CAHOKIA — Parents are outraged about cuts District 187 administrators are proposing to make as a result of the state's funding shortfall.
Superintendent Art Ryan said the district may have to layoff teachers, eliminate all extracurricular activities including high school sports, cut art, music and physical education classes at the elementary schools, close Jerome Early Childhood Center and the high school portion of the Cahokia School of Choice and consolidate students.
More than 50 concerned parents attended a community meeting Thursday night at the School of Choice and voiced their concerns about the potential cuts.
"These are horrible," parent Tunya Foster said. "It's ridiculous. They are not thinking of our babies."
Foster said she is upset the district wants to cut extracurricular activities including sports. Her son is a junior at Cahokia High School and plays basketball. "You don't cut these activities," Foster said. "These are the kids' outlets."
Ryan agreed with many of the points made by parents about the impact these cuts will have on students' education and overall well being.
"There's not one aspect of this that's educationally sound or good for kids," Ryan told parents. "None of this is a good idea. Not one bit of this is good for kids."
Parent Damon Pipkens of Cahokia said if the high school portion of the School of Choice is closed, he will find an alternative school for his two children, who are in the 10th and fifth grade.
"I will move out of the district or send my kids to private school," Pipkens said.
Ryan described the proposed cuts as "all maybes" depending on what level the state decides to fund education at next year. However, he said a decision must be made by the school board in April in order to meet the deadline required by law. Certified teachers must be notified of any layoffs 45 days prior to the end of the school year.
Ryan said the formulated plan is based on a "worst case scenario" -- if the district receives 20 percent less in general state aid during fiscal year 2014, which would mean another $2.7 million hit to District's 187 budget.
In addition, Ryan said the district is expecting to receive $250,000 less from local property taxes with the drop in equalized assessed value.
"We are forced to come up with a plan of how we can potentially cut $3 million and hopefully, we don't have to do it," Ryan said.
He explained eliminating extracurricular activities would save $1 million; cutting art, music and P.E. classes for kindergarten through eighth grade would save another $1 million; and closing Jerome Early Childhood would save $250,000 as would closing the Cahokia School of Choice High School. The remaining $500,000 would be cut by making staffing reductions, according to Ryan.
Parent Tauwana London said she doesn't think the fiscal problems in District 187 are just the state of Illinois' fault.
"There's a lack of effort to bring money into our district," she said. "They do unnecessary budgeting. They need to more responsible with what they do with our money. The district shouldn't be living dollar to dollar. There should be a reserve."
There are no other viable alternatives to the proposed cuts, according to Ryan. "The district does not have the debt limit to borrow," he said. "If we make class sizes any bigger, there'll be no meaningful school." Currently, he said class sizes average between 28 and 32 students.
If the district chooses to ignore the funding issue and not develop a balanced budget, Ryan said the district risks being taken over by the state. "More than likely the state will take over like they did in East St. Louis, and they will make the cuts, if not worse," he said.
Ryan advised parents contact state legislators and tell them they "cannot continue to fix the problems of the state on the backs of our children."
If the school board approves the proposed cuts in April, Ryan said the changes can be reversed if the state legislature decides to fully fund education when it finalizes the state budget in May.
District 187 will host two more public meetings:
* 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Maplewood, 600 Jerome Lane
* 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Oliver Parks Elementary, 1900 Mousette Lane
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.