Schools waiting on funding for fall semester

While most Illinois schools are already out for the summer, legislators still have a couple more days to go.

They’ve got until May 31 to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2017, though the state has run without a budget since July 1, 2015.

With just a few days left in the session, schools are now worrying about the future of their funding and their students.

There’s just a few more days of the school year for the third-graders in Juilie McRoy’s class. Kids and teachers around East Side Elementary are looking forward to the long vacation summer brings.

But McRoy says ending the school year without next year’s budget has the whole district on edge.

"It makes everybody have a little bit more tension at the end of the year, and it’s not a fun place to be sometimes," said McRoy.

If lawmakers can’t compromise and pass funding for schools, Harrisburg teachers say they’re not sure what kind of classrooms they’ll be coming back to in the fall.

"We’d figure out a way for the first month or so to stay open. Then, depending on when tax money came in ,we could stay open a little longer. But we are 64 percent reliant on state funding, so our reserves are low already," said Mike Gauch, superintendent of Harrisburg Community Unit School District.

Gauch says they need that $14 million from the state to keep classes going. He says the problem with passing funding now is it’s only a one-year solution to a big funding problem for impoverished districts like Harrisburg. He says education funding needs to be reformed, but they’ll take any funding they can get that will keep the doors open and classes going.

McRoy says stopping mid-year could leave parents paying for day care during the school year, and standardized testing could get a lot harder for the kids when they do come back.

"It’s kind of hard to start school, get everything lined up, and then all of a sudden we may have to go home," McRoy said.

And whatever days they miss, they have to make up. The school still needs to fit 180 days in to the school calendar, and if the standoff continues for months, she says it could be June or July before seniors can graduate high school.

She says she and others are hoping to see funding passed so they can keep classes going year-round.

Lawmakers and educators came together Thursday in Springfield. They’re rallying for a budget compromise, but also education reform, so districts like Harrisburg can do more to help provide the education the students deserve.

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