August 24, 2017 / 10:25 PM / a year ago

Illinois legislative leaders reach school funding deal

CHICAGO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Illinois legislative leaders said on Thursday they reached a deal over a new education funding formula that would restart aid payments to the state’s 852 school districts.

Details of the agreement in principle will not be released until legislation is drafted and reviewed, according to statements by leaders of the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.

The four Democratic and Republican leaders are scheduled to meet on Sunday ahead of anticipated House action on Monday.

“Governor (Bruce) Rauner applauds the four leaders in coming to a consensus on historic school funding reform that reflects the work of the School Funding Reform Commission,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

The Republican governor’s use of an amendatory veto to extensively rewrite a school funding formula bill passed by the legislature in May stopped the flow of $6.7 billion in state aid to schools as most began classes this month.

While the Senate overrode the veto on Aug. 13, a required three-fifths majority vote was harder to obtain in the House, where lawmakers last week rejected a bill modeled after Rauner’s funding formula changes.

Legislative leaders have been meeting since then to broker a bipartisan compromise.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has pressed for creation of a school voucher program in the talks. Unlike 14 other states, Illinois does not allow school vouchers. But sensing a potential shift in policy, teacher unions like the Illinois Education Association have mobilized against the idea, warning members on Wednesday that school vouchers would “drain much-needed money from public schools.”

Credit rating agencies have warned that districts that have slim reserves and are heavily dependent on state aid, including the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), could face financial pressure and potential rating downgrades from an extended school funding impasse.

Junk-rated CPS, the nation’s third-largest public school system, was the main target of Rauner’s veto action. The governor said the bill unfairly included a bailout for the cash-strapped district. (Reporting by Karen Pierog and Dave McKinney; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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