McConchie vents anger at school funding bill, hopes for Rauner veto
Without a veto, Chicago Public Schools will get the lion's share of funding in legislation currently on the governor's desk at the expense of poorer districts elsewhere in Illinois, Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorne Woods) said on a radio talk show recently.
Illinois SB1 would pump $705 million into education, McConchie said on the Chicago-based "Illinois Rising."
"We don't have $705 million to put into education," he said. "We're $6 million overspending right now without a budget. This would take $494 million of that $705 million and send that directly into Chicago. That's 70 percent of the money, despite the fact they only have 20 percent of the students statewide. So what does that mean? Well, they're saying no red line, no kid would suffer, no kid would get less, but this requires that we be able to put $700 million more into the system, and then it inordinately weights all this money that would go into Chicago. So kids that are in very poor districts, such as East St. Louis, Streator, these types of areas, these kids would get pennies on the dollar compared to what Chicago would get."
As an example, East St. Louis would get $200 per student while Chicago would receive more than $1,300 per student, "despite the fact that East St. Louis is much poorer than CPS," McConchie said.
"Illinois Rising" is co-hosted by Dan Proft, a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
McConchie's "no" vote was one of 18 cast in the Senate vote on SB1. The school funding reform legislation sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) also passed the House two weeks later. The $705 million called for in the bill would be about $250 million more from the state than otherwise budgeted. An aide to Gov. Bruce Rauner called it a CPS bailout.
The problems Illinois schools face without a budget are very real, McConchie said.
"Because everybody wants schools to open on time, and there's probably a good 40 percent to 50 percent of schools across the state that -- if there's not an appropriation for schools, if there's not money coming from the state -- those schools simply can't afford to open or will only be able to afford to open for, maybe, two or three months," he said. "So this is something that I think is going to be the biggest lever, biggest pressure point, biggest inflection point that we're going to see this summer when it comes to this debate."
McConchie made no predictions about the outcome of ongoing budget negotiations, which many see as a reform vs. tax argument between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"It's a giant game of chicken, and I don't know where we're going to end up," Sen. McConchie said. "I'm concerned that the Democrats are willing to simply use our kids as fodder, if you will, in the battle this summer."