September 1, 2017 Update

After years of study and discussion, the Illinois Legislature approved bipartisan legislation to establish a new education formula that is designed to direct the most state aid to school districts in the most need (SB 1947 Manar/Davis).  The Senate President and House Speaker convened a special session of the Illinois General Assembly this week where both chambers approved the bill which creates a new way to distribute state funding to Illinois schools.  The House was in Session on Monday.  The Senate was in Session on Tuesday.  Governor Rauner signed the bill Thursday.
The final product is the result of negotiations between the four legislative leaders. The bill’s passage was not easy.  The House initially defeated the measure Monday afternoon by a vote of 46-61-5.  Representative Davis then moved to override the Governor’s veto of SB 1.  That measure also failed by a vote of 63-45-0.  The House then moved to reconsider the vote by which SB 1947 originally failed and the measure was ultimately approved by a vote of 73-34-3.  On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate followed suit, approving SB 1947 by a vote of 38-13-4.  Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of components of the compromise. Some legislators complained the compromise bill still gives too much money to Chicago schools at the expense of downstate schools while others complained that the tax credits will divert badly needed money away from public schools.
The final compromise encompasses the majority of SB 1 as it passed the Senate.  Additional changes to the bill include the following:
  • Creates a tax credit for private school scholarship donations which will operate as a 5- year pilot project.   Under the plan, individuals and businesses could receive a 75-cent tax credit for each dollar donated with a donation cap of $1 million. A maximum of $75 million worth of tax credits would be awarded annually.  The tax credits take effect with the 2018-19 school year.
  • Maintains the Minimum Funding Level, but in future years allows $50 million to be used for swap programs to reduce local property taxes.
  • Requires that the normal cost of Chicago Public Schools pensions be paid out under the State Pension Code instead of through the education funding formula.  This change allocates an additional $221 million for CPS.
  • Includes special education funding for CPS in the hold harmless provisions.
  • Allows the adjustment to CPS local resources calculations to be utilized by all other districts, and should districts develop legacy pension costs under a Tier III program, they will all get the same deduction.
  • Streamlines the mandate waiver process for P.E. waivers and Drivers Ed waivers.
  • In high property-tax wealth school districts where funding is about 110% of adequacy, if 10% of registered voters sign a petition, they can initiate a referendum to reduce their school district tax levy by 10%.
The Illinois Senate voted this week to make official Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady’s new position as Republican leader.  Brady has been acting as the “Republican Leader designee” since former Senate Republican Leader Radgono resigned on July 1st.
Democratic State Representative Dan Beiser announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2018.  Beiser is expected to serve the remainder of his term in office.
Both chambers adjourned to the call of the presiding officer.
An official veto session calendar has not been released.  The Illinois General Assembly traditionally convenes in the late fall to consider action on Gubernatorial vetoes.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.