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updated: 3/13/2013 7:51 AM

State board pleads for more school funding

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SPRINGFIELD -- Just a week after Gov. Pat Quinn called for cuts to public school funding, members of the Illinois State Board of Education said Tuesday they need more money next year to keep them out of a "free fall."

"This would reverse the trend of cuts that are impacting our students," Christopher Koch, the state superintendent, said before a House committee Tuesday afternoon.

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Lawmakers are unlikely to grant that wish, making it tough for schools that already have tight budgets.

"I have never seen our schools in such a free fall," said Dave Fields, an ISBE board member.

State Rep. Dave McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said that until the state gets pension costs under control, cuts were likely coming.

"Frankly, I think we are going to have to (cut) because we aren't adopting pension reform soon enough," McSweeney said.

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, wondered whether school districts were being financially creative with their tax dollars.

"Sometimes people are great educators but they aren't great business people," Chapa LaVia said.

School officials said that although they are asking for more money next year, it's only as much as they got in 2011. Lawmakers have since cut their budget.

Board members insist the money is needed to fund the high-quality public education required by the Illinois Constitution, something they say they are currently not providing.

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