Durkin, Brady boast breakthrough on school funding bill
Illinois Republican leaders expressed optimistim Sunday about the outcome of education funding as they continued discussions before a vote expected on Monday.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said he, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) had made substantial progress.
“The four of us talked through this last week at length,” Durkin said. “There's a lot of issues here that are tough, but at the end of the day, every school, every family and every child is going to benefit from this. We’re going to work with the leaders just to tie up some loose ends, and we want to get to a vote tomorrow.”
The vote on Senate Bill 1 has been a long time coming and caused a rift in the General Assembly. Passed in May, the education reform measure sat in the Senate chambers until Gov. Bruce Rauner enacted a special legislative session in July to prompt lawmakers to send the bill to his desk. Cullerton finally obliged and moved it on the last day of the session, July 31.
Rauner issued an amendatory veto the following day.
The Senate voted to override Rauner’s veto on Aug. 13 and moved the measure to the House, which has yet to vote on it. Most reports have indicated a veto override is unlikely in the House.
Republicans lawmakers have called SB1 a partisan bill that broke good faith negotiations, arguing that the last-minute additions to the bill are a Chicago bailout. Meanwhile, Democrats accused Republicans and Rauner of ignoring Chicago Public Schools and pushing their conservative agenda.
When asked if there had been any pushback from his caucus on the bill, Durkin said SB1 is like any other important piece of legislation.
“This is no different than anything that I’ve experienced before,” he said.
Durkin asserted that Rauner is “100 percent behind” the current progress.
Brady vowed that Rauner will accept SB1 with the changes and compromises discussed in the negotiations.
“The governor will sign this,” Brady said. “None of us are getting everything that we want. This is a true compromise. This is how we go there. The governor has agreed to sign this bill. I’m not getting what I want. Leader Durkin is not getting everything he wants. Our members aren't. Speaker Madigan is not getting everything he wants, or President Cullerton. That’s why it’s a compromise, and that’s why we are going to land it tomorrow.”
Durkin affirmed that his caucus is ready to vote on the measure.
“I can’t speak for Mr. Madigan, but our caucus is prepared to take the votes," he said. "This is an opportunity for the state of Illinois to finally, after many decades, fundamentally reform public education and also to improve the quality of education throughout the state of Illinois for Chicago kids and downstate. This is an opportunity for the state of Illinois and for the legislators to do something momentous, something that has been desperately needed for decades."
Neither Republican leader expressed concerns about the negotiations falling apart. All four leaders are expected to meet on Monday for a final round of discussions before the House convenes.
Brady concluded that the bill will fund Illinois schools in a dramatically new way.
"It’s historic," he said. "It’s a package that increases the level of funding for every school district in the state. This is a positive step."