Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill, is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of trying to kill his school funding legislation. He says the administration fed erroneous information to a Republican operative's website.
The story in question appears in the Kankakee Times, one of a dozen community news organs created by Dan Proft. Proft runs a political action committee supported by Rauner.
Manar's school funding bill, which passed the Senate on Wednesday, is designed to avoid decreasing funding for any district. But the Proft story claims some Kankakee-area districts would lose as much as 44 percent of their state funding.
The dollar amounts used in that story, however, are out of date. They reflect the analysis done by the Illinois State Board of Education in April 2016 of a school funding bill Manar sponsored last year. The numbers listed in the Kankakee Times as “new state funding” match ISBE’s 2016 analysis of “PTELL grant” calculations, which is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
After questions were raised, the Kankakee Times web posting was updated to mention the April 2016 analysis. Still, Manar is crying foul.
"They complain about me not negotiating in good faith, and at the same time, they're cooking up numbers and documents and sending them over to the campaign apparatus in order to kill a bill," Manar said.
He faces one problem with refuting the numbers: Manar says he doesn't yet have spreadsheets that would demonstrate how much each school district would receive if the bill passed Wednesday becomes law. Such complex modeling is done by the Illinois State Board of Education, an agency controlled by the Rauner administration. Manar says he hopes to get his spreadsheets soon.
Today's press conference was his effort to keep the erroneous story from spreading. One reporter asked Manar why he was bothering to respond to a short story on a website, and said the senator “dost protest too much.”
"Okay I guarantee if we weren't here, it would be the Metro East Sun next, or the Sangamon County whatever it is, next," Manar said.
The governor's office has denied any wrongdoing, and demanded an apology from Manar. He has asked the inspector general to investigate.
Meanwhile in the House, a bill filed by Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) with chief co-sponsor Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) has been amended. ISBE published a model of that proposal today.