Rezin-pushed school reform bill called final victory in hard-fought battle
Education funding reform in Illinois was a hard-fought battle that paid off by bringing a more equitable system to schools across the state, Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said during recent Senate debate on a compromise funding measure.
“For far too long, our schools have been treated inequitable,” Rezin said during the Aug. 29 debate. “Schools in my district, like LaSalle, DePue, Plano and Streator, have been unfairly treated and impacted harshly by the current school funding formula and years of proration. Not anymore. Our battle to get to this point is worth it because we now have historic, fair and equitable funding in Illinois.”
Senate Bill 1947, a 500-page product of bipartisan negotiations that replaced SB1, is meant to provide money to schools across the state fairly and equitably via an evidence-based funding model. A hold-harmless clause means schools will receive at least the same amount of money as they did the year prior. State aid will be prioritized to schools that are most in need.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will also receive roughly $450 million more than expected from previous education proposals, and the bill contains a provision to give $75 million in tax credits to donors to scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools.
Many lawmakers from both side of the aisle voiced concerns about the Chicago provisions and the tax credits. Some Republicans argued that the bill is a Chicago bailout that the state cannot afford, while Democrats contended that the tax credits give the rich another tax break.
Rezin recognized the imperfections in the bill but asked her colleagues to set aside perfection for reality.
“Now, I recognize that there are challenges in this bill, but don’t let perfect get in the way of possible,” she said. “This bill is not perfect by any means, but finally, this bill makes equal funding for all schoolchildren regardless of where they live or who they are possible.”
More than anything, Rezin, a co-sponsor of the bill, expressed relief that a compromise had been reached.
“It’s been frustrating and not easy,” she said. “But something as important as this – when we have to work to get to this point – shouldn’t be easy. If this process was easy, that meant that we probably weren’t doing it right.”
SB1947 passed the Senate on a 38-13 vote Aug. 29 after passing the House the day before. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law Aug 31, effectively giving Illinois its first education funding reform in two decades.