Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do what is right for our state,
our schools, and our citizens

Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm
on stalled progress in the legislature

So what will happen in this week’s legislative session? Much political posturing, many legislative caucus meetings, partisan press conferences, the trading of political jabs, and – hopefully – a Fiscal Year 2017 budget for elementary and secondary education.

The Illinois General Assembly left the Capitol on May 31 without adopting a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year (feel free to insert your “you had one job” meme here). Lawmakers will be back under the Capitol dome Wednesday in an effort to allow schools to open in August by passing an FY 2017 education budget and to keep state operations going by approving at least a six-month omnibus state budget.

Though there is much talk about reaching an agreement between House Democrats and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, it is expected there will be votes on more partisan proposals first. Likely, the Senate Democrat Majority will have a K-12 spending plan, the House Democrats will have their own version, and legislative Republicans will be pushing for the governor’s plan. When the dust settles, there will hopefully be a bill that funds K-12 schools for FY 2017 that passes both chambers of the General Assembly and will be signed by the governor.

IASB, along with the Alliance partners, support a full year FY 2017 K-12 budget that funds the General State Aid formula without proration, holds categorical grant funding at a minimum of current levels, and directs additional funds to those school districts in most need. IASB positions on appropriations bills will not be taken based on partisan politics.

The state has operated for a full year without a spending plan in place. A series of court orders and opinions has allowed state workers to be paid and state agencies to operate most of their programs. The situation becomes more dire, however, if nothing is accomplished this week. If the state begins the new fiscal year without spending authority, road construction could stop mid-project and some schools will either not open in the fall or close their doors after operating for a month or two. Many of the social service agencies which have been able to hold on for the past year without state funding will certainly be forced to close their doors as we enter a second year without a state budget.

The animus in the Capitol is disheartening. The fatigue among the citizens is oppressive. It is time for lawmakers and the governor to put aside partisan gamesmanship and do what is right for our state, our schools, and our citizens.

The latest Alliance Legislative Report includes a call to action.