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updated: 5/14/2014 6:13 PM

Lawmakers: IMSA budget could be cut over diversity

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SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora could see about a 10 percent cutback under a proposed state budget after some Democrats criticized the Aurora school for having a student body that's not diverse enough.

The proposed budget, which could see a vote in the Illinois House Thursday, would send $16.6 million to IMSA, which would be about a $1.8 million cut from what the state is spending there this year, lawmakers said.

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat, called the academy an "enclave of wealthy children" and said it doesn't have enough black and Latino students.

"They've failed to deliver in that regard," Dunkin said during a budget hearing Wednesday.

Messages left with IMSA officials weren't immediately returned. The academy focuses on math and science education, and its website says students are admitted based on their accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.

"Along with these criteria, geographic and demographic variables are considered to ensure a diverse student population," the website says.

Dunkin said IMSA has seen budget boosts over the last three years but has been cautioned by lawmakers to have more black and Latino students.

"This has been an ongoing discussion for quite some time with IMSA," Dunkin said.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Rockford Republican, said the cut would be unfair because Dunkin couldn't say if the state had set out specific diversity goals.

"It didn't seem like we had any goals, percentage-wise, for them to meet," Sosnowski said.

State Rep. Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, said she's happily in the past backed more money for the academy, which is in her district. But she also had criticism.

"I am getting very frustrated with having to defend myself to my minority colleagues for fighting for money for them," Chapa LaVia said, "when they come to an event there and they don't see the black and brown children that look like them."

Chapa LaVia said that out of 650 students, 299 are white, 296 are Asian, 71 are Latino and 62 are black, while 31 didn't identify a race or ethnicity.

The House Democrats' budget is far from final and is based on lawmakers renewing the 2011 income tax hike rather than letting it expire as scheduled, an outcome that isn't yet certain.

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