(Adds bill details, lawmaker quote)
CHICAGO, Aug 29 (Reuters) - A bipartisan bill to fund public education in Illinois and start the flow of $6.7 billion in state aid to its 852 school districts cleared its last legislature hurdle with Senate approval on Tuesday.
The 38-13 vote in the Senate followed House approval of the measure on Monday. The bill now heads to Governor Bruce Rauner who has hailed it as historic education reform for primary and secondary public schools.
The bill ensures that no district would lose funding under the new formula, while allowing the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools to increase its property tax levy to help fund teacher pensions. The measure also creates a tax credit program to fund $75 million annually for private school scholarships, which teachers unions derided as an effort to introduce school vouchers to Illinois.
“This is what compromise looks like - a bill that none of us likes at 100 percent,” said Democratic State Senator Kimberly Lightford, during Senate debate on the legislation.
The Republican governor had used a amendatory veto to extensively rewrite a previous school funding formula bill passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in May. Without a method to distribute state aid, Illinois was prevented from sending state payments to school districts as classes began for most this month.
Credit rating agencies had warned that districts that have slim reserves and are heavily dependent on state aid, including the junk-rated Chicago Public Schools, could face financial pressure and potential rating downgrades from an extended school funding impasse.
Chicago’s school board on Monday approved a $5.75 billion fiscal 2018 budget that counts on an additional $300 million in state aid under the new funding formula. (Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Andrew Hay)