House adopts Chicago schools plan



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—The Illinois House adopted a compromise plan Sunday night to keep the nation’s third-largest public school system open, three months after Gov. Jim Edgar called a special session to help the ailing district.

The House voted 71-44, after about 50 minutes of debate. The lower chamber needed 71 votes, or three-fifths majority, to adopt the package.

The Senate was expected to convene shortly to take up the measure.

‘‘Less anyone misunderstand, (approval) is with a warning and a caveat to the Chicago education community,’‘ said Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst.

He said lawmakers will be watching school officials to ensure reforms begin.

Many lawmakers characterized the bill as flawed legislation but said they were forced to pass it. Without legislative action by both chambers, the school system will shut down Monday.

Rep. Cal Skinner Jr., R-Crystal Lake, said he wouldn’t vote for the plan, which leaders and Gov. Jim Edgar carved out Friday. He said it doesn’t solve the district’s ‘‘terminal’‘ problems.

‘‘What you are asking us to buy here is like a used car. It’s going to last two years, but the payments will go on for 16 years,’‘ Skinner said.

But downstate lawmaker Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, urged his colleagues to vote ‘‘yes.’‘

Rep. Bob DeJaegher, D-Rock Island agreed.

‘‘Use common sense,’‘ he implored. ‘‘We have a bill that does not affect us in any way. We lose no funding. Vote for this bill.’‘

Legislative leaders and Edgar spent about nine hours over two days to carve out a plan to resolve the crisis, which has been a roller coaster ride for 411,000 Chicago school students all year.

For months, both sides were deadlocked and did little more than finger point. Democrats refused to accept work-rule changes and Republicans said they would not rubberstamp a contract agreed to by the Chicago School Board and the Chicago Teachers Union.

The tide turned, Edgar said, when House Speaker Michael Madigan decided to support the GOP’s position on teacher work-rule changes in exchange for Republican support for the Chicago Democrat’s position on supernumeraries.

Supernumerary teachers are workers whose jobs have been nixed but are guaranteed employment.

Key provisions of the plan give principals staffing authority, allow schools to make work-rule changes in 1995 with 51 percent approval instead of 63.5 percent approval, and authorize $378 million in local borrowing backed by local property taxes over two years.

About $32 million in state money over two years must go for general operating needs instead of special programs for the disadvantaged.

It also authorizes the board to put a property tax referendum on the city ballot between January and June 1995.

If the school board fails to put the referendum on the ballot, the Chicago City Council would be empowered to do so.

Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones disagreed with using the federal Chapter 1 money for general operating purposes but said he would recommend the caucus adopt the plan.