School administrators warn of budget, funding issues in Illinois

Your children may not have a school to go back to in the fall, thanks to the Illinois budget impasse.

Illinois agreed on a one-year education budget even without a state budget last year. However, state leaders say they are not willing to consider the same option this year.

That has school superintendents like Mike Gauch and Spencer Byrd scratching their heads as they try to budget for next year.

"We have 30 to 40 days cash on hand,” said Gauch. “We could exhaust that in August."

"We could probably open our doors, but we couldn’t keep them open very long," said Byrd.

Districts like Harrisburg and Meridian have already scaled back programs after receiving less than originally promised from the state over the past four years, so cutting extra-curricular programs would be a drop in the bucket. 

That means, unless the state passes an education budget, the only option districts may have is to close the doors.

"We are slowly dying on the vine,” said Gauch. “We are not servicing children the way we need to currently. We need a budget."

However, a budget is still a temporary fix.

Gauch and Byrd say a complete overhaul of the funding system is needed.

"I can’t buy textbooks aligned to the standards you want to hold me accountable for, but they’re having sushi and string quartet in other school districts,” said Gauch.

"It’s not working, and it hasn’t been working for a long time,” said Byrd.

"We have a flawed funding formula,” said Gauch.

A Senate bill would give low income, high poverty districts a boost by taking money for wealthier schools. But a year after it was introduced, it has yet to be considered for a vote.

It’s unclear what would happen to students if a district were forced to close because of funding issues.

There will be a town hall forum in Harrisburg on April 11 to try and discuss creative solutions to funding issues facing schools in southern Illinois.

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