Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation steps up during Illinois stalemate

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -

There are cheers for school funding in Rock Island on Tuesday, August 1.

"Everyone who's getting a grant, please stand up," said Monta Ponsetto, executive director of the Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation.

At the Opening Day All Staff Meeting inside Rock Island High School, the money isn't coming from Illinois.  Instead, the longtime local foundation is stepping into action.

"We are formed to give back to the schools, give back to the teachers," Ponsetto said.

While cash-strapped Illinois schools stretch each dollar, the foundation is funding 51 grants for teachers, schools, departments and district programs.

Check http://www.rimef.org to learn about its fundraising.

Grant recipient Dr. Giovanna Davila knows all about the challenges of teaching Music at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Milan.

"If you ask for it, they find ways for our students to play music," she said.  "It's really great."

So great, that on Tuesday the foundation presented a large ceremonial check worth nearly $90,000.  All of the money was contributed by generous donors.

Recipient John Frieden, who serves as principal at Denkmann Elementary School, uses his grant for special outreach programs for students.

"We always talk about college and career ready, but now we're giving these kids that opportunity," he said.

The grants come at a very important time for schools in the district.  It shows reinforcing community support during continued uncertainty at the state level.

"It's really upsetting," Dr. Davila said.

As the Illinois school funding stalemate drags on, it takes a greater toll on planning, paying the bills, even staying open during the full school year.

"The concern is down the road," she said.  "What will happen if the schools don't have money? Will they be able to do the paychecks?"

With classes starting Thursday, August 3, in Rock Island, schools need answers quickly.

"We need to get Illinois turned around," Frieden said.  "Get back on track."

For this foundation, which started back in 1986, there's a message all involved in the Springfield stalemate.

"Everyone wants to put the kids first," Ponsetto concluded.  "Their education and their future is really the bottom line in all this."