O'Fallon Progress

Despite budget accord, schools may not see any money by start of classes

Carrie Hruby
Carrie Hruby

Will schools be able to open on time this year?

Financial concerns are rapidly growing statewide for Illinois public school districts. It is true that the state of Illinois finally passed a budget and averted one financial crisis, but many people are not aware of the new crisis that legislators have created in doing so.

As of today, there is no mechanism in place to distribute state funds to school districts. The newly passed budget mandates that K-12 school funding be allocated and distributed based upon an “evidenced-based funding model.” In other words, the General State Aid formula used in the past to determine funding allocations for schools is no longer allowed. Because no evidence-based school funding model has been signed into law at this time, the state will not be able to send money to schools, even though there is a state budget in place with dollars appropriated for K-12 education.

Senate Bill 1 (SB1) is an evidenced-based school funding bill that has been approved by both the House and the Senate. Although Gov. Bruce Rauner stated he agrees with 90 percent of the contents of SB1, all indications are that he will veto the bill if it is sent to him in its current form, because the bill includes additional funding for Chicago Public Schools.

Gov. Rauner believes Illinois students would better be served if the estimated $200-plus million in funding specifically identified in SB1 to support Chicago Public Schools would be allocated to all schools throughout Illinois. As of today, SB1 has been held up for additional negotiations and has not been sent to the governor’s desk for signature. Unfortunately, the negotiation talks on SB1 broke off in early July, with no additional talks scheduled in Springfield.

Senate Bill 1124 (SB1124) is another evidenced-based school funding bill that is under consideration, but it has not yet received a vote in either legislative chamber. Sources report that Gov. Rauner supports SB1124 because the provisions for Chicago Public Schools were eliminated in that bill. Again, SB1124 has not yet been called for a vote in the House or Senate, and there are no indications at this time that suggest movement on this bill.

For schools to receive state dollars as needed this August, SB1, SB1124 or a newly created evidenced-based school funding bill must be passed into law.

It is anticipated that SB1 will be sent to the governor in the near future. As stated before, it is also anticipated that the governor will veto SB1.

Per Dr. Brent Clark, director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators: “This will create an immediate political showdown to settle the issue about a mechanism to distribute state funds to school districts. Recognizing that Aug. 10 is the date when the first General State Aid payments are supposed to arrive, and then backing into the voucher date that is usually 7-8 days earlier, we are creeping eerily close to those important dates.”

Because no meetings are on the calendar for legislators to work out a deal on the mechanism for school funding, there is rising concern that state funding may be delayed. If this is the case, those districts that rely solely on state aid to operate may not be able to open on time for the upcoming school year.

Despite the legislative absurdities that are occurring in Springfield, your O’Fallon and Shiloh districts will be able to open the school year on time. Because our schools are funded significantly by local dollars, and/or because of the reserves maintained by the districts, O’Fallon/Shiloh schools will be able to serve our students and our communities this fall as scheduled.

We are looking forward to a great 2017-2018 school year and are appreciative to live in a community that supports education.

Dr. Darcy G. Benway, O’Fallon Township High School District 203

Mrs. Dawn Elser, Central District 104

Mrs. Carrie Hruby, O’Fallon District 90

Mr. Dale Sauer, Shiloh District 85