DALLAS -- Illinois lawmakers approved a deal to end a political stalemate over school funding formulas and resume the flow aid of aid to districts.

The Senate passed the measure Tuesday on a 38-12 vote, and Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign it.

The deal, which cleared the state House late Monday evening on a 73-34 vote, resolves a dispute over Senate Bill 1, which overhauled school funding by shifting to a so-called evidence-based model.
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Illinois State Capitol
Illinois lawmakers approved a school aid funding measure. Adobe Stock

"The state's hated school funding formula is finally on its last legs," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

The office of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said it is prepared to release $540 million in general state aid owed to schools as soon as Rauner signs the bill.

“This bill provides the same promise of permanent funding for our schools as Senate Bill 1, with some additional items included at the request of Republicans,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago is a statement.

“Even if all members did not agree with 100 percent of what is in the final bill, this bill still delivers 100 percent of what schools throughout Illinois need. This bill is a permanent promise of more funding for schools statewide. Every district in Illinois wins under this plan,” Madigan said.

"We're happy that we actually achieved something, the four of us, the four leaders with the governor, not just something but probably the most significant piece of legislation out of this chamber in decades," the House's Republican leader, Jim Durkin, said in a statement.

Rauner, a Republican, said the deal had much to celebrate.

"The compromise includes the much-needed flexibility for school districts through mandate relief, while providing avenues for property tax relief,” Rauner said in a statement. “It increases transparency related to how districts are funded through local, state and federal resources.”

The plan the House approved Monday night was hammered out by legislative leaders in closed-door meetings over recent days. It provides money for Chicago Public Schools pension costs and acquiesces to GOP demands to include a $75 million tax credit program for donations made to private schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union has labeled the tax credit nothing more than a voucher program that would harm public schools.

The union said in a press release on Monday that the voucher “compromise” in SB1 is “tantamount to planting a ticking time bomb on a bus and driving through school districts throughout the state, creating even greater debt and fiscal distress.

"Tonight's vote for a voucher scheme for the state of Illinois is disappointing, and the worst assault on public education since mayoral control of schools was granted in 1995,” the CTU said. "We are now firmly in line with the President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos privatization agenda.”

The fiscal 2018 budget required use of an evidence-based formula – such as the one in SB1 -- to distribute nearly $7 billion in aid to the state’s more than 850 districts, so districts have had to forgo the first two payments of the fiscal year. That prompted warnings from rating agencies of possible downgrades.

CPS’ $5.75 billion fiscal 2018 budget, which was approved on Monday, relies on the new aid and teachers’ pension help from the state and $269 million in unidentified city help.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that lawmakers had taken a significant step by passing the education funding deal that “provides parity and stability for children across Illinois.”

The bill finally passed the House Monday after Democrats originally voted it down earlier in the evening to express disagreement with the tax credit provisions. They then attempted to revive the original school funding bill, SB1, which had been rejected by Rauner by an amendatory veto. That override vote failed as well.

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