As an educator and advocate for a fair school funding system for Illinois children, I am disappointed in Gov. Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1. Students in East Moline return to school in two weeks and we still don’t have a funding bill. The governor had a tremendous opportunity in front of him. He had the chance to not only ensure our schools are funded on time this year, but to systematically change Illinois’ historically inequitable funding system for the children in East Moline and the 2.1 million students across the state. Instead of leadership, Gov. Rauner chose to issue an amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, pitting our schools and communities against each other and threatening the future of our public school system.
I, along with many other superintendents, statewide coalitions and organizations, have been working on school funding reform and ultimately Senate Bill 1 for more than three years. It is based on research and is the only fair and equitable solution we have to meet the needs of students in East Moline, Carbondale, Rockford and every district in between. This is the only bill in which no districts lose money—a principle that superintendents all across Illinois have held to and will not violate. As superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure our students are getting the resources they need to succeed and flourish, but I refuse to gain more on the backs of poor students in other zip codes.
The governor has decided to play zip code politics. His amendatory veto punishes all districts, especially the poorest and most underprivileged. It removes the minimum funding level which means the state could continue to underfund our schools. It also removes a clause to protect local taxpayers from paying the state portion of pensions in the future. These changes do not make for good policy and moves us further from our goal of equity.
Senate Bill 1 is still the solution. Hundreds of superintendents who represent diverse districts in rural, suburban and urban areas of our state believe so. The many statewide coalitions that stand up for equity, fairness and civil rights say so. And the various statewide organizations that represent low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities say so. We know the bill and what it stands for—equity.
Now it is up to the General Assembly, which will need a three-fifths vote to override the governor’s amendatory veto. I urge our legislators to represent the students in East Moline, while ensuring funding equity for all. Vote "yes" on the override and immediately enact Senate Bill 1. The parents and teachers in our school district need certainty that our schools will be funded. Assure our families that their children will be able to get the education our state is obligated to provide.
The time for politics has passed. The time to stand up for children is now.