Educators anxious as school year nears - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Educators anxious as school year nears

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WSIL -- Like his counterparts across the state, West Frankfort Schools Superintendent Matt Donkin grows more anxious as the school year nears.

"Every school leader is trying to do everything in their power to get the doors open," said Donkin, who recently stepped down as regional superintendent of schools for ROE #21.

But even if they get the doors open, which seems likely for most districts, keeping them open is another matter.

The budget lawmakers implemented requires the state to adopt an evidence-based funding formula in order to disburse money to schools.

SB1 is the only evidence-based bill lawmakers have passed, but its future remains uncertain.

"We're now at the point where we have a bill sitting there, that had enough votes to get through the general assembly, that does a lot of things we want it to do," said Donkin.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has promised to amendatory veto part of SB1 that he calls a pension bailout for Chicago.

If that happens, the legislature could override the governor's amendatory veto, but it's not clear if there are enough votes. It would require a handful of Republicans to join their Democratic colleagues to override the governor.

The second option is for lawmakers to do nothing. If they pursue that option, the bill dies, forcing lawmakers to start over.

The third option is for legislators to simply concur, or accept the governor's veto, which barring a breakthrough, appears unlikely.

Donkin said if SB1 doesn't become law, some schools will be forced to close their doors this fall, while others will try to limp forward.

"Districts will be stuck trying to go through their reserves, but a lot of those have been bled dry the past few years because of other cuts," said Donkin. 

But he says none of that has to happen, if lawmakers come together.

"At the end of the day they've always come through with something," said Donkin.

Senate President John Cullerton said SB1 will be sent to the governor on Monday.

On Friday, both sides agreed to negotiate, but still pointed fingers at each other.

"Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton continue to delay putting the education funding legislation on my desk. Until then, I am unable to change the legislation so that it's fair and equitable for all schoolchildren in Illinois and the taxpayers who foot the bill. Our schools cannot wait," said Rauner. "If a reasonable compromise that is in the best interest of our children isn't reached, I will move forward with my amendatory veto on Monday as planned."

Speaker Madigan said Reps. Will Davis and Barbara Flynn Currie will head the negotiations on behalf of House Democrats.

"At this juncture, doing what's right and providing stability and certainty to all Illinois schools is more important than any arbitrary deadline put forward by a governor who continues seeking chaos over compromise," said Madigan. "House Democrats are committed to passing school funding reform and we will continue working across the aisle to ensure our schools are able to open on time, despite the governor's political games."

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