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Illinois House Rejected a $6.7 Billion School Funding Bill

August 29, 2017, 12:17 AM UTC

The Illinois House on Monday soundly defeated a bipartisan bill that would create a new education funding formula that the state needs to send $6.7 billion to its 852 school districts.

The 46-61 vote on the bill negotiated by the General Assembly’s four legislative leaders came after some lawmakers took issue with the inclusion of a tax credit program to fund scholarships at private schools that would cost the cash-strapped state $75 million a year. “Like it or not, because of our two years of budget impasses and an accumulation of $15 billion in back bills, this state needs to be on a tight fiscal diet for years to come,” State Representative David Harris, a suburban Chicago Republican who voted against the measure, said in a debate on the House floor.

The unprecedented impasse, which ended with the enactment of a fiscal 2018 budget in July, ballooned the state’s unpaid bill backlog to more than $15 billion.

Proponents argued the bill represented a ground-breaking school funding overhaul that was years in the making and would narrow funding disparities between the state’s wealthiest and poorest districts.

“No school loses in this conversation. If there’s nothing else we can talk about back home, we can talk about how well-funded our districts will become,” said State Representative William Davis, a suburban Chicago Democrat who was the bill’s lead House sponsor.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate passed an earlier version of a school funding formula bill in May. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s use of an amendatory veto to extensively rewrite that bill stopped the flow of $6.7 billion in state aid to schools as most began classes this month.

While the Senate overrode the veto on Aug. 13, that action was tougher to achieve in the House, sending legislative leaders into negotiations to find a bipartisan compromise. With Monday’s defeat of the compromise measure, the House has only until Tuesday to attempt an override.