Illinois School funding formula

Rochester needs a new junior high. State officials won't argue with that. They even agreed to pick up more than half the tab. Still, they never said anything about putting the project on layaway.

Three years after putting up $8.3 million in local money, voters in this central Illinois town had to step up again, this time to shoulder what has been an empty promise from the state.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

What does a sewer back-up have to do with education? Or for that matter an electrical short? Or a boiler malfunction?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

One school superintendent tells our Statehouse reporter Pat Guinane her district has had to cancel classes because of sewer back-ups. "We're kind of in a low area," says Ruth Schneider of the Stewardson-Strasburg district, "and when it rains real hard we get sewer back-ups — and sometimes even when it doesn't rain. The lines are just old and crumbling and need to be replaced."

Construction paper isn’t in much demand in Carlinville’s schools because elementary students can no longer take art. The teaching staff was cut by more than 17 percent, forcing class sizes to climb at all elementary grades. The average fourth-grade class size is now 29.

The district has had to take several such steps over the past three years to reduce its budget deficit. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 in suburban Chicago spends about $13,600 a year on each student — nearly twice the average per-pupil spending in Illinois. And under a proposal in Gov. George Ryan’s fiscal year 2003 budget — which would take money from 22 categorical grants and redistribute it — that one-school district would get $1.3 million more each year.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's springtime in Illinois, and one can see signs of the season blossoming across the state: daffodils, tulips, forsythia, school referenda.

School referenda?

Yep. Local school officials pleading with local taxpayers for desperately needed dollars has become as much an annual springtime ritual as green beer for St. Paddy's Day and high hopes for the Chicago Cubs.

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