Elgin Area School District U-46 would have had $7.55 million more this year had the state paid its full per-pupil aid amount. Under a proposed budget by the Illinois State Board of Education, next year U-46 and all other districts would see the money state statute says they're owed.
But that'd be an $875 million increase in the 2014 education budget over this year's allocation. And it's up to elected officials to decide whether the board of education's proposal gets approved.
Local districts are more than skeptical.
The state's funding formula says the minimum cost to educate students adequately in Illinois is $6,119 per pupil. But districts have not seen that amount in general state aid payments for two years. Last year, the legislature appropriated just 89 percent of the total, leaving districts in the lurch.
U-46 has not purchased new school buses for three years because of a lack of funds. Patrick Mogge, Director of School and Community Relations, said the district will have to wait and see what the legislature decides and how that will impact services next year.
"We have to be conservative in our planning since our personnel and other decisions need to be made in March, but the legislature typically won't act until the eleventh hour in late May," Mogge said.
The state board of education submitted its proposed budget, including more than $5 billion in general state aid, to Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly at the end of January. U-46, the second largest school district in the state, would see the sixth largest gain in state revenue if the proposed budget is approved by legislators.
State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico said in a news release that the majority of districts are just treading water and deficit spending.
"We need to reverse the trend of slashing education budgets if we want to position our students and state economy for success in the future," Chico said.
But instead of hoping for 100 percent of the baseline per-pupil general state aid amount, Chief Financial Officer of Community Unit District 300 Susan Harkin said the Carpentersville-based district is planning for next year as though it will receive only 80 percent, a more likely value floated within the education community.
At a reception in January, District 300 officials identified general state aid as one of its legislative priorities for this year. Not only does the district want to see 100 percent of the baseline per-student amount distributed next year, but they want the legislature to raise it from $6,119, where it has been since 2010.
State board officials are expected to defend their budget recommendation before House and Senate committees in March and April.