Schools Warn ‘Dire Decisions' Could Come Without Illinois State Budget

Superintendents in hundreds of Illinois school districts are imploring lawmakers and the governor to end the state's budget stalemate, with one official saying schools could face "dire decisions" if a deal isn't made.

Nearly 400 districts statewide are involved in an effort being driven by school leaders in Aurora, Naperville, Elgin and Sandoval, The Aurora Beacon-News reported. Some schools are using their marquees, while others are using social media to draw attention to the issues.

"You have to put the horse in front of the cart, and that's our state budget," said West Aurora Superintendent Jeff Craig. "And it's coming to a point that if our state doesn't pass a state budget, we will have to make some dire decisions."

School districts are receiving state aid this year, though some say they're owed millions of dollars by the state for services such as transportation, special education, and free lunch programs.

Craig said that without a budget, a new school-funding formula won't happen and missed payments won't come. District officials said the state owes $10 million to the district in quarterly payments for so far for 2017.

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, said money set aside for districts' quarterly payments for services hasn't come through because of the backlog of bills in Springfield.

"It's a general budget issue, bigger than education," she said.

Chapa LaVia blamed Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for the stalemate, saying higher education is also in crisis.

Rauner points the finger at Democrats who've been unwilling to agree to changes he says would improve Illinois' economy, such as a property tax freeze. He also wants term limits for lawmakers.

The governor and the Democrat-led Legislature have been unable to agree on a state budget for almost two years, though they have passed measures to provide general state aid to school districts.

Democratic state Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora said it's going to take a bipartisan effort to get a budget passed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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