Almost 600 of the 800 school districts in Illinois will split a total of $97 million approved by the Illinois State Board of Education based on their needs.
The board approved the plan last week which will recover state funding that had been cut as a part of a March budget deal. Most districts will see about 75% of their funding return, with 32 districts gaining back 95%.
Chicago Public Schools will receive $33 million of the total funding.
“It’s a huge help,” said Knoxville Superintendent Steve Wilder. “We’re still going to have a deficit, and we’re still needing to hear what’s going to happen in the state budget for next year.”
While the money will help district budgets, concerns still remain about future school funding. Almost every school district across the state would like to see a new way of financing public schools brought about, reports John David for WQAD.
Meanwhile, the state has a $1.6 billion shortfall and a $6 billion deficit is expected for the next fiscal year. The loss is causing the state to close a number of programs, including one that benefits autistic children.
“It’s not easy for me as a mom or parents in general to say they need help raising their child, in my case my children. But when you have a child with autism, or children with autism, especially severe autism, you have to ask for help. You can’t get by without asking for help. And (The Autism Project) is our hope,” Whitney Rikas, a mother of two autistic children, tearfully told a legislative panel.
At the same time, a group of law enforcement officials in the state are pushing for an increase to state funding for early childhood education. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, is asking for an additional $50 million in preschool funding to support programs that keep children from crime. The proposed budget would increase funding for early childhood education by $25 million.
“A lot of what we see is the aftermath of when these young kids grow into adults, and in many instances, these teenagers or adults really didn’t have a lot of guidance when they were young,” Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek said. “Anything we can do, anything educators can do, to help in their development when they are very young should lead to more positive results as they grow older.”
One study out of Michigan showed that students who did not attend preschool were five times more likely to arrested for a drug felony and two times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 27 than those who did attend preschool.
“What we’re saying is let’s not build more prisons or incarcerate more people,” said Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes, who also heads the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. “What we believe in is investing those dollars wisely upfront for a long-term investment and great return on the dollar.”