Illinois Gov. Rauner Backs Plan Eliminating Unfunded School Mandates

Published March 8, 2016

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) and Republican state officials are proposing legislation that would give local government schools more authority to make financial decisions and save money on non-instructional costs, allowing more tax dollars to be used in the classroom.

At a February 19 press conference, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said government school districts should have more flexibility in setting financial priorities.

“As a mother of three, I think local school districts and parents should be deciding what’s best for our children, not Springfield,” Sanguinetti said. “We need to give the power and flexibility back to local communities and parents, and this bill does just that.”

Education Money for Education

Bills focusing on freeing school districts from state mandates and saving money in three areas— physical education, driving education, and non-instructional services—were announced at the press conference in Lombard, Illinois.

State Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) says his legislation, House Bill 6164, will allow school districts to redistribute funds to core functions.

“While physical education is important, the requirement it be taught every day was hurting teachers’ ability to offer and students’ ability to take advantage of Advanced Placement classes, vocational training, and computer education,” Sandack said. “Our bill simply says that the school board can make a decision to waive physical education when a student is an athlete or engaged in physical activity and education outside her or his curriculum, and[, under the bill,] the school board can set a policy so that some flexibility and control at the local level can occur.”

Spending Flexibility

The bill allows flexibility with other expenses, such as driving education, Sandack says.

State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), lead sponsor of Senate Bill 3098, says the proposed reforms are important.

“We need to remove the rules that tie the hands of our schools all around the state,” Barickman said. “This relief, to me, is necessary.”

Conditional Support

Some lawmakers, such as state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), say they will consider the bill if they believe it will save money through increased efficiency, not simple wage-cutting.

“The third parties merely have to demonstrate that they will achieve savings through better business practices and not just by cutting the bus drivers’ wages or taking health insurance away from the lunch ladies,” Harmon said.

Mark Fitton ([email protected]) is a reporter for the Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. An earlier version of this article first appeared at and is available at Reprinted with permission.