Schools, lawmakers push for bill to end ‘unequal’ school funding

One school district is taking a stand against what they call unequal school funding after years of cutting budgets, teachers and dealing with crumbling classrooms and old textbooks.

Their school leaders, teachers and lawmakers are joining in with others around the state to stand together for change.

Peeling paint, warped walls, even holes in the ceiling and classrooms can been seen where kids at Harrisburg High School come to learn.

Agriculture teacher Nick James says programs like his have little to no funding.

"You know, we’re building toolboxes, and it costs me about $10 a kid to do that. And that money had to come from fundraising, from us doing things and then selling it," said James. He says the projects they make in class often have to be sold to pay for supplies for future projects.

Harrisburg teachers say you don’t have to look any farther than the textbooks they use to see how little funding they have to work with in their schools.

Superintendent Mike Gauch says the money coming in from the state isn’t enough. He says they receive $8,000 to $9,000 per student where other districts receive upward of $30,000 per student. He says they’ve cut everything they can, but something needs to change.

"A lot of mornings of looking in the mirror and asking yourself: Are you cutting your children in to irrelevance and not providing them what they need, too? And what will next year even look like?" Gauch said.

Gauch is joining with other schools and lawmakers pushing for an equal funding bill so schools all around Illinois would get state funding based on need and size. More than 100 people came out Monday night to hear more about it, many saying they support it. They say schools and students need more help than they’re getting now.

"And sometimes the kids get upset because they want to do this or they want to do that, but we don’t have the resources to do some of those things,” James said.

He says that needs to change, and that starts with schools taking a stand.

State Sen. Andy Manar, one of the bill’s proponents, said he expects the equal funding bill to come up for a vote in the Senate in the coming weeks. Area lawmakers joined Manar Monday, pledging their support for the bill.

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