Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, is forming yet another panel to explore the contentious issue of education funding in Illinois, saying a panel created by his political nemesis, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, left unanswered questions on the matter.
The Rauner-created panel, the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, recently released a series of recommendations about school funding — a key issue for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools and other school districts throughout the state.
CPS has recently sued state government, claiming the education-funding process shortchanges Chicago’s minority students and violates their civil rights.
Rauner and Madigan have been at odds over countless issues in Springfield. Madigan’s formation of his House “task force,” so far consisting of 12 Democrats, at the very least won’t ease that political feud.
“While the [Rauner-created] commission did not accomplish everything it set out to do, it did show that a bipartisan group of lawmakers can work toward consensus on major issues,” Madigan said in a news release. “There are questions that remain unanswered and points that still need clarification. We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively on this important and complex issue.”
The governor’s office struck a conciliatory tone.
“We hope this new education reform task force is not an attempt to delay the positive work and progress of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission,” said Beth Purvis, Rauner’s secretary of education. “As was discussed throughout the commission process, the goal was for the framework report to lead to a bill that could pass both chambers and be signed by Gov. Rauner. Through bicameral and bipartisan discussions, we stand ready to work together in fixing our state’s broken school funding formula.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose school system is suing the Rauner-led state government, also looked on the bright side.
“Any sign of forward progress toward resolving inequity in school funding is positive,” mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath said.
“Chicago’s students and teachers are doing great, leading the state in math and reading gains, and transforming the way people view Chicago Public Schools. All we ask from the state is a recognition that these hard-earned gains are worth preserving, and a commitment to equitable funding once and for all,” he said in an email.
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), a top Madigan lieutenant who also served on Rauner’s panel, denied that this the task force, formed a year after the speaker’s last task force on school funding, was a stalling tactic.
Rauner’s panel, which published its report on Feb. 1, ran short of time to come up with an actual school-funding formula. No deadline has been explicitly set for this group, but Currie anticipated arriving at a formula sometime this spring.
“Our deadline at one level is midnight, May 31st,” the end of the legislative session, Currie said.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the Republicans who’d serve on the ta would be chosen by House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), but a Durkin spokeswoman said her office hadn’t yet been notified by the speaker.
“We have received no official communication on the formation of this committee from the Office of the Speaker,” Durkin spokeswoman Vicki Crawford wrote in an email.