over the costs in 1995.
“The moment that the City of Chicago was given control of their own pensions, it stopped making payments into the plan,” he said. “I have a hard time telling my constituents with a straight face that it’s now our job to bail them out of what they did in the past.”
Lawmakers in the Senate have until August 16 to act on the governor’s amendatory veto of the school funding plan.