School Funding Still Up for Debate

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

FRANKLIN CO. -- Illinois schools could soon get relief from unfunded programs. However, the question of how much money schools will get or receive next year is still up for debate.

Senate Bill 16 would completely switch up the funding system. It's an attempt to make districts more equal and send more money to the poorer schools.
 
The plan has been going through major changes this week. One idea would be to let districts opt out of the unfunded mandates.
 
Did you celebrate Leif Erickson day in October and spend a half hour learning about the norse explorer? Did you watch a movie about the Irish famine? Both are part of a long list of topics in Illinois that are required but may not have attached funding.
 
"I've been reviewing some of the mandates," said Frankfort Community Schools Superintendent Greg Goins. "Some of them I've read for the first time."
 
Administrators, like Goins, can have a difficult time keeping up with the ever-changing law.  He's also not positive his students have officially covered all of the current ones, like Arbor and Bird Day in April.
 
"That day we were supposed to teach about birds in the classroom and go out an plant some trees," said Goins. "And I don't know how many teachers did that."
 
Illinois schools could soon opt out of those lessons. 
 
The waiver is part of a plan to overhaul the state's school funding moves forward. The change passed committee on Tuesday and would give schools a chance to drop unfunded mandates
 
Some of those mandates are major topics, like teaching about the Holocaust or Driver's Education. 
 
Goins is hoping that his district will get the same amount of funding next year or that the new formula will help. He wants that to be the area that lawmakers focus on. 
 
"We cover a lot of the mandates anyway," said Goins. 
 
The district has made painful cuts over the past three years. They've lost staff and programs.
 
Goins is trying to plan for 2015, but that's a tough process when the state isn't sure of it's next move.
     
"Now we're inside of 10 days before the deadline," said Goins. "We still probably have more questions than answers."
 
Another change made to the bill this week would limit the amount of state funding that some school districts would lose under the new formula. It would be capped at a $1000 per student.
 
Districts are also worried about whether or not the state will extend the income tax hike. Frankfort Schools have been warned if the state doesn't keep the hike, they're funding could be cut by over a million dollars next year.
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