A measure designed to overhaul school funding in Illinois cleared the state Senate by a 31-21 vote Tuesday.
The legislation, proposed by state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), places greater focus on the needs of school districts.
"Our system today in the state is broken. It is rotten. It is not based on any level of equity," Manar stated, reported Reuters.
The lawmaker described the legislation as an important anti-poverty measure, adding that the bill "will attack poverty in the classroom."
The bill still requires approval from the House, where lawmakers are also crafting school funding reform legislation.
Some GOP lawmakers are calling Manar's bill a "bailout" for the Chicago Public Schools, as it would reportedly provide $205 million for Chicago teachers' pension costs and $175 million more in school funding to the cash-strapped district. Currently, the state does not pick up the tab for teacher pensions in Chicago.
State Republicans say Manar's plan will result in 56 percent of downstate districts losing school funding.
"Downstate taxpayers should not be forced to bailout Chicago, and Downstate school children deserve more than to be used as political pawns," reads a statement from the Illinois Republican Party. "It's time for a clean, fully-funded education bill to be voted on in both chambers."
Manar maintains that the existing school funding mechanism results in CPS being "underfunded. Plain and simple."
Illinois public school superintendents, meanwhile, are urging lawmakers to adopt a state budget to avoid potential layoffs and ensure schools will stay open. Among those speaking out is the interim superintendent at Rockridge Community Unit School District 300, Jack Bambrick. He said the district, located in Taylor Ridge, could operate for 134 days by using its reserves if there is no state budget in the new fiscal year, which starts in July.
"That's not a full school year. We can open our doors next year," Bambrick said, reported the AP.
He added: "I don't know how long we'll be able to stay open. That's not a threat."
The Peoria School District 250 is also warning that extracurricular activities could get cut if a budget plan is not passed. The school district has a $7.6 million shortfall and could begin the 2016-2017 academic year with a cumulative $9.7 million deficit when all four operating funds are considered.
"We'll have plenty of money to start school," the district's Comptroller Mike McKenzie said at Monday's board meeting. "But if we don't get our first General State Aid payments, we're going to have to seriously talk about whether we should have fall extracurriculars."
The district is holding a hearing on its amended budget on June 13. The budget calls for the loss of 15 teacher aides, three teachers, six administrative positions (primarily assistant principals), and reduced standarized testing and technology expenses, among other cuts.