State education board says Rauner veto ‘caused disruption to agency’

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Gov. Bruce Rauner | AP file photo

Despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration saying it’s “unfair” to claim the governor’s veto of a trailer bill this week would delay the implementation of a historic school funding measure, the Illinois State Board of Education on Friday warned that without changes “there will be further disruption and confusion for all 852 school districts.”

Rauner on Monday issued an amendatory veto of legislation needed to implement the school funding measure, sending it back to lawmakers to “be cleaned up” to allow students attending dozens of private schools to more quickly take advantage of a new tax-credit scholarship program. At issue for the new program is whether the schools that students seek to attend are registered with or recognized by the state’s education board.

ISBE released a statement Friday, saying the Senate trailer bill was essential because it corrected a “large drafting error” that would have impacted the adequacy targets of 178 school districts which “would unfairly include local resources that those districts are not able to access – to the sum of $37.8 million.”

The board also noted the timing of the governor’s veto.

“On the last day possible, the Governor issued an amendatory veto to SB 444 which has caused a disruption to the agency as it continues preparations for tier funding distribution as quickly as possible,” the board said in a statement, adding if the school funding measure is not changed in accordance with the Senate trailer bill, “there will be further disruption and confusion for all 852 school districts.”

The board also warns that “time is of the essence to ensure that what districts receive from the state this year is equitable and fair.”

A spokeswoman for ISBE said they believe the veto may cause a delay in distribution of school funding because “at this time it is not known whether or not SB 444 will become law.” Because the measure also includes cleanup language that affects how money is distributed, school districts could be shortchanged if the measure is not acted upon, a Democratic source close to the measure said.

“While we wait for General Assembly action, agency staff are continuing to gather and clean data needed to distribute tier funding,” spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said.

Asked about the education board’s statement, the governor’s office said it agreed with the board about the need to move quickly.

“We agree, the General Assembly needs to act swiftly to address all the identified problems with the new school funding formula. The General Assembly passed a trailer bill to address unintended errors in the new formula. The Governor’s amendatory veto calls on them to fix all the identified problems. We urge them to move quickly,” spokeswoman Rachel Bold said in a statement.

Rauner’s administration on Monday denied that the veto would delay the way the state is doling out funding.

“It is unfair for critics to say that this amendatory veto will delay implementation of SB 1947. The Illinois State Board of Education continues to work on the new funding formula, and tier funding is still several months from being sent out,” Bold said on Monday.

Whatever lawmakers choose to do about the veto, the action must first be take in the Illinois Senate, with lawmakers returning to Springfield on Jan. 30. The Senate can vote to accept or reject the changes. But they can also choose not to consider them at all, which would kill the bill.

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