MUNDELEIN, Ill. - As Governor Bruce Rauner toured downstate schools Wednesday, he touted compromise school funding legislation that includes tuition tax credits to help lower income families send their kids to private schools.
That portion of the bill got passed with the help of Cardinal Blase Cupich, who said he is grateful for lawmakers' work.
Cardinal Cupich celebrated Mass and then dedicated the new Mary of Mt. Carmel garden at Carmel High School in Mundelein Wednesday. But he was also celebrating the new education funding bill that could end up helping the Archdiocese, which has had to close many schools in recent years.
"I think it will have an impact, a positive impact, but of course there are schools of other denominations, there are Jewish schools, there are other private schools as well, and this is about families and about children," he said.
The $75 million tuition tax credit program would be funded by private donations and is expected to provide scholarships to about 6,000 students around the state.
At Carmel Catholic High School, tuition is about $11,000 per years, a cost too high for some families who may want to send their children there. The school president said the new funding bill could be a game changer.
"It means opportunities for students that normally wouldn't have opportunities. It gives students other options, choices," said Brad Bonham, president of Carmel Catholic High School.
"Nobody's going to force anybody to come to one school over another because of this bill," Cupich said.
During his downstate school tour, Rauner met with students and praised the compromise legislation. He also downplayed a possible court challenge to the tax credit program.
"There are different points of view on different issues. Coming up with bipartisan compromise that fundamentally changes a system, you know, there's always going to be folks who resist pieces of that," he said.
At a Wednesday event, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel danced around the part of the funding bill that would allow Chicago Public Schools to raise another $120 million for pensions through a property tax hike.
"I don't take this lightly, as a burden, nor do the taxpayers, but we are here to fix what people left behind because they passed the buck," Emanuel said.
The governor is expected to sign the education funding bill in Chicago Thursday afternoon. His demeanor now that the legislation has passed is of some interest; he did not deliver any partisan comments, perhaps indicating - as some lawmakers hoped Tuesday - that compromise might be something that's now more possible in Springfield.