Urbana pleads for override of Rauner's veto on school-funding bill

Urbana pleads for override of Rauner's veto on school-funding bill

URBANA — Urbana's school superintendent and mayor urged Illinoisans on Thursday to ask legislators to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of the school-funding reform bill approved by lawmakers this spring.

The Senate is scheduled to take up Rauner's override on Sunday, and the House is slated to do so as early as next Wednesday.

If the governor's veto is allowed to stand, Superintendent Don Owen and Mayor Diane Marlin said, it would punish school districts that are located within tax-increment-finance districts and subject to property-tax caps, like Champaign and Urbana.

"The state is on the verge of making a historic change in the most inequitable funding formula ever developed in the United States, and the governor vetoed that legislation, and (Rauner's changes) would actually increase inequities and harm communities like Urbana and Champaign," Owen said of Senate Bill 1. "If the state of Illinois is serious about turning around its floundering economy, maybe it should start by investing in the most powerful economic engine imaginable — our students and our public schools."

"The veto of Senate Bill 1 will punish the public schools located in communities with tax caps and TIF districts, and it could ultimately increase local property taxes," Marlin asserted. "The state of Illinois must address the inequity in school funding and uphold minimum funding requirements."

And she said that Rauner's veto would threaten TIF districts, which she said are "one of the few economic development tools left in our tool box."

Urbana has three TIF districts, Marlin said, and many of their proceeds are used for capital improvements that benefit the city and schoolchildren, such as sidewalks and streetlights.

While in Urbana on Wednesday, Rauner called the use of TIF districts throughout Illinois "a broken system." The governor said that "some communities have benefited at the expense of others."

But Sen. Andy Manar, the sponsor of S.B. 1 who has been working on a comprehensive change in the school funding formula for almost five years, said Thursday that there had been no push by Republicans for changes to TIF districts, property tax caps or teacher pension payments — three issues in Rauner's veto — while the legislation was being developed.

"I think this is all about the governor's hatred of the city of Chicago, where he believes that there is manipulation happening of TIF districts in the city," Manar said. "But what he apparently doesn't realize is that when a change like that is made in the school funding bill with no research, no data, no understanding of its impact, there is incredible collateral damage all over the state."

TIF districts may need to be addressed, he said, "but just doing a knee-jerk reaction, blowing something up and then figuring where the pieces fall is not what a governor ought to be doing."

He called the changes "irresponsible."

And Owen, who said he was speaking with the approval of his school board, warned that without an override of Rauner's veto, some school districts could run out of money within 13 days.

"What's going to happen if we don't have an override on Wednesday? My colleagues and the families and students they represent have about 13 days and then what do they do? And to use students and families as a political pawn is unconscionable," he said.

Negotiations on a compromise school funding agreement are ongoing, Manar said.

"There are all kinds of conversations happening from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers on how do we do this, right? How do we make sure that we can get this done in the time frame that is afforded to us by the Constitution," he said. "One way or another we're going to get this done. The final lap begins on Sunday in the state Senate."

Owen said that without an agreement on school funding, the Urbana school district would run out of money next January "unless the board and administration undertake drastic measures."

Although a representative of the Champaign school district was at Thursday's news conference at Urbana High School, no one from Champaign offered any remarks.

Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, called S.B. 1 "transformative" and said that Rauner's veto "was clearly intended to hurt Chicago, but the result is a great deal of collateral damage to the schools in Champaign and Vermilion counties that I represent.

"From the governor's change, every one of my schools is in danger of being hurt."

Manar and state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, urged people to call Republican legislators and ask them to override the governor again, like they did last month on budget and tax increase votes.

"I'm here to ask for downstate Republicans to step forward and do the right thing," Manar said. "They know that this is the right thing to do. I'm here today to ask them to step forward and to the right thing, not just for their school districts but to do the right thing for the state of Illinois.

"For the first time in decades they have the opportunity to be part of this monstrosity of a change for the better for every school district in the state."

Proponents of S.B. 1 say that every school district in the state will receive more state aid next year under its provisions.

"What Rauner is proposing damages school districts across this state. If we are not able to override this veto, we could be facing the worst crisis, even more difficult than our 2 years without a state budget," asserted Ammons.

