The Illinois Legislature’s failure to fund schools will “ruin” Homewood District 153’s financial structure, according to Superintendent Dale Mitchell.
The failure of state government to adopt a budget and establish a school financial plan will further erode District 153 financial health. The inability of the legislature to act also means District 153 loses federal money for textbooks and special education, Mitchell wrote in a district newsletter.
The legislature needs to act on funding by July 1. State funding is 25 percent of the district’s annual budget.
Mitchell said he will be working with the school board on contingency plans so that Homewood’s James Hart, Churchill and Willow Schools open on time and maintain “the outstanding education that our children deserve and that (parents and residents) have come to expect.”
“Without state support District 153 would only be able to open and operate for one year,” he said. “Bills for the 2016-17 school year will be paid with (the $9 million) bond sale money approved in a spring referendum.
“That money was meant to meet fiscal shortfalls for the next seven years,” Mitchell added.
Mitchell said the state has repeatedly shortchanged schools by prorating general state aid payments. District 153 has lost approximately $2 million in state aid since 2012. That has pushed more of the burden for school funding onto taxpayers.
The district also could be hurt if it can’t receive federal funding.
Mitchell said under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Illinois lawmakers must pass, and the governor must sign, an education appropriations bill so districts and cooperatives, such as SPEED, can receive federal money for special education.
The District 153 school board approved a new kindergarten through fifth grade math curriculum for the coming year, but it may not be able to implement the program because it can’t order the books.
Mitchell explained that schools can’t apply for funding because the state doesn’t even have an application process. The contractor building Illinois’ online application quit when it wasn’t paid.
“We fear we won’t be able to order the curriculum materials in time to have it delivered for the beginning of the new school year,” the superintendent wrote.
He urges taxpayers to contact elected officials to share concerns about the state budget impasse:
Governor Bruce Rauner
State Senator Toi Hutchinson
State Senator Napoleon Harris
State Representative Will Davis
State Representative Anthony DeLuca
State Representative Thaddeus Jones