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Our view: School reform bill shows how far we've come

By The Editorial Board
Posted on 8/30/2017, 1:00 AM

We were worried that school funding reform would never come. Presuming the governor signs the bill on Thursday as he said he will do, it is upon us.

There is a tendency by many of our colleagues and other pundits to view the agreement by its political implications. What's it mean for Gov. Bruce Rauner's re-election hopes after a rough and tumble summer? Do the four legislative leaders personally win or lose?

We enjoy speculating on political ramifications as much as anyone, but to be distracted by that right now is not only a concession to cynicism, it also misses something so much greater.

In the midst of the brinkmanship that led up to the agreement, Illinois' four legislative leaders and, presumably the governor, recognized the precious opportunity they had for a groundbreaking achievement in school funding reform that few could have imagined just a year ago.

Political realities surely played a role. There were orchestrated pressures on all sides. And as Rauner acknowledged to the Marion Chamber of Commerce on Friday, it was a compromise, so he didn't end up with exactly what he wanted. Nor did the Democrats.

In the end, clearly no one wanted to be on the hook for the devastation that a failure to settle would have wrought for many of Illinois' schools. True enough, but there's also a more hopeful explanation.

As it happened, the brinkmanship obscured the stunning fact that, fundamentally, all sides -- Republicans and Democrats; educators and taxpayers from southern Illinois, central Illinois, Chicago and suburbs; the governor and legislative leaders -- concluded that resources ought to be distributed more equitably to all schools in Illinois. Students everywhere, we have all concluded, should have equal opportunities for educational success.

This notion, finally acted upon, was a breathtaking breakthrough of monumental proportions.

It is a reform that can positively improve countless lives for generations to come.

That's what truly was at stake in the negotiations. The reform is a signature achievement that promises to enhance the legacies of every officeholder who was a part of it.