ROCK ISLAND, Illinois--- Superintendent Mike Oberhaus praised the implementation of a new school curriculum and secured state funding during his annual State of the Schools Address for Rock Island and Milan Schools.
"Up until last week we were starting to set the wheels in motion (looking for ways to borrow money) to get us through the school year," says Oberhaus.
The district usually sees about $24 million dollars in state aid, but thanks to the recently passed school funding bill, Rock Island and Milan schools will see about $2 million more from the state.
The district is already anticipating spending about $ 2,000 less per student than the state average but with the new spending formula, the hope is to close the gap.
“That was one of the flaws of the prior funding formula, Illinois had the largest disparity between (the lowest and highest) spending schools in the state. Luckily with the new evidence based funding formula and the model for funding long term we will see the disparity close up,” says Oberhaus.
He also talked about challenges still facing the district.
“The Department of Revenue came out to say they had been calculating the personal property replacement taxes incorrectly so that will impact us,” Oberhaus mentioned.
The extra expense will cost the district $1.2 million. The plan is to use some of the extra funding from the state to cover the cost, leaving the district with about $800,000 towards education.
Looking ahead, the district also hopes to use the money left over to reduce class sizes within the next few years.
The average class size for Rock Island and Milan Schools increased from 20 in 2008 to 26 in 2016, the goal is to get it back down closer to 20.
Class enrollment for the 2017-2018 year is also down, the district is missing 57 students compared to last year. However, they anticipate an additional 50 students to enroll by the end of the year.
During the State of the Schools Address, Oberhaus also commented on the adjustments students and teachers in K-5 schools have made since the implementation of the new Math, English and Language Arts Curriculum.
The curriculum was put in place last year with the goal of teaching students to focus less on memorization and rely more on critical thinking skills to problem-solve.
“It's been a little bit of a learning curve, we are in the second year of implementation and is going much better this year (than last year)…Educators (and students) had a little bit of an issue understanding it,” says Oberhaus.
Graduation rates have remained steady for Rock Island and Milan Schools, last year 400 students walked across the stage.