Local Superintendents: Override Rauner on school funding reform

08112017EM0021 rArea school superintendents joined forces for a news conference Friday to urge state lawmakers to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's "amendatory" veto of legislation to make education funding fair in Illinois. They said the effort to reform the way Illinois distributes money to schools, considered the most inequitable in the nation, has waited too long and come too far to fail now.

Senate Bill 1 would award money to schools on an evidence-based formula that shifts the burden away from local property taxes and levels the playing field between wealthy and poor communities. Rauner's veto of the legislation caused the state to miss payments to schools this week, a first in Illinois history.
"The cost of delay is unacceptable," Rockford School Superintendent Ehren Jarrett said. "Senate Bill 1 is right for Illinois and right for Rockford public schools. I feel that unequivocally."

Among the flaws in Rauner's rewrite of the legislation, Jarrett said, is its failure to account for revenue lost in communities with Tax Increment Financing. With 34 TIF districts in Rockford, Jarrett estimates the loss to public schools at well more than $1 million annually.

Jarrett was joined by the Harlem, Hononegah and Belvidere superintendents and private advocates including the League of Women Voters.

"Senate Bill 1 is a win for the entire state and will be an historic fix for Illinois' long-broken funding system." Harlem School Superintendent Julie Morris said.

State Senator Steve Stadelman said he expects the Illinois Senate to easily override Rauner in a special session Sunday. But for the House to follow suit, a handful of Republicans must cross the aisle and reject the governor's amendments.

"There are over 100 changes that I would argue amounts to a complete rewrite of the bill and possibly an unconstitutional overreach," Stadelman said.

Listen to Senator Stadelman's full remarks
HoopStars moves to Sports Factory

Premiere venue offers quicker pace for tourney and room to grow

State Senator Steve Stadelman is again expanding his popular Labor Day basketball tournament, this time by moving to UW Health Sports Factory where boys and girls can compete in air-conditioned comfort and practice on warm-up courts.
Shorter waits between games also are expected when the 3-on-3 tournament crosses over from Davis Park, its home for three of the last four years. The event has drawn as many as 400 players in 3rd through 8th grades.
There is no cost to enter. Registration is open until Sept. 1 at www.senatorstadelman.com/hoopstars.
“Part of me will miss the street-tournament feel of being outdoors, but the benefits of a brand new, marquee facility right across the Rock River are undeniable,” Stadelman said. “Without the continued support of the Rockford Park District and faithful financial contributors like ComEd and Comcast, this positive, end-of-summer activity for kids simply wouldn’t be possible.”
Stadelman said the event, which started in 2013 at Patriots Gateway, had outgrown the 10 makeshift courts at Davis Park.  With 16 courts now available, total play time in the single-elimination, two-game-minimum tournament should drop to four or five hours from six or more. Parents will find parking much easier, among other advantages of the new location.
All players receive free commemorative event T-shirts, and winning teams take home medals. Event sponsors operate interactive courtside information booths with giveaways, and refreshments are available for purchase.

Games start at 1 p.m. Sept. 4 with doors opening at noon.

Category: Week in Review

Legislature ends budget standoff
Ten Republicans in the Illinois House of Representatives joined Democrats last week to override Gov. Rauner's veto of a $36.1 billion spending plan that gives Illinois its first budget in two years, assures public schools open in the fall and prevents summer road work from grinding to a halt.

It was the final step in breaking a 736-day stalemate, the Senate having already quashed Rauner's veto. The legislative initiative closes a $5 billion hole in the governor's own budget proposal.

With the state's credit rating teetering on the brink of junk status and the Comptroller warning that by August incoming revenue would not match money needed for court-ordered spending, "it was time to set aside politics and put the state's interests first." State Senator Steve Stadelman said.
Lawmakers will continue work on reforms the Governor has requested, such as property tax relief.

Measure could help Rockford-area adults earn high school diplomas

Thousands of adults in Winnebago and Boone may get the chance to earn their high school diploma, thanks to legislation that passed the Illinois House. Sponsored by State Senator Steve Stadelman in the Senate, the measure effectively eliminates the existing law prohibiting school districts from awarding high school diplomas to anyone over the age of 21.

