September 26, 2014

School Districts Legislative Breakfast

Board representatives from Wheaton School District 200 and Naperville School Districts 203 and 204 met with legislators to discuss possible upcoming changes in the way Illinois funds education.

At Lincoln Junior High the subject of the day was Senate Bill 16, under this proposed legislation, Illinois would alter the way state education dollars are distributed, to provide greater equity to schools throughout the state. This means big budget cuts for our schools here in Naperville, which has caused alarm within the districts. State legislators were on hand at a breakfast meeting to calm concerns and hear input. U.S. State Representative, Linda Chapa LaVia, co-sponsor of the bill, acknowledged that some changes are needed before the legislation can be passed.

“I have spoken with my leadership, Speaker Madigan and told him that this bill does not do a lot of great things for people outside the collar counties and a lot of my colleges have issues with it, in the format it’s in, it would not be a good thing to put on the board at all and I want to work on this and we will have veto hearings that you all can come out to but what I would like to see more of in Illinois is more hand holding and less finger pointing,” Chapa LaVia said.

Representative of the 81st District Ron Sandack agreed, adding that action should’ve been taken before the bill even got to the house.

“Taking from districts that are struggling and giving it to worse struggling school districts, more difficult financial strains is not the way to help struggling school districts. If we are going to have a real conversation about education funding we cannot have it after the bill has passed the general assembly that’s not process, that’s threatening,” Sandack said.

Others felt that there were more pressing matters, like pensions and Medicaid that needed reform before education funding.

“We’ve got big, big issues, other issues that we have to look at, there is no question that everyone in this room understands the importance of education and our kids but we’ve got to work together to take care some of these other things also, so we don’t have to do this or if we do we are having good conversations and not stressful ones,” said Representative of the 11th District, Darlene Senger.

School district 200 in Wheaton could lose 82% of their anticipated state revenue, while Naperville school district 203 could lose 76% and 204, 41%.

That adds up to a more than $9 million loss for each district – and after already making drastic budget cuts in recent years, superintendents warn they can’t cut much more.

“Just yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a school with our most senior principal in the district and she spent a lot of time showing me things that she is very proud of. But she did tell me that there really is not much left to cut within the district, we really only have 2 levers and that’s to significantly increase class size or to significantly decrease the programs that we offer, that was something that really hit home to me,” said Superintendent of Wheaton District 200 Dr. Jeff Schuler.

Residents also voiced their opinions on the bill and urged those in power to make the right choice for the students.

Senate Bill 16 has passed through the senate and is currently up for discussion in the house.


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