The Illinois legislature met for the VETO Session this week and took up no action on vetoed bills. Quite frankly, there were only six substantive bills to even consider for an override because, with supermajorities of Democrats in the legislature and a Democrat Governor, there isn’t much they disagree on that even gets out of both chambers. In the areas where there is disagreement, bill sponsors filed or are filing new legislation to clean up those problem points and those bills will likely be considered next year or possibly during the second week of the VETO session beginning on November 7th. It’s so nice when we all get along (sarcasm).
Often VETO session is about exploring controversial issues that were put on pause during regular session. The biggest issue this year is the extension of the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship (TCS). The teacher unions want the TCS to die, never to return. But there are too many Democrat hypocrites who selected private schools for their own kids and so they may be feeling just enough heat that they are giving the appearance of an attempt to keep the scholarship alive. Or, because Pritzker, giving false hope as only he can give and attempting to play Pontius Pilot, said just ahead of VETO Session that if the legislature sends him a bill extending the TCS, he would consider signing it. So, a few legislators sponsored a bill for cover.
State Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar filed new legislation that extends the TCS for five years, lowers the total credit allowed from $75 million to $50 million and changes the individual percentage tax filers can take as a credit against taxes owed. In other words, it shamefully waters down an already de minimis scholarship program that serves 9,700 students with a waiting list of 26,000.
She didn’t come up with the watered-down version herself. HB 4194 was language the TCS Coalition Save My Scholarship (SMS) offered to appease the Democrats in Springfield. Rather than go on the offense, SMS leaders decided first to have quiet conversations with Democrats beginning a year ago to save the TCS and now offered a revised TCS that diminishes the program. So, far only four Democrats have signed onto the bill. If Democrats want to kill opportunities for poor children, they are doing a good job and Republicans shouldn’t sign onto this bill until 40 Democrats do. Playing politics with poor children is despicable, but that’s what they are doing.
So is the League of Women Voters (LWV). The IL LWV issued an Action Alert to call your legislator and the Governor to oppose HB 4194. These folks are clueless. Their alert says that millions of dollars will be diverted from public schools because of the TCS and that 80% of schools are underfunded. Those are lies. One of the school systems that would be considered underfunded is Chicago Public Schools. But no reasonable person thinks that the nearly $30,000 they spend per pupil isn’t enough already. No one should believe that the Evidenced-Based Funding Formula (EBF) is an accurate measure of adequate funding.
A little background- The TCS was enacted in 2017 as part of a bill that also redid the way the state funds schools. The teacher unions were opposed to the TCS, but wanted the EBF funding formula because it required the state to put in massive amounts of new money into K-12 education feeding the beast year after year. Since the passage of the bill in late August 2017 for the FY2018 budget, the state has increased just general revenue spending on K-12 education from $12.065 Billion to $16.797 Billion. That’s $4.732 billion more in 6 years, a 39% growth in spending. Cumulatively, looking at each year’s increase in K-12 spending against the FY18 base, the state has pushed $17.473 BILLION more to public schools. At the same time, local school districts have taxed to the max every year increasing the amount they collect from property owners. During that same time, student enrollment in public schools has dropped over 100,000.
AND THE RESULTS ARE TERRIBLE. Less than one-third of students in Illinois are at grade level in math and reading.
Go to this link to look up your own district: Illinois Report Card (isbe.net) Use the Interactive Report Card Link. It is temporarily down as they load in the new data.