“A high school diploma is nearly essential in today’s world, but not everyone is able to complete high school in the same amount of time,” Stadelman said. “These programs will give people a second chance and help them obtain job skills. And they benefit everyone, because a trained workforce is good for economic development in our communities.”

The legislation allows non-profit entities, including community colleges, to establish programs that can award high school diplomas to adult learners.  House Bill 2527 passed both chambers unanimously and heads to the governor’s desk for approval.

Category: Week in Review

With 10 days left in fiscal year, governor calls special legislative session

More than three months after he called Republicans off a promising budget compromise in the Illinois Senate, Governor Bruce Rauner has called lawmakers in both chambers to Springfield for a special legislation scheduled to last until the start of the new fiscal year July 1.

Senate leaders from both parties began working in late 2016 on bipartisan to balance spending along with numerous government and ethical reforms. Five bills in a 12-bill package had been approved and the remaining seven were expected to pass March 1 when Rauner abruptly told Republicans to abandon the process.

Now, weeks later and well after the May 31 deadline to adopt a budget by a simple majority vote, the governor is ordering lawmakers to return to the Capitol at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $48,000 a day or $480,000 over the 10 days remaining in FY 17, the second without a budget.

"The blame game needs to stop," Stadelman said. "Finger-pointing doesn't get us any closer to ending this impasse, which is hurting our most vulnerable citizens and frustrating all of them."

Stadelman-backed bail reform measure signed into law

Thanks to a new law supported by Senator Steve Stadelman, people who aren't a threat to their communities won't languish in jail because they can't afford bail. The Bail Reform Act of 2017 took effect immediately after receiving the governor's signature earlier this month.

Stadelman praised the legislation for allowing courts to assess flight risk and public safety rather than focus on a defendant's ability to pay when deciding pretrial releases.
Senate Bill 2034 grants a number of rights to defendants including the right to a public defender or attorney at their bail hearing, the right to a new bail hearing, the right to non-monetary bail and the right to have courts address risk in the least restrictive way possible.

Residents find savings on utility bills at Stadelman clinic

stadelman cub62017 rExperts from the Citizens Utility Board analyzed people's gas, electric and telephone bills and recommend ways they could reduce their monthly costs during Senator Stadelman's Annual Summer Utility Bill Clinic this week at the Rockford Public Library-Montague Branch. Stay tuned for information on a workshop this fall where a CUB representative will discuss how to navigate the confusing world of broadcast and web-based entertainment and news options.

Category: Week in Review

Community celebrates new school construction, expanded sports facilities

Mercyhealth sportscore r

Senator Steve Stadelman participated this week in the official "kick off" of Mercyhealth Sportscore Two by booting one of the first soccer balls to fly in the expanded Indoor Sports Center at the Rockford Park District complex. Stadelman passed legislation to secure a funding mechanism for the Reclaiming First initiative, a campaign to regain for Rockford the No. 1 position in the state's sports tourism market through the $30 million Sportscore upgrade and the transformation of a vacant factory on the downtown riverfront into UW Health Sports Factory.
school groundbreaking

Stadelman also joined administrators, parents and students at a groundbreaking ceremony this week for a new school on Perryville Road south of Harrison Avenue. The $15.7 million, 86,000-square-foot building is the first new school built by Rockford Public Schools since 1998.  It replaces Cherry Valley, White Swan and Thompson elementary schools as part of a 10-year, $250 million facilities upgrade.
Senate Democrats pass fair funding for all Illinois schools

Illinois school districts, shortchanged for decades under the state's worst-in-the-nation education funding formula, could see a significant influx of funding to level the playing field between rich and poor districts under a landmark school funding reform measure passed in both houses of the General Assembly.

"A fix for our broken school funding system has been a long time coming," said Senator Steve Stadelman, a vocal advocate since 2012 before he was elected to his first term. "Our over-reliance on property taxes to pay for public education creates a fundamental inequity that hurts Rockford and many other less prosperous communities around the state. The quality of a child's education should not depend on his or her zip code."
Under Senate Bill 1, no school district would receive less funding than what the current formula provides. Rockford public schools would see a $5 million increase and Harlem public schools would get an extra $650,000, according to an analysis by Funding Illinois’ Future released this week.

The legislation would establish a formula that takes into account factors such as students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students. It also offers property tax relief.

Category: Week in Review

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Springfield Office:
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