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updated: 4/29/2013 10:16 PM

Dist. 300 to fight transportation funding cuts

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  • Transportation is an emotional issue in the 118-square-mile Community Unit District 300.

       Transportation is an emotional issue in the 118-square-mile Community Unit District 300.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 

Members of the Community Unit District 300 legislative committee met with eight out of their nine state senators and representatives in April, most of them last week. The committee held a special meeting Monday night to debrief after those conversations and consider their next steps, especially in regards to proposed transportation funding cuts.

Sen. Dan Duffy is the lone senator in a district whose boundaries cross District 300 who did not meet with committee members.

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The discussion about transportation funding comes as the state budget deadline looms. A proposal by Gov. Pat Quinn would cut District 300's share of state dollars to $60,000 from $1.8 million, which would push the total loss in transportation funding over the last four years to $5.3 million, according to Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin.

That's half of what the district spends each year getting its students to school.

And Superintendent Michael Bregy said District 300 has already trimmed its transportation budget over the last few years. This year there are 30 percent fewer bus stops than there were just last year.

"I don't know what wiggle room is left," Bregy said. "There's no other place to give."

Transportation is a more emotional issue in the 118-square-mile Carpentersville-area district than it is in Chicago, for example, where students generally walk to school or take public transit.

But legislative committee members pointed out they may be able to find common cause with other suburban and downstate districts that are similarly obligated to bus their students to school.

As District 300 Director of Transportation Donna Bordsen pointed out Monday, just because legislators are taking away transportation funding, they are not taking away the requirement to provide the service.

Committee members discussed ways to coordinate lobbying efforts with other districts to oppose cuts. But not all districts will be put in such a desperate situation by lowered transportation funding.

That's why committee members figure they'll be better off working with other districts to protest any further cuts to education, regardless of the category. And if they succeed in restoring funding for transportation, committee members want to be sure those cuts don't shift to another piece of the education budget.

"None of us are asking for more money for education this year," said school board member and committee chairman Steve Fiorentino, referring to educators from across the state. "We're just saying we don't want more cuts."

Bregy will be in Springfield today with plans to testify in favor of a moratorium on virtual charter schools.

He said he hopes to speak with legislators about transportation funding as well, conversations legislative committee members will continue to have.

Eventually, though, the community also may be called on to join the fight.

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