CHICAGO - The Illinois General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved legislation that would allow school districts to reduce costs by redrawing their boundaries to exclude military bases.
But the measure, passed last week, would not give the districts immediate financial relief because a Senate amendment would require schools to keep educating the children affected until the federal government provides more money or another way to teach them.
If enacted, the Illinois bill would be the first law intended to free school districts from educating children who live on military bases, according to U.S. Defense Department officials, who refused further comment unless the bill is signed.
Districts across the country complain that they are burdened by having to educate the children while being unable to tax the federal installations.
The problem is costing some Illinois districts millions of dollars a year, according to state Rep. Grace Mary Stern, sponsor of earlier legislation to address the problem.
Rep. Stern's earlier bill would have forced the Defense Department to pay full tuition for the children of military personnel or build their own schools.
The Senate amendment softens that ultimatum, but the Highland Park Democrat did not criticize the change.
"The amendment improves the bill because there was some concern that if the school district disconnects [the military base], children will be without school," Rep. Stern said. Ultimately, she added, the bill would still make the federal government responsible for paying the full cost of tuition at the schools.
The bill was forwarded Friday to Gov. Jim Edgar, who has 60 days to act. Ms. Stern said.
"I see no reason why he wouldn't approve legislation that received bipartisan support in both houses," Ms. Stern said, adding that she expected to discuss the measure with Gov. Edgar.
The governor has not taken a position on the measure, pending an assessment of its impact, according to Dan Egler, the governor's spokesman.
If the measure is signed into law, Ms. Stern said that a school board would have to vote to disconnect the military base from the school district.
The Illinois Legislature forwarded other measures over the weekend end the governor, including:
* Legislation that would force the state to borrow money using short-term general obligation bonds to restore about $140 million in school aid payments to local school districts in June. Gov. Edgar is not expected to sign the measure since he supports another bill that would appropriate $939,000 in the state education budget for school districts to pay interest on their late June payments, according to a legislative staff member.
* A measure that would require the state to collect the Cook County sales tax from Cook County residents who buy big-ticket items, such as cars, in neighboring counties. The 0.75% sales tax approved by the county in May and the ability of the state to collect the tax on out-of-county purchase wee key elements in the county's plan to issue $958 million of GO bonds for capital projects over the next three years.
* A measure that would decrease the population requirement to 10,000 from 15,000 for Cook County municipalities trying to provide senior citizen housing financed with revenue bonds or alternative revenue source. Rep. Bill Balthis, R-Lansing, the bill's sponsor, said he drafted the measure to give small non-home rule communities the ability to provide senior citizen housing.
* A bill that would put an advisory referendum on the November ballot, urging the legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment to prevent the state from mandating local programs without providing funds for them.
The governor has not taken a position on any of the bills, according to Mr. Egler.