Area legislator hears budget concerns from superintendents
Budget inaction and continued uncertainty were on the minds of area superintendents during a June 20 meeting convened by State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, to discuss area schools’ cash flow issues.
“Our school superintendents are increasingly frustrated with the ongoing impasse, and that associated uncertainty weighs heavily on their decisions when roughly 80 percent of my supers indicate that they have less than 120 days of working cash,” Fowler said in a news release.
“How can they think about improving educational quality for Southern Illinois students, when they are more concerned with ensuring that the doors are able to open in less than two months?”
The meeting was attended by 22 Southern Illinois superintendents, from 10 of the 13 counties that make up the 59th Senate District.
At least four school districts indicated that they doubt they have enough working cash to open the doors in August.
A series of education cooperatives throughout the 59th District have already prepared to close without a budget.
Those closures and other uncertainties have already resulted in dozens of educators and scores of other educational professionals knowing that they will not be retained for the 2017-2018 school year.
“I heard from one superintendent that he does his own diesel mechanicing on his district’s buses. These administrators have cut for years and now we are in crisis mode,” Fowler said.
The June 20 meeting was held on the eve of the Illinois General Assembly’s return to the State Capitol for a 10-day special session.
Fowler said he has been anxiously awaiting the return to Springfield to hopefully bring an end to the budget impasse.
Harrisburg school superintendent Mike Gauch offered the following comments: “I appreciated this meeting today, and I hope that we can do it more often. It was refreshing to have a legislator meet with us. We have a situation here in Southern Illinois where we need funding just to open our doors. We are all frustrated and we know that the taxpayers have done their part and we are obligated to open the doors.”
Vienna High School Superintendent Josh Stafford noted: “We can’t continue to take in a nickel and spend a dime. Because of the absolute circus in Springfield, it’s putting our most precious resource, our youth, at risk because the school doors can’t open on time.
“The state cannot continue to pass along mandates without local control. We have to have a larger discussion on returning local control back to the local districts.
“On average, between the five schools in Vienna and the surrounding area that feed into Vienna High, we have approximately 85 days of working cash available.”