Republicans are fighting the idea that Downstate and suburban schools are the only ones getting a "free lunch" from Illinois state government. House Speaker Michael Madigan has has used the phrase in describing how local school districts should have to pay the employer's share of pension costs for teachers. That expense is currently covered by the state for all school districts, except Chicago.
But Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno says Chicago gets a disproportionate share of other state education spending. "Even though Chicago Public Schools account for roughly 18 percent of the public school children in this state, the state has been supersizing their lunch to the tune of $772 million in additional funding that they receive each year," says Radogno. Republicans say they don't want to start a regional fight over state education spending. But they don't want to make schools pay more as part of a fix for the state's pension funding problem. The GOP says shifting pension costs to downstate and suburban schools will lead to local property-tax hikes.