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787 wrote on August 11, 2017 at 7:08 am

I just took another look at my property tax bill.   If the school districts in Champaign and Urbana are at a threat of running out of money, considering how much money they get from just me,  they're doing something terribly wrong.

And then on top of it, it will go even higher, since Unit 4 apparently needs some new buildings as well.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 11, 2017 at 7:08 am

I look forward to SR Ammons having legislation enacted putting Carle back on the tax rolls.  She has so much pull over in Springfield, I am surprised it has not been done yet.  Must be due to her other important bills that she has gotten passed for us.

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 8:08 am

Carol Ammons - "Please, please, won't some republicans downstate vote for this so I don't look like I'm the only one bowing to Mike Madigan!"


Sancho Panza wrote on August 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

Urbana school district spends $245,000 to educate its average classroom of 18 students. Is the problem really state funding or school spending?


acylum wrote on August 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I find the cost of $245,000 to educate 18 students to be excessively and pathetically low.  It's no wonder US students barely compete academically compared to other nations.

Sancho Panza wrote on August 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Only 3 countries spend more per student than Urbana: Norway, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. 

Citizen1 wrote on August 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

Why would the people of Urbana want to bail out Chicago schools?  Why would their elected officials want them to?

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

The legislators, and Rauner are using school kids as hostages in a political game.  Idiots line up behind their revered parties while working parents worry about child care if the schools are not open.  That additional expense will prevent people from buying, eating out, and paying other expenses. 

Is Rauner's grand standing worth the pain it will cause?  This is not a win or lose, or a win-win situation.  It is a lose-lose situation.  People in this area cannot vote for, or against Madigan; but they can vote against Rauner.  Put another GOP candidate up for election as governor.  End this Cards vs. Cubs mentality.

aantulov wrote on August 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

In order to make a comment on this you really have to understand what Tif districts and tax caps are and how they work and that is somewhat subjective depending on who you're talking to.
I am no Capital no fan of the governors.
But I'm interpreting it this action to mean that he feels communities that can give 30 yr tax breaks like Champaign to the Hyatt or other ones in Urbana must have some money to burn if they feel they can do without these taxes and communities that can't even offer them to businesses are doing far worse and they should come first.
I have to say some part of me wishes they would close the schools if for no other reason that people would participate in their government and we wouldn't have a situation I going without a budget for three years.

aantulov wrote on August 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Given the gutting of teachers pensions its a wonder we have anybody willing.  The spending may be the food budget.  Can anyone post with link as to the cost per child?  When the contracts are up, so as to give those competing a target date? We have a great many no bid contracts for awful food out there.

Do schools still have kitchens left for real cooking or are they just a facade to prepackaged stuff?  If they had real kitchens, they could be rented out to commercial (food trucks, etc) or used as private chef schools. Its an income producing asset that is not being utilitzed.

aantulov wrote on August 11, 2017 at 4:08 pm

If the governor were truly concerned about broken tax systems he would revoke Carle's property tax free status until 100% of business conducted on those sites were NON profit , not just owned by a "not for profit."
He could take the national lead in his party presenting a prosperity that does not mean profiteering platform solution to healthcare. Talking about broken systems....

wykhb wrote on August 12, 2017 at 1:08 am

Why would you revoke exemption status for an entity that actually does provide free service to the community around it?   Despite the ACA (Obamacare), hospitals still treat considerable numbers for "free", because those people still don't  have health insurance.  

Compared to hotels and other businesses which are definitely not giving up free services or goods, perhaps you are aiming in the wrong direction.   Carle has begun to aim in other directions too, namely away from Urbana.  Be careful what you wish for, when it comes to government shaking down business, you will definitely get it.   

chief21 wrote on August 14, 2017 at 8:08 am

Why should we send Chicago Public Schools even MORE money?  TIF districts are along way from the original idea to build up depressed areas....

Trailmom wrote on August 17, 2017 at 3:08 pm

So, you want a hospital to not make money which means they can't keep up to date on the latest medical practices, research, and equipment to keep you healthy or treat a complicated medical condition. They also couldn't pay enough to keep highly qualified and well trained staff. And they wouldn't be able to keep Level 1 Trauma status which might save your life, among other things

But you would still want them to contribute to the community of course.