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Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Budget, Illinois education

Illinois Budget: Illinois Human Services Move Over, Illinois School Districts are the Newest Victims of Illinois Budget Crisis

Governor Pat Quinn

(Springfield, IL) – February 16, 2010. Move over Illinois human services, Illinois school districts are the next big thing in the Illinois budget cuts drama.

Last year, Illinois budget cuts and budget pain fell disproportionately on human service programs, causing grief principally for Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans, but to a lesser degree.

But that was, oh so, last year’s Illinois budget victim.

This year, the local school district is new poster boy for budget anguish—and Republican lawmakers are now the greater targets for constituent anger.

Human services were the Democrats’ budget problem. Suburban and many downstate school districts are now largely the Republicans’ budget problem.

How does that shoe fit?

Lawmakers are in Springfield today for the spring legislative session and the Springfield State Journal-Register will greet them with this local headline: “Springfield superintendent proposes $5.3 million in budget cuts”.

It will look painfully similar. It’s a headline that lawmakers have been seeing across the state for the last few weeks.

The question now is: does it make one wit of difference? Will the impending meltdown of local school district budgets—the elimination of sports, arts, teacher jobs, etc—and the political finally push GOP lawmakers to agree to an income tax increase?

Most informed observers say no. Political strategists on both sides of the aisle argue that the dwindling group of Illinois taxpayers and homeowners—due to growing unemployment grows and foreclosures—are in no mood for an income tax increase.

Of this group, who are parents—what say they? Will they swallow hard as precious football teams, favorite teachers, and extra curricular activities are axed? Perhaps. Or will they besiege lawmakers as the local school budget bites?

What will House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemnt) do as their members feel constituent almost certain heat? More maddening muddle?

House Speaker Michael Madigan(D-Chicago)? Senate President John Cullerton? Governor Pat Quinn? They’ll probably enjoy watching the Republicans squirm in the stew that they helped cook. Or didn’t cook.

We’ll see.

Here’s a sample of 17 school district across the state in budget pain:

  • February 12–After talking to state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Republican, about the problematic financial situation of state government, Owen did not see any light at the end of the tunnel for school funding. Eddy told Owen he did not see the situation turning around for at least three more years. In order to accommodate the lack in state funding, the school board utilized reduction in force that leaves some staff without jobs. RIF allows the school district to call back personnel if funds allow in the future. http://www.effinghamdailynews.com/local/local_story_043003713.html
  • February 11–As Mokena School District 159 moves forward on deep cuts to its programming for next year, plenty of residents aren’t letting those programs go without a fight. The district is eliminating all extracurricular activities, scaling back full-day kindergarten to a half-day program and trimming 14 1 / 2 full-time teaching positions from the payroll. Those cuts are intended to close a budget gap that stands at about $2 million and growing after a proposed property tax increase was defeated last week by voters. http://www.southtownstar.com/news/2042359,021110sd159board.article
  • February 11–Barrington Unit District 220 board members Wednesday began talking about specific staff reductions for next year as part of their aim to cut between $1 million and $1.5 million from the budget. http://dailyherald.com/story/?id=358373
  • February 11–“We have not landed on what that number will look like,” said Superintendent Kathy Birkett. In a message to District 204 community members, Birkett explained the effects of the state’s financial woes on education. “The state’s $13 billion debt is so substantial that it may be forced to reduce financial support for school districts,” Birkett wrote. “That means our district is facing possibly $14 million to $20 million in additional budget cuts, and some of those cuts will be very difficult. Until now, we have prioritized cuts that stay away from the classroom, but as deeper cuts are needed, that will be impossible.” Compounding the problem, she wrote, is the fact the state currently owes the school district more than $7.8 million for this year’s funding. http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/napervillesun/news/2041333,D204-funding-staff-cuts-NA021010.article
  • February 8–The cash-strapped Jersey Community School District may have to issue bonds to help cover a state funding gap that is nearing $1 million. The board outlined plans for a working cash bond issue during a sparsely attended special board meeting last week. “Currently the state is behind in payments to the district at a total of $925,437,” board President Greg Brown said. “Early childhood, transportation and special ed are the three main categories in which payments are behind.” http://www.thetelegraph.com/news/schools-36140-bonds-soften.html
  • February 9–Waiting for state payments puts the Belvidere School District in a pinch.  It says this year it’s on track to come up $4 million dollars short, largely due to unpaid money it was supposed to get from Illinois.  Fiscal year 2011 is projected to have a deficit of $5.3 million. http://www.wrex.com/Global/story.asp?S=11960246
  • February 4–Program and staff cuts are likely in the Pontiac Grade School District after voters defeated a ballot measure, and the high school district may ask voters again to pay for building improvements. District 429 Superintendent Steve Graham said the poor economy played into the referendum’s defeat Tuesday. Graham said the board will announce in March whether it will make up to $1 million in cuts that could include 39 jobs, all extracurricular activities, all sports programs and some art and music classes. The state owes the district $350,000. http://pantagraph.com/news/local/education/article_4dc5a3f0-113e-11df-b1c6-001cc4c002e0.html
  • February 5–A total of 94 positions in Quincy Public Schools could be cut if the state foundation level falls for the first time, from $6,119 to $5,500. Another 30 jobs may have to go if the state fails to make two of its four mandated categorical payments this year. So far it has made only one. As a precaution, the districts in the nine-county Two Rivers Region anticipate eliminating 329.5 positions overall for this next fiscal year. http://www.whig.com/story/news/School-Funding-012910
  • January 27–Rockford School District leaders are grappling with how they’ll manage the next budget cycle with expected cuts of at least 20 percent. State legislators have said to plan for at least a 20 percent cut in general state aid, which is the district’s primary funding source. And that cut might still not be enough, said Cedric Lewis, the Rockford School District’s chief financial officer. http://www.rrstar.com/news/x1090822760/Rockford-school-leaders-brace-for-big-budget-cuts

You get the idea.

But will the Republicans and Democrats who voted against an income tax increase?

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and Huffington Post blogger, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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