A school leader's lot is not always a happy one these days.
Superintendents and school boards have watched their district's revenues --the money that covers salaries, programs and other expenses --continue to contract over the past several years. Property tax revenue, historically a source of growth, is down or stagnant in many districts. The state is contributing less to education, then compounding the problem by not making timely payments of the money it has promised.
School leaders know they need to cut spending to offset the revenue losses. But it seems that every idea put forward -- larger class sizes, combined grades, elimination of art or music or extracurriculars, building closures -- get met with outrage from parents. For example, last week Cahokia parents turned out at a meeting to protest cuts that could include teacher layoffs, classroom programs cuts and extracurricular activities.
And so some leaders are punting on cost-cutting. Collinsville, instead of closing Twin Echo School as a consultant recommended, has decided to put off the decision until next year.
If their hope is the economy will be better by next year and they won't have to make a tough decision, it's a poor strategy. The economy is not supposed to improve that quickly, and Illinois' situation is particularly dire because of its $96 billion in pension debt. Districts are asking for trouble if they pay this year's bills with next year's money.
No one wants to cut teachers, curtail learning or close schools, but school districts have to make the money equation balance. That requires making tough, unpopular decisions.