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Schools Face Hiking Fees, Cutting School Year To Help Cover Shrinking State Funds

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois school districts in the East Saint Louis area are raising student fees and even considering a shorter school year as state education funding continues to be held up by the long-running Illinois budget crisis.

More than 400 Illinois school leaders statewide are calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state legislature to pass a budget -- in addition to a lawsuit asking the state to give schools what they were promised.

Collinsville Supt. Bob Green says his district is losing another $2 million in state funding this year. It’s a symptom of Illinois giving only about 80 percent of what it should to public school districts.

As the budget stalemate reaches nearly two years, Green says he may have to shorten the school year to save money.

“I know not starting school until October or ending early in March is kind of drastic,” he said, “but we’re getting painted into a corner that there’s not going to be a lot of options.”

But that move could mean losing even more state funding as a penalty.

Democratic State Sen. Bill Haine, who represents the Collinsville area east of Saint Louis, says depriving schools of the money they’re due is crippling one of the state’s best public assets.  

“We need a groundswell of public opinion focusing on this as the issue, not political issues,” Haine said.

Granite City School Supt. Jim Greenwald notes that it’s been nearly two years since school districts have received full state funding.

“You can’t continue just putting your finger in the dike, so to speak, to keep the flooding from taking place,” he said.

Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis says the governor has made recommendations to make school funding more equitable.

In the meantime, student fees in Collinsville will increase, and a spot on the high school baseball team next year will cost $100 instead of $75 this season. Fees for art classes and driver’s ed are also going up.

Greenwald’s district has put off building repairs and left teacher and staff positions vacant.

Ryan Delaney works on the Innovation Trail project - covering technology, economic development, startups and other issues relating to New York's innovation economy.