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Rauner calls for leader meetings on school funding

Gov.+Bruce+Rauner+watches+from+his+seat+in+the+audience+as+President+Barack+Obama+speaks+on+the+designation+of+the+Pullman+National+Monument+Thursday%2C+Feb.+19%2C+2015+at+Gwendolyn+Brooks+College+Preparatory+Academy+in+Chicago.+%28Anthony+Souffle+%7C+Chicago+Tribune+%7C+TNS%29
Gov. Bruce Rauner watches from his seat in the audience as President Barack Obama speaks on the designation of the Pullman National Monument Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle | Chicago Tribune | TNS)

Gov. Bruce Rauner watches from his seat in the audience as President Barack Obama speaks on the designation of the Pullman National Monument Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle | Chicago Tribune | TNS)

(Anthony Souffle | Chicago Tribune | TNS)

(Anthony Souffle | Chicago Tribune | TNS)

Gov. Bruce Rauner watches from his seat in the audience as President Barack Obama speaks on the designation of the Pullman National Monument Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle | Chicago Tribune | TNS)

SPRINGFIELD — A day after losing a school funding vote in the Illinois Senate, Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday called for meetings among the legislative leaders to reach a compromise on school funding reform.

Rauner issued a statement “calling on the four legislative leaders to meet as quickly as possible on school funding reform.”

“We are hopeful that Speaker (Michael) Madigan and President (John) Cullerton share our sense of urgency to reach a resolution,” Rauner said.

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Rauner said he appreciated the work of eight lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate — to negotiate a compromise, but said, “the process can only reach conclusion with the involvement of the four legislative leaders. An agreement is within reach, but time is of the essence to secure historic education funding reform.”

Spokesmen for Cullerton and Madigan said the leaders have already been discussing the issue among themselves.

“Somebody may want to tell the governor those meetings are ongoing,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “The leaders are talking and the designees. We’ll continue to have discussions.”

Brown, however, didn’t indicate an agreement will necessarily be reached quickly.

“It’s been a long process to get this far,” he said. “It may take a while to get a final product.”

Cullerton issued a statement that he welcomes Rauner’s call for leader meetings.

“I’ve said all along that the only way to solve our problems is to work together in a bipartisan manner,” Cullerton said. “I look forward to meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders.”

Rauner’s statement, though, did not mention his own participation in any negotiations.

On Sunday, the Senate voted 38-19 to override Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, the school funding reform bill. Rauner said the bill unfairly benefited Chicago at the expense of downstate schools. Critics said many of the changes Rauner made, though, also will cost downstate schools state aid money.

The House is scheduled to return to session Wednesday, but it is unclear if the chamber also will try to override Rauner’s veto. The House has 15 days from the Senate vote to vote on overriding. If it fails to do that, the bill will die.

In the House, it will take at least four Republican votes to override the veto. That’s if all 67 Democrats are present and vote to override. In the Senate, just one Republican, Sam McCann of Plainview, voted to override the governor.

There is other legislation in the House that incorporates all of Rauner’s changes to SB 1 into a separate bill. The House also could decide to vote on that bill.

The General Assembly is under pressure to do something because schools can’t get their general state aid money until a new school aid formula is enacted. Both Republicans and Democrats believe the current formula is flawed and needs to be replaced with one that ensures the most state assistance will go to the neediest schools.

Last week, the state missed making a school aid payment for the first time ever because a new formula is not in place. School districts around the state are beginning to open their doors for a new school year, but many have said they won’t be able to stay open for an entire year without state money flowing to them.

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(c)2017 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

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