Morris Daily Herald

State delays cause district to be placed on watch list

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Morris Elementary District 54 will end up on the financial watch list as result of money due by the state of Illinois.
As of July 9, the state still owed the district $393,534.92.

A large source of the funds not paid to the district come from two areas, funding for children requiring special education services and transportation funding.

“The money not paid will be reflected in our fund balance,” Superintendent Teri Shaw said. “We will be on the financial watch list because of this.”

Shaw told the board during their regular meeting that a contact told her the state anticipates paying these bills by December 2010.

In addition to the funding shortfalls, the board will look to make a 2010-2011 budget knowing the state is not only behind on payments, but some payments will be cut or may not arrive at all next year.

“They didn’t take anything away from general state aid, but we can only expect 21 to 22 payments,” Shaw said.

Transportation, which is already behind for last year, is being cut in next year’s state budget.

“Transportation is going to get less, and they are already behind,” Shaw said. “Next year, we can expect them to be behind and get less.”

When looking at the budget, Shaw said the district shouldn’t plan on money they don’t have control over.

A look at the Fiscal Year 2011 Illinois State Board of Education budget shows cuts in several areas.

Transportation shows a 23.7-percent decrease, while other curriculum and instruction categories, such as agricultural education, advance placement classes and the Reading Improvement Block Grant will see a 100-percent decrease.

Student health and safety initiatives, such as ADA block grant and school breakfast incentive programs, will also see a 100-percent decrease.

Funding for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) programs will see cuts as well, with Title V Innovative Programs seeing a 100-percent decrease.

The NCLB requires each district look at Adequate Yearly Progress. White Oak has failed to make AYP for two consecutive years.

“They provide more mandates without funding,” White Oak Principal James Carter told the board. “Title I and Title II is down. Title V funding is gone.”

NCLB has two levels overseeing the district, the federal and state governments.

Title I funding at the federal government level requires the district to send a letter home to parents informing them they did not meet AYP.

“While the school did well overall, NCLB requires that not only the overall performance be at or above 77 percent of students meeting or exceeding reading or math targets, but each individual subgroup must also meet that level,” the letter reads. “White Oak Elementary School has been identified for the school improvement process because one of our subgroups for the second consecutive year did not meet the 77 percent target in reading.”

The district is hoping that score will improve now that they have split from the Grundy County Special Education Co-op and will be instructing special education students with their own staff.

NCLB provides parents the option to transfer their children to another public school within the district, but District 54 has only one elementary school.

The district has contacted neighboring districts to see if they would be willing to accept District 54 students. The districts that have made AYP are MVK, Nettle Creek and Coal City. All three have provided written refusals.

“Therefore, we still have to send the letter out, but there is really no choice for parents to transfer their children to another district,” Carter said.