Hastings attacks Rauner for misleading school funding data
Sen. Mike Hastings (D-Tinley Park) called Gov. Bruce Rauner to task for allegedly leaking to the media misleading funding information about the school funding measure Senate Bill 1.
At a press conference, Hastings and fellow Sens. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) denounced the funding figures that were reported by the Kankakee Times and that Manar said had been leaked by Rauner's office.
SB1, which passed the Senate on May 17, is designed to change the way funding is distributed to schools throughout the state. According to a press release issued by Hastings' office, the bill would not reduce funding to any schools but would increase it to schools that are not currently at proper levels.
However, according to the article published by the Times, many downstate school districts, including in Kankakee County, would see a reduction in funding. The article said that the county's 12 school districts would see a $1.15 million per year reduction in funding — a 2 percent decrease from 2015 funding levels. The decrease would not take effect for at least two years because of a "hold harmless" clause attached to the bill.
Manar, the bill's sponsor, said the reported numbers were based on an older version of the bill. According to the Times, the numbers came from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website and had been posted during summer 2016.
The Rauner administration responded by questioning how readily available information could be considered "leaked."
“The Senate Democrats today jumped the shark,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Rauner, said in a statement. “One cannot leak something that is on a public website. Their false and outrageous accusations have been disproven, and they should apologize for manufacturing blatantly false accusations.”
During the press conference, Manar admitted a new ISBE analysis was not available before the Senate passed the bill, so he couldn't refute the previous analysis with new data. Senators who voted for the revised bill did so without seeing an analysis of the plan or knowing how it would affect funding for school districts, he further admitted, saying that's not out of the ordinary.
"We’ve requested them," Manar said. "It takes time. I don’t think there is anything going on here other than what the normal process is."
Hastings accused Rauner of bringing Washington politics to Springfield and argued that the conflict over the funding data is happening despite Rauner's having had the correct numbers all along.
"Not only did he fail to provide the correct information, but he leaked the numbers through one of his political organizations," Hastings said. "He has compromised his integrity, and he has compromised his administration. This is another example of his gross mismanagement of another agency in the state of Illinois. And that is embarrassing."
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