The Southtown Star

Additional cuts to school funding 'appalling' to Southland educators

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Cook County School District 130 awaits $4 million in state payments for the school year that wrapped up in June.

So news that Gov. Pat Quinn plans to ax an additional $146 million in student transportation funding and $68.5 million in reading improvement funding from districts across Illinois has District 130 Supt. Ray Lauk calling the cuts "appalling," just as he prepares to welcome students back later this month.

"I'm not disillusioned by anything the state does," said Lauk, whose district serves students from Crestwood, Alsip, Blue Island and Robbins.

"The state has not been fulfilling its commitment to kids and schools for years and years, and this is just more of the same. It's appalling, but not surprising."

Quinn detailed more funding cuts to right Illinois' upside-down budget this week on top of about $500 million in cuts he announced in July. This round saw Quinn slash school transportation and reading improvement funding, operations funds for psychiatric hospitals and developmental centers and a subsidy to a wildlife park in Peoria.

Quinn's budget office said the total additional reductions amount to about $891 million, to make a total of $1.4 billion in cuts since July. Illinois is facing a $13 billion budget shortfall and has one of the lowest credit ratings in the nation.

Quinn in July announced he planned to slice $241 million in funding for preschool to high school. Quinn's latest cuts mean school districts will operate in the 2010-11 school year with $311 million less in state funding.

These cuts come as many Southland districts await state reimbursement for bills paid during past school year.

That's the case in Forest Ridge School District 142, where Supt. Margaret Longo said the district awaits more than $500,000 in reimbursement for last year.

"The additional loss of revenue from our state will compound an already catastrophic impact on our schools throughout the Southland," she said. "We're not saying hire more teachers, we're saying give our children a chance to learn and fund an equitable education."