Gov. Bruce Rauner sent back part of the sweeping education reform plans that the General Assembly sent to him so it can be changed.
Rauner used his amendatory veto power on one of the bills Monday. In a release, he said the bill as written excludes at least 36 Catholic or independent schools from being eligible for the state’s new scholarship program for private schools.
“Making this adjustment to this bill will maximize the number of schools eligible to participate, and therefore the number of students who may benefit,” Rauner said. “Inclusivity was the spirit of this legislation to begin with, and we simply must ensure that we follow through with the appropriate language to get the job done.”
The specific changes Rauner made to Senate Bill 444 were to include schools not yet recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education but that are or will be registered before Feb. 15. This, Rauner said, would allow students attending those schools, many African-American, the chance to apply to the Invest in Kids program. If the changes don’t happen, those students will not be eligible to apply for those scholarships.
The program, which sunsets in 2024, offers a state tax rebate on donations to help students attend private schools.
Students are being told to apply for the private school scholarships on Jan. 24, before the Senate is scheduled to convene.
With the veto, questions now arise about what it means for the education funding formula as well as the Invest in Kids program.
And answers to those questions are all over the place. Chief sponsor of the original education funding reform bill, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said Rauner's amendatory veto "stands to derail implementation of the new [education funding] formula."
One of the chief Republican negotiators on the bill, state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinkley, said Rauner's move likely will delay payments of extra funds, but no schools will see any losses as result.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, a sponsor of the education funding reform bill in the House, said he has yet to fully review Rauner's amendatory veto but didn’t think holding up Senate Bill 444 would stall the new education funding formula.
Another issue is House Speaker Michael Madigan’s history of not accepting amendatory vetoes, regardless of the governor's political stripes.
“[Madigan] has been more than willing to essentially kill legislation where he believed the governor has overstepped his constitutional authority,” University of Illinois at Springfield Professor Emeritus Kent Redfield told Illinois News Network in July. That was when Rauner’s amendatory veto of the original school funding bill led to it being derailed after an override in the House failed.
The schools affected, according to Rauner's office, are:
1. Most Blessed Trinity (Waukegan)
2. St. Joseph (Libertyville)
3. St. Clement (Chicago)
4. Ascension (Oak Park)
5. St. Bartholomew (Chicago)
6. St. George (Tinley Park)
7. Francis de Sales High School (Chicago)
8. Leo High School (Chicago)
9. Pope John XXIII (Evanston)
10. St. Catherine Laboure (Glenview)
11. St. Sylvester (Chicago)
12. Children of Peace (Chicago)
13. St. Frances of Rome (Cicero)
14. St. Daniel the Prophet (Chicago)
15. St. Barnabas (Chicago)
16. Incarnation (Palos Heights)
17. St. Bede the Venerable (Chicago)
18. Holy Angels (Chicago)
19. Academy of Scholastic Achievement
20. A Step Ahead Academy
21. Cambridge School of Chicago
22. Chicago Westside Christian School
23. Chicago S D A Academy
24. Christians Center Outreach
25. Faith Walk
26. Freedom Home Academy
27. Gospel Quartets Academy
28. Hales Franciscan
29. Loving Spirit Community Outreach
30. Muhammad University
31. Northwest Institute
32. Nkrumah International Academy
33. Peaceful New Beginnings Academy
35. United Educational Cultural Academy
36. Village Leadership Academy