Twenty-two school superintendents have filed a lawsuit against Governor Bruce Rauner seeking more than $7 billion in funding for school districts. Superintendent Dan Cox of Staunton District 6 said schools that have been starved for cash for years and cannot wait for more funding.
During Rauner’s more than two-year budget impasse, school districts across the state lost millions of dollars in payments. In fact, over $1 billion in total was owed to school districts when lawmakers finally passed a budget without Rauner’s help. Before that day, school administrators had warned they may not be able to open in the fall.
The budget passed by Democrats and Republican increased funding for education by $714 million. However, Rauner vetoed that funding. Since that time, Rauner has again repeatedly vetoed the state’s new school funding formula, which legislators repeated voted to override.
Puzzlingly, Rauner has tried to take credit for education funding reform, something that has garnered significant criticism. A member of his own party, Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, gave the credit to legislative negotiations – not the governor.
“You know, I want to commend him for saying: Get a deal,” she said. “And I think that was the charge of the governor’s office…but I think that these negotiations really took place in the legislature,” she said, commending the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.
The lawsuit is the latest effort of schools and colleges to get the funding to maintain operations under Rauner’s consistent cuts.
Rauner has cut $2.3 billion from higher education since he took office in 2015. During the impasse, the state’s colleges were forced to make dramatic cuts, spend their cash reserves, lay off staff, institute furloughs, freeze hiring, and eliminate academic programs.
As for early childhood, Rauner proposed a nearly $340 million cut to the Childcare Assistance Program in 2016 and issued a rule cutting eligibility for 90% of families in 2015.