Public Educators Make a State Budget Push for Local Students
Atkinson – The time is now for legislators and the governor to come together and approve a budget for the next budget year, school officials in northwestern Illinois urged on Thursday.
Local school superintendents conducted a news conference at the Regional Office of Education in Atkinson to outline the impact on local districts if a Fiscal Year 2017 education budget is not in place prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
The superintendents used the news conference to outline for media, legislators and the communities they serve what is at stake if the ongoing state budget stalemate holds up a K-12 state education budget for the new budget year that starts July 1. Their points included:
Despite overwhelming public support for education as a top priority and language in the Illinois Constitution giving the state the primary responsibility to fund education, the current system for funding public system is widely decried as both unfair and inadequate.
State leaders approved a K-12 budget last summer despite the budget impasse, but discussions out of Springfield have suggested the education budget could be held up until there is school funding reform.
Waiting until the scheduled May 31 end of the spring legislative session to approve a state budget, puts schools in a very difficult spot of having to make financial decisions months before they know what state resources they will have for the following fall.
Schools in Stark and Henry counties have small cash reserves of only a handful of months on hand to deal with any state education funding shortfall.
Without state funding, schools here and elsewhere will close their doors.
The local educators said they need to raise these important policy questions in hopes of pushing legislators and the governor for a new education budget before any crisis can develop.
“Our school leadership here and around the state are grappling with so many difficult issues from a possible state budget impasse: how quickly local reserves would be exhausted, how programs could be prioritized, when schools might close,” said Angie Zarvell, Regional Superintendent of Schools for Regional Office of Education No. 28. “Our hope is by publicly discussing our concerns, we will build the awareness needed for our elected leaders in Springfield to work together on a new budget and provide the certainty schools need to focus on providing the best education possible for our children.”
“With only a few months of reserves on hand, any delay in state and federal funding from Springfield creates nearly impossible conditions to keep our doors open for an entire school year,” said Geneseo Superintendent Scott Kuffel. “We call on our legislators and the governor to pass an education budget as soon as possible. By taking this action quickly, they will have shown a commitment to doing the right thing for our children.”