Local superintendents are staying cautiously optimistic about new education bill

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ROCK ISLAND - School has just gotten started for students, but it has already felt like a difficult year for school administrators.

"A lot of uncertainties stress and anxiety. We were starting to plan the what ifs if we don`t have state funding, how do we keep going," said Dr. Mike Oberhaus, superintendent for the Rock Island/Milan School District.

Some of that stress is finally being relieved after state lawmakers passed an Illinois education reform bill that also allows money to start flowing to school districts.

"We believe we`re going to generate $2 million dollars in state money this coming year and that`s a real positive we`re really grateful for," said Oberhaus.

That sounds like good news, right? The problem is while school district will receive money from the state they also just found out they owe money to the state.

"A week in a half ago the Department of Revenue shared with us that the through some miscalculations we`re going to see $1.2 million dollars less in corporate personal property replacement taxes," said Oberhaus.

For the United Township, "We would receive about $1.1 million additional. We had about $500,000 hit on the replace tax," said Superintendent Jay Morrow.

However, the education bill is about more than money. It eliminated some unfunded mandates. It allows parents to invest in private school scholarships. It also lets voters decide referendums to lower property taxes in some school districts.

Superintendents say they have no idea what it all could mean for them, saying the impact could be years away.

"There`s always going to be tweaked to it. There`s always going to be some interpretation and what those numbers are in year two, three, and five are going to be the true measure to see if it`s truly brought reform," said Morrow.

The part of the bill that almost everyone seems happy with is the bill will equalize the education funding among school districts. Unlike in the past, richer districts will now get less money while poorer districts will receive more.