Rauner signs sweeping school funding changes into law

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor Bruce Rauner has just signed into law a bill that overhauls the state's education funding system. It ends decades of funding inequality, and provides more money to every school district in the state.

It was a day to put politics aside. Lawmakers who butted heads on countless occasions during the process of reaching this historic compromise instead put their hands together to applaud what was accomplished for students across the state.

"Today we are making Illinois history. Today we are putting our students and teachers first," Rauner said.

With the governor's signature at a CPS school on Chicago's Northwest Side, Senate Bill 1947 became law on Thursday, setting Illinois on the path towards better education across the state.

"We can finally say if you are a student in the Land of Lincoln, your drive and your dedication will determine - from now on - your destiny because of this legislation," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Three of the top legislative leaders joined the governor, but his nemesis in the process, House Speaker Mike Madigan, was conspicuously absent.

"This is not about Springfield, it's about these young children to my left," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.

In addition to providing more money to all school districts - with a focus on poorer schools in particular - the bill also helps Chicago pay for its legacy teacher pension debt and future pension payments. It also contains a $75 million tax credit for private school scholarships program, but what it also showed is that lawmakers can work together.

The principal at Ebinger Elementary saw hope in what was accomplished in this bill.

"Our theme is 'getting it right.' I think we can all agree our state is on the road to getting it right for all children," Principal Serena Peterson-Klosa said.

With the bill now being law, the comptroller's office said it can now begin sending out those much-awaited state aid checks. The first ones should be hitting districts across the state on Tuesday, which just happens to be the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools.
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