Local superintendents on school funding bill - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Local superintendents on school funding bill

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MARION -- As the struggle over a school funding formula continues, local superintendents are urging lawmakers to act quickly. School leaders hosted a news conference Monday afternoon in Marion to stress the urgency of adopting school funding reform.

Within two weeks, schools across Illinois will open their doors for students to start a new semester. Jennifer Garrison, superintendent of Sandoval Community Unit District 501, said that could mean having to close schools as early as September in her district.

"For us, we're high poverty and low property wealth," Garrison said. "Some districts can stay open longer once they get their tax revenue; for us, that gets us through one more month."

That's because although an Illinois budget has passed, schools will not be able to receive state money without an evidence-based funding formula, so many superintendents are pushing for Senate Bill 1.

"SB1 moves all school districts forward. It's a world of work that's been vetted from every imaginable angle," said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of Illinois Association of School Administrators.

Governor Bruce Rauner has criticized the bill, saying it contains a pension bailout for Chicago, an issue he said should be handled separately.

Meantime, local school leaders said the bill isn't perfect, but it's what the state needs for students. Superintendents, like Gary Kelly of Du Quoin, are hopeful lawmakers will come to an agreement soon through negotiating.

"We've got to get the model so we can start school," Kelly said. "We are this close right now."

And Marion Community Unit School District 2 Superintendent Keith Oates agreed.

"We are very hopeful and encouraged that something will get done hopefully today or sometime in the very near future if not today," Oates said.

Superintendents and school leaders hope a decision will be made in time to distribute checks to schools. The deadline for the state to distribute those payments is Aug. 10.

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