Wheeler decries lack of progress on public school funding
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) recently had a bittersweet day: He was in the House fighting for state school funding while his daughter began first grade.
With many schools throughout the state already open, Illinois still didn't have an education funding system in place for the year on Aug. 23, and lawmakers butted heads over a solution. What many expected to be a vote to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1 was instead a day spent on an amendment to SB1947, an education bill addressing chronic school absenteeism.
While the amendment incorporated many of the changes Rauner made to SB1, the state's public school funding measure, Wheeler called the debate a waste of time.
“We’re not getting anything done,” Wheeler said. “We’re just building more pressure. It’s what this place does well: just build pressure. We all know the leaders are meeting on Friday (Aug. 25). That’s really the opportunity for something to happen, to get something done for our schoolchildren, the teachers, parents, the administrators and everyone involved.”
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) were expected to meet that day to work on a solution.
While Illinois schools wait, the House has sat on SB1 since it was sent from the Senate after a successful veto override vote there on Aug. 13. This has drawn the ire of many Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton).
“I find it really rude to pull people down here, pretend like you’re going to vote for an override and then not do it,” Ives said. “You don’t even have the guts to put the bill up and see where the votes fall.”
Wheeler asserted that everyone in the state, including teachers and parents, are waiting for “real progress” and “real compromise” in the education crisis.
“It’s time for us to stop building pressure and start building consensus,” he said.
The SB1947 amendment failed to pass, 0-60, with 33 members voting "present" and 25 not voting.
The House was deliberating on whether to override Rauner's veto on SB 1. The original version of the bill passed the House on a vote of 60-52 in May, but the chamber would need 71 votes for an override.