Superintendents Desperate for Education Budget

Jun 8, 2016

The head of the Murphysboro School District is warning parents, faculty and staff that - without state funding - the district cannot make it through the upcoming academic year.

On the district's Facebook page, Superintendent Chris Grode wrote the plan is to start classes as scheduled in August. But, he says after funds from property tax revenues and even borrowing against tax anticipation warrants are spent, the district will not be able to operate past November.
"There is no more local sources of money that we can tap into. So, what we would do then is we would have to amend our calendar with the state board and we would go on a longer break I guess. The holiday break would start early."
Grode says years of reduced state funding have added to the misery.
"There's moments where I can't even believe it. But, like I said, we get over 50% of our funding from local sources, and with the state prorating us the last 5-6 years, we've lost millions and millions of dollars. So, our fund balances have been dwindled down. We do not have the reserves anymore."
Grode says he would support a stogap appropriation because his district is desperate for funding. But, he says this won't solve the larger school funding problem.

"The fact that they can't all seem to get together and solve this problem and give us a solution that's not going to be something we have to deal with in January again, in my mind it needs to be fixed."

Grode says talk of waiting on a budget until after the November election is unfathomable. He says the political process in Illinois is broken.
"We need to be able to vote based on what people have done. We need to be able to vote based on what our legislators do. What it sounds like they're doing is they're waiting until after we vote before they show us what they're going to do."
Grode says he gets the feeling parents believe a deal will get done at the last minute, but even that makes it tough to plan for the new school year.
"My complaint is it shouldn't be done under zero hour. If they (lawmakers) are really calling the zero hour the moment after we have our election...that is absolutely and utterly wrong."

Lawmakers adjourned May 31st without approving a budget, including no money for education.

Governor Bruce Rauner is pushing a plan that would give every district at least the same amount it received last year, but some districts superintendents don't like that idea.

Ten of those superintendents gathered in front of the capitol Wednesday to urge lawmakers to adopt a more equitable way of sending money to schools.

Rauner acknowledges the formula needs an overhaul, and calls his offer a "bridge" to get schools through the upcoming year.

Harrisburg Schools Superintendent Mike Gauch said that's not good enough.
"In my opinion there's a hole in that bridge. It's not going to work. It leads to nowhere. Respectfully, thats my opinion. And I would say the children of poverty would agree."
The state senate has approved at least two school funding plans focused on equity, but none of those have been heard in the House.