Illinois Schools Brace For More Budget Pain

Mar 8, 2013

Education spending in Illinois would take a hit under the governor’s proposed budget. That would result in more pressure for districts already dealing with years of dwindling state aid.

The governor says with pension costs on the rise, he was forced to propose $400-million dollars in education cuts. An analysis of the plan says local districts would receive only 82 percent of the per-pupil amount that state law says is needed to adequately fund a student's education.

Sarah Willey is superintendent of the Hiawatha School District. She says there are several areas where students might notice a drop in services, should the cuts go through.

“Less support from teaching assistants, fewer electives to choose from. We may have to limit the number of students we send to the vocational school” Willey said.     

Willey says Hiawatha has been in deficit spending mode to keep services intact, adding that the district was already looking to make cuts. Another round of state budget cuts would add to that.

Mary Fergus is spokeswoman for the Illinois Board of Education. She says while raising concerns over things like larger class sizes is nothing new, it comes at a time when there’s a shift in student demographics.

“Our districts are serving more children from low-income families. Nearly half of all children in Illinois public schools are from low income families” Fergus said.

Fergus says those students need more attention in the classroom, because they might not be getting enough help at home.

Meanwhile, education officials say these cuts would coincide with delayed state payments and the sequester cuts.