CHICAGO — Illinois' landmark school funding reform legislation represents compromise between Democrats and Republicans and is the result of years of hard work and grassroots advocacy, State Senator Andy Manar said during a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago.

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is the chief sponsor of the measure, which was signed into law Aug. 31 at a Chicago elementary school by Gov. Bruce Rauner

"This legislation ends the least equitable system of school funding in the country. We know that. We indicted the system," said Manar, a longtime proponent of overhauling Illinois' worst-in-the-nation school funding formula. "We put something in place that would correct all of the ills that surround it, and it is proof that even in a polarized system grassroots advocacy works."

Manar added that the legislation wages a war on poverty in classrooms throughout Illinois.

"It ends a great racial divide that we have in this state. We know that in Illinois there is no greater divide between investment in minority students and investment in their white counterparts. That is a stain on our state. The governor's signature is giong to correct that," he said. "It also stares down rural poverty. This bill wlll put resources in the poorest classrooms in rural counties in southern Illinois."

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SPRINGFIELD – An unprecedented overhaul of how Illinois funds public schools is on its way to the governor’s desk and should result in additional funding for schools in Bunker Hill, Gillespie, Decatur, Taylorville, Carlinville, Staunton and elsewhere throughout the 48th Senate District.

“Students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better than what Illinois has been offering. Finally, we have a plan that lays the groundwork for local schools to be fairly funded by the state,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the long-overdue revamp of the state’s school finance system.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign the measure Thursday afternoon in Chicago.

Once he does, schools will be funded through an evidence-based model that prioritizes funding for schools that are the farthest away from adequacy. The model ensures no schools lose money, eliminates the current system of winning and losing school districts, and offers financial certainty to school districts annually when they embark on crafting their budgets for the upcoming schoolyear.

Although the plan is a big win for area schools, Manar said he was disappointed that Republicans insisted that a private school tax credit program be included before they would vote for it and before Gov. Rauner would sign it.

Republicans inserted a tax credit for people who donate to scholarship programs at private schools that benefit low-income students.

Once that provision was included, Rauner and the Republicans ended their opposition to the comprehensive education overhaul package.

“Personally, I oppose this type of tax credit program for private schools. But it’s the price the governor and Republicans demanded for their votes so that we could finally enact a fair public school funding system,” Manar said. “At the end of the day, this is a substantial improvement for the schools in this area, and that’s why I supported it.”

(Pictured: Senator Andy Manar and Representative Will Davis pose with school superintendents and advocates in the Illinois Capitol rotunda following the Senate's historic vote to overhaul the state's school funding formula and send legislation to the governor's desk on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.)

Read more: Manar delivers historic win for local schools

Initiative was advanced by Manar in the Senate

ManarAVRSPRINGFIELD – Illinois this morning became the 10th state to enact automatic voter registration, a good-government and voting-rights initiative advanced by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

Manar and numerous advocates were on hand as Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law the measure, which establishes a more modern system by which eligible adults can have their voter registration information updated automatically whenever they interact with certain state agencies.

Manar said automatic voter registration is a big deal for Illinois and an initiative worth celebrating, particularly as other states seem intent to find new ways to limit people’s access to the polls.

“We in Illinois are pushing back on that. While others are trying to close the doors to the ballot box, we are opening those doors,” he said.

“This bill makes absolute sense. It will save government millions of dollars once it’s fully implemented. It will improve the accuracy of our voting rolls. It does all sorts of things we claim we want to do in Springfield. But most of all, it removes barriers for individuals to put their fingerprints on their democracy.”

Read more: Automatic voter registration becomes law in Illinois

ServiceDogSPRINGFIELD – Illinois military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression will be eligible for service dogs through a special program under legislation sponsored by Senator Andy Manar that was signed into law Friday.

“Service dogs often can offer companionship, stress-relief and motivation to veterans with PTSD or depression that friends and family may not be able to provide,” Manar said. “I am pleased that these veterans now are on the list of people in Illinois who can take advantage of the Helping Paws Service Dog Program and lead more fulfilling lives.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2897 into law Friday. The legislation was sponsored in the House by Republican State Rep. Dave Severin of Benton. The measure expands the list of eligible recipients of service dogs through the Helping Paws program to include veterans with PTSD or depression.

The Illinois Department of Corrections operates the Helping Paws Service Dog Program out of the Logan Correctional Center women’s prison. Offenders train dogs that go on to assist people who are visually impaired, use wheelchairs or have a variety of other disabilities. Dogs are provided at no charge.

Illinois has had the program for 17 years, and offenders have trained more than 300 dogs in that time. The program partners with Mid America Service Dogs Foundation and Paws Giving Independence.

Gov. Rauner said it is important to ensure that veterans have access to services that improve their quality of life and that the Helping Paws program will help provide the comfort and relief that they deserve.

Severin said he expects the new law will positively affect the lives of veterans who are struggling the most.


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