Editorials

Here comes your bailout for the financially-mismanaged Chicago Public Schools

Remember all of the drama over whether the Illinois legislature would vote to override the governor’s veto of the income tax increase?

It’s about to happen again.

The budget that House Speaker Michael Madigan pushed through the Democrat-controlled legislature contains a provision that says school districts will only get their state funding if the money is doled out to school districts with a new “evidence-based” formula. That formula happens to be spelled out in Senate Bill 1, a piece of legislation that Democrats are calling the “Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act.”

Sounds wonderful, right? How can anyone be opposed to evidence, or the success of students?

What they really should call it is the “Downstate Taxpayers Bail Out Chicago’s Broke Schools Act.”

Supporters of the bill say Illinois’ school funding formula needs to be changed because it’s not fair to poor school districts. Any guess which school district in Illinois is really, really hurting for cash? Why yes, it’s the Chicago Public Schools district, which is flat-broke and has started putting together a budget for the upcoming school year that counts on an extra $300 million coming in through the new formula.

Why is the Chicago school system in such a money mess? For one, their teacher pension fund has a shortfall of about $9 billion. Yes, that’s $9 billion, with a “B.” After years of kicking the can down the road and skipping payments to the pension fund, they’ve had to use all sorts of financial tricks to try to come up with this year’s $700 million payment to the fund.

The House and the Senate have already passed Senate Bill 1 — with some of our local lawmakers voting in favor of it — but Gov. Bruce Rauner has vowed to veto it. Then we’ll be back in another situation where Madigan has to try to round up enough votes to override the veto.

The first general state aid payment to school districts for the upcoming year is due Aug. 10. And nobody wants to see schools shut down. So expect to see Rauner and Madigan playing another very public, high-stakes game of chicken. Remember, November 2018 is right around the corner, and this vote is another way to sway how you think.

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