Governor Pat Quinn today signed three bills into law that will fund education in Illinois for the next fiscal year. Due to an unexpected $1.3 billion in revenue that was received in April, fiscal year 2014 education funding avoided even more painful cuts and mostly preserved funding at last year's levels.
However, even with this one-time revenue, current funding for education is only at 89 percent of what's required by law and has been cut by billions of dollars in recent years due to skyrocketing pension costs. To properly fund education in the future, legislators must send the governor a comprehensive pension reform bill.
"We cannot rely on one-time Band-Aids to give our children the education they deserve," Governor Quinn said. "Lack of action on pension reform is squeezing out money that should be invested in our critical priorities like early childhood development, special education and scholarships for students in need. The people of Illinois are counting on the General Assembly to do their jobs and send me a bill that will ensure Illinois students have access to high-quality education."
The pension squeeze already has forced $2 billion in education cuts and $3 billion in social service cuts in recent years. Additionally, the General Assembly's failure to send the governor a comprehensive pension reform bill has resulted in multiple downgrades of Illinois' credit rating, which hurts the state's economic recovery, and just yesterday cost taxpayers an extra $130 million to ensure work continues on important capital construction projects.
The governor today signed House Bill 208 and Senate Bills 2555 and 2556. Through this legislation, P20 education will receive a total of $8.68 billion compared to $8.53 billion from last year. The state board of education will receive a total of $6.7 billion for P-12 education, compared to $6.54 billion in fiscal year 2013. Early childhood education will receive $300 million -- the same as last year. Community colleges will receive a total of $342 million -- approximately the same as last year. Public universities in Illinois will receive $1.23 billion, approximately the same as last year. $373.2 million will go to MAP Grant scholarships for needy students, an increase of approximately $2 million.
Governor Quinn has made pension reform the top priority for the state of Illinois for almost two years. Since he convened a pension working group in January 2012, he has proposed comprehensive solution after solution, worked across the aisle, called special sessions, set deadline after deadline and released study after study on the dire impact of inaction on education and our economy. He has met at length, numerous times, with the leaders and legislators on this issue and fought hard to pass comprehensive pension reform.
At Governor Quinn's suggestion, the General Assembly formed a conference committee one week ago to try to bridge the differences between the House and the Senate. The pension squeeze is impacting every part of the state budget, eating up money from schools, health care and social services. Governor Quinn has set a deadline of July 9 for the General Assembly to act on comprehensive pension