Illinois braces for school funding cuts

Some Illinois lawmakers are looking at slicing at least $258 million from school funding. That’s as the state struggles to craft its next budget.

In Moline, those proposed cuts range from $300,000 to nearly $2 million, worst case scenario.

While fifth graders finish their studies for the year on Tuesday, the school district must begin reading between the lines. It’s already doing more with less and facing more cuts in state funding.

“People get hurt,” said Dr. Cal Lee, Moline’s superintendent. “I’m laying off people that I don’t want to lay off. I don’t want them looking elsewhere. I don’t want them worrying about their job when they’ve worked their tails off.”

That’s why school administrators from 10 local districts are joining forces. The Illinois State Board of Education urges them to fight before the cuts become reality.

“What this would mean is that people who believe that they have their fingers in the dyke right now are going to have four more leaks,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico.

While Gov. Pat Quinn focuses on agency, pension and Medicaid reforms to save school funding, the legislature is considering dipping into state school funding. Drastic cuts could make it tougher for districts to succeed.

Illinois already ranks at the bottom for state education funding. Schools warn that they can’t go much lower.

“Further cuts mean cuts in staff, cuts in teachers and larger class sizes,” said Ron Jacobs, Riverdale superintendent.

It’s a lesson for students and a mandate for Illinois — all about building communities and educating the next generation.

“If kids are our future, what am I going to do if I can’t get people to work, and I can’t get people to stay,” Dr. Lee concluded.

It’s a frustrating predicament with major financial implications for Illinois schools.

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