Schools chiefs to urge state lawmakers Wednesday to end budget impasse
Suburban school superintendents joined by statewide school chiefs will converge on Springfield Wednesday -- when the legislature is set to adjourn its spring session -- to urge passage of a state budget for the first time in two years.
"Enough is enough," said Elgin Area School District U-46 Chief Executive Officer Tony Sanders, who has been leading the charge. "Your primary responsibility is to develop and pass a state budget. It is time to put aside politics and partisan differences and put students first."
U-46, the state's second-largest school district, is owed $18.5 million in mandated categorical payments for the school year now coming to a close, officials said.
Despite approving a budget for K-12 education, the state owes public schools $1.1 billion in payments this year for programs such as special education, bilingual education, early childhood education and transportation.
"We serve so many students who are getting English Language Learner services. We have a high special education population so it's impacting districts like ours more than others," U-46 spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.
Since April the nonpartisan coalition of 440 superintendents representing 1.4 million students has been calling on lawmakers to end the state budget impasse, improve the state's education funding formula, and pay school districts what they are owed.
Fergus said roughly 50 superintendents are expected to join Sanders in imploring Gov. Bruce Rauner, House and Senate leaders, and legislators to end the impasse at an 11:30 a.m. news conference Wednesday at the State Capitol rotunda.
"They will be meeting with their individual legislators as much as possible," she said. "They want to send a clear message that not passing a budget really hurts schools. For a long time districts have been making cuts, increasing class sizes, trying to keep the cuts away from the classroom ... it's becoming more difficult to do that. We don't want to go into our third year without a state budget. We really don't want another stopgap partial budget for education."
U-46 officials have said without a state budget, schools would be able to stay open only through Thanksgiving.