In the Quad-Cities on Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pushed for more funding for elementary and secondary education, but he also heard a plea from a local superintendent to fix to the state's school funding formula.
Rauner toured Glenview Middle School in East Moline, visiting with students and answering questions at an assembly. He even was serenaded by a mariachi band.
Afterward, however, the governor had harsh words for state legislative leaders, particularly House Speaker Mike Madigan, as he pushed for fully funding basic state aid for K-12 education, as well as more money for early education programs.
Education spending is expected to be a battle this year, as the state continues without a budget. Rauner has urged that lawmakers approve a standalone education funding bill, which spares school districts the pain that social service agencies have faced because of the budget stalemate. But there also is pressure for a fix in the formula used to dole out funds.
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Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said last month that the formula's flaws are the "defining crisis of our time," and he called revamping it a top priority.
He says the formula penalizes high-poverty districts.
Rauner acknowledged flaws in the formula Tuesday, which he blamed on Madigan and legislators. But he accused Cullerton of seeking to hold the state's education funding hostage in order to bail out Chicago schools.
“We cannot allow that to happen,” he said.
Those calling for reforms have allies in the Quad-Cities, however, including the superintendent of the school district Rauner visited Tuesday.
East Moline Superintendent Kristin Humphries praised the idea of fully funding general state aid. He emphasized, however, the flaws in the current funding system.
"Fully funding general state aid is a great start, but our formula is broken," he said.
Humphries said his district has lost $5 million over the past five years.
"It's devastating every year," he said.
The superintendent said his kindergarten classes have 26 to 29 students in them, while other districts in the state don't even have 20.
Afterward, Humphries took part in a demonstration in Springfield aimed at pressuring state lawmakers to act on the school aid formula.
Rauner told reporters that other parts of the state’s budget are important, but none more so than schools.
“No matter what, we should make sure our schools open and they have more money. No matter what else,” he said.