Future of education funding uncertain in Illinois

Your child may go back to school in the fall, but for how long?

Lawmakers in Illinois ended the spring session Tuesday night without passing any education or other funding for state programs that would end the ongoing budget stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is touring the state Wednesday, urging lawmakers to put away the politics and pass his proposed stopgap funding measures that would let schools stay open next year.

Many school administrators say funding for next year is a good option but isn’t a long-term solution for their funding problems.

The hallways inside Vienna High School and countless others around the state of Illinois are sitting empty for the summer, and they may stay that way if lawmakers don’t pass funding for schools soon.

Vienna High School Superintendent Joshua Stafford says their schools will open, but he’s not sure how long they can go.

"We’re kind of left with, we have to close. Whether that’s temporary or for how long, I don’t know. There’s lots of questions about closing schools. We’ve not had to do that in the past," Stafford said.

Illinois lawmakers still haven’t balanced the books for the last fiscal year, but Rauner says without a budget they now need to fund schools so they can keep classrooms open in the fall.

Rauner was in Vienna and other parts of the state Wednesday urging lawmakers to pass his new plan to fund schools.

"It puts more money in our schools. Our teachers deserve it, our kids deserve it, because we are dead last. We’re the worst state in America for funding our schools. Our schools need more support," Rauner said.

The stopgap funding would take care of this year, but Stafford said it doesn’t change the funding formula that many in the state say is unfair to low income districts.

"You can’t tell me that our kids here in southern Illinois aren’t worth as much as other kids all around the state. That’s unfair and absolutely unacceptable," Stafford said. He says kids in Vienna get roughly $8,000 in funding each year, whereas students in many districts get $25,000 to $30,000 per student.

Stafford says he wants lawmakers to change that, but right now his priority is making sure the doors stay open for students all year round.

Rauner is also touting his bill to pass stopgap funding to keep state programs going through January if a budget deal can’t be reached. He says that funding will help area health departments and prisons with their funding so they no longer have to struggle to stay open.

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