SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Senate returned to a special session on July 26 to deal with the education funding formula, but not much has happened thanks to the political gamesmanship by the Senate majority, according to State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg).
The Senator expressed his frustration that some area schools are scheduled to begin the 2017-2018 educational year in less than three weeks. Despite this, Fowler said he’s seen an extreme lack of urgency from legislative majorities to advance a school funding bill to the Governor, which must become law before the state can release funds to schools. This uncertainty is causing undue pressure on some rural Southern Illinois school districts that have extremely low cash reserves.
During a June superintendent meeting hosted by Senator Fowler with 22 area educational leaders, it became known that 80 percent of those in attendance had less than 120 days operating cash. Additionally, another four school districts across the 59th Senate District lacked the operating funds to even open their doors for the first day of classes. Other schools such as the Harrisburg Community Unit School District 3, indicated they would be in financial jeopardy as soon as Labor Day.
On July 27, Senator Fowler was joined by Vienna High School District 133 Superintendent Josh Stafford for a series of meetings with the Governor, State Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, and several other local superintendents from across Illinois. Superintendent Stafford was immensely concerned about the fact the Senate Bill 1 has lingered for nearly two months without being transferred to the Governor. The failure of the Senate majority to move the bill to the Governor’s desk so he can take action on the measure is causing a real issue for schools.
Additionally, the situation is compounded even further by the fact that the Illinois checkbook has only $254 million in it, as of July 27. With the state being months behind in processing general state aid payments and other mandated categoricals, the Senate majority’s political games are clearly endangering the beginning of the 17-18 school year.