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Doug Finke

ISBE: Schools face ‘disruption, confusion’ after Rauner veto

Bill sponsor not sure how to address it

Bill sponsor not sure how to address it

The Illinois State Board of Education said that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of an education funding-related bill last week could lead to “further disruption and confusion” for all school districts in the state.

In a statement issued Friday, the ISBE said work to implement a new school funding formula is dependent on lawmakers enacting provisions of Senate Bill 444. The bill was a follow-up to legislation that changed the funding formula to direct more state resources to schools most in need.

The ISBE said the school funding reform bill contained a “large drafting error” that would keep 178 school districts from getting as much money from the new funding formula as was expected. As a result, the ISBE asked lawmakers to pass a follow-up bill that fixed the problems in the funding reform bill.

Lawmakers passed SB 444 to address those problems. However, Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to make changes in the bill, which is leaving its future in limbo.

In its statement, the ISBE said it asked Rauner to sign the follow-up bill as soon as possible after lawmakers approved it in November. That didn’t happen.

“On the last possible day, the governor issued an amendatory veto to SB 444 which has caused a disruption for the agency as it continues preparations for [new] funding distribution as quickly as possible,” the statement said.

It added that if fixes to the new funding system contained in SB 444 are not enacted, “There will be further disruption and confusion for all 852 school districts.”

The funding reform law ensures that no school district will get less state aid this year than it received last year. However, additional money for K-12 education added to the budget this year will be distributed through the new formula. To date, though, none of that new money has been sent to schools because of unresolved issues with the new formula.

Rauner’s amendatory veto was aimed at making more private and parochial schools eligible to receive money from the newly created scholarship program aimed at helping students from lower income families afford tuition to those schools. The administration wants to include more than 200 additional schools that do not meet all of the eligibility criteria for the program.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, chief sponsor of both the funding reform bill and SB 444, said Rauner has placed the funding reform effort in jeopardy.

“Why are we jumping through these hoops,” he said. “The governor should have signed that bill the moment it hit his desk. He asked for it, and here we are now bogged down in political games. Bruce Rauner screwed this up.”

Manar said he isn’t sure how he’ll address the veto. The bill passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. The General Assembly will return to Springfield later this month.

Evaluating

Medicaid work requirement

State Medicaid officials said Thursday they are still reviewing new federal guidelines that allow states to implement work requirements for able-bodied adults to receive Medicaid benefits.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which administers the program in Illinois, said the “policy notice and its implications are under review.”

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday announced new guidelines that allow states to seek federal approval for demonstration projects. The agency said those are projects “under which work or participation in other community engagement activities – including skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving – would be a condition for Medicaid eligibility for able-bodied, working age adults.”

Those projects would not include those who are eligible for Medicaid because of disability, nor would it cover the elderly, children or pregnant women.

The agency said 10 states have asked for permission to make work or community engagement a condition for receiving Medicaid benefits. They are Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

Illinois spends about 25 percent of its budget on Medicaid.

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