SPRINGFIELD - Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement regarding the passing of former Senate President Phil Rock:

“When I was appointed to the Senate in 1991, Phil Rock was the Senate President. He took me under his wing, showed me the ropes and couldn’t have been nicer about it. He was THE most articulate orator of anyone I’ve ever served with, a talent he told me he learned in the seminary.

It is with great sadness and respect that I mourn the passing of Phil Rock, a loyal servant of his constituents in Oak Park and on the West Side of Chicago, and for 12 years president of the Illinois Senate. Phil Rock was a man dedicated to the advancement of Democratic principles, unafraid to take unpopular stands for equality and justice, yet well versed in the necessity of bipartisanship. After his retirement from the Senate, his commitment to sound and compassionate policy continued through his work with higher education and his advocacy for Illinoisans with disabilities. His legacy is one of many reasons I am honored to serve as Senate president today, and his example will continue to guide our deliberations. I wish his family peace, comfort and encouragement at this difficult time.”

SPRINGFIELD - Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement regarding the pending visit by President Obama:

“President Obama’s State of the Union address struck a chord with its call for a more civil politics and working to find areas of agreement. Clearly, that’s what we need here. I’m looking forward to seeing the president again and I’m happy he’s coming back to where he started.”

Of note, Senate President Cullerton sent a letter to President Obama on Jan. 19 suggesting it was a good time for a return.

SPRINGFIELD - The following statement was released by Senate President John J. Cullerton regarding the governor’s State of the State address:

"Clearly there are numerous issues over which we disagree. But I'm going to focus on the few areas where there might be some agreement. That's the only way we're going to work our way out of this situation.

Today, I heard the governor echo my call for making school funding reform a priority and his desire to come up with a system that better recognizes the needs of students living in poverty and those facing other challenges. I commend him on that stand. An equitable school funding system is the turnaround Illinois needs.

If the governor wants to work with Senate Democrats, committing to a better school funding system is a good way to start.

I also appreciate the time the governor has taken to better understand our model for what we hope would be constitutional pension reform. He's moved a long way from his initial proposal and I know that wasn't easy. I look forward to working with him.

However, while I appreciate the governor's support in these key areas, there are many areas of disagreement. On a daily basis our safety net is unravelling, leaving disabled seniors and homeless veterans nowhere to go.

We're not honoring our student aid commitments to college students. We're not providing any public support to our public universities and colleges. That's all because of the stance the governor has taken over the state's budget. He caused this. He can end it.

But I don't want to get hung up on disagreements. We've got to find ways to work together to solve problems, and we need to start now because Governor Rauner's first year in office didn't work for anyone."

Senate President John Cullerton on Monday called Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula the defining crisis of our time and challenged Gov. Bruce Rauner to turn around Illinois by making fair funding for schools his top priority.

Cullerton outlined the problems with Illinois’ school-funding formula during a sold-out speech at the City Club of Chicago, whose members include prominent civic, business and government leaders.

“Our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers are tired of the bickering, tired of the impasse,” Cullerton said. “They’re looking for leaders with the courage to step beyond the status quo and do what’s right. Today I’m asking my colleagues to take that step.”

Illinois has not updated its school funding formula since 1997. The system has resulted in striking inequities across Illinois’ school districts, rewarding wealthier communities and penalizing impoverished communities where students need more resources to succeed.

In addition, Illinois covers barely a third of the total cost of public education, while most states cover half.

As a result, the performance gap that divides rich and poor students, as well as students of color, ranks among the worst in the nation. Illinois is 42nd in terms of the gap in reading scores among these students, and it falls among the bottom 10 in the achievement gap between black and white students.

Cullerton said Illinois leaders must ask themselves two questions: How much are we going to spend on education, and how are we going to spend it?

“If the money isn’t going to help students in need, it doesn’t really matter how much we spend,” he said. “That’s why our funding formula needs to be overhauled.”

To level the playing field among schools, Cullerton said a new funding approach must include some key principles:

  • State resources should go to school districts based on the needs of students, with more funds to support children who need extra support – those who live in poverty, have special learning needs and who are English language learners.
  • There should be a single, straightforward funding model and no more special deals for some districts.
  • The formula must account for a district’s ability to support local schools with local dollars, and accountability must follow those dollars.

Cullerton noted that no one wants any school district to lose money. But in Illinois’ system of winning and losing school districts, there are far too many losers.

“There’s a reason why the current school funding formula has been in place for two decades. It’s hard to change an entrenched status quo. It requires true, dedicated leadership,” Cullerton said. “The question is whether today’s leaders are up to the task.”

Download the Senate President's City Club remarks
Download the slides from the Senate President's presentation