Protests, hearings over school funding

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SPRINGFIELD-Parents, school superintendents and others protested at the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, ahead of a hearing on state funding for schools.

The group called for a change to the state's school funding formula which they say is putting disproportionate pressure on smaller and poorer districts.

"We've had to cut 20 percent of our teaching staff, 15 percent of our support staff, 25 percent of our administrative team," said Pana Superintendent David Lett."We heard from the Mundelein district at the last hearing about how they had to cut girls' lacrosse, (while) we're worried about having up-to-date textbooks."

Another parent from the Taylorville school district who also works in the district said she hopes legislators will approve proposals to change the funding formula, even though other proposals have failed.

"I just want them to have an open mind, to try to come together on both sides to realize that so many kids are being hurt by not getting some kind of fair funding," said that parent, Jenny Moats.

At the same time, Moats acknowledged that state aid only makes up a portion of school budgets.

"We're looking at a potential referendum for our school district in April 2017, so we know we're going to have our work cut out for that too," Moats said.

During the hearing, members of the Education Task Force heard from representatives of Community Consolidated School District  in DuPage County in the Chicago Suburbs. Representatives of the district described their efforts to add programs for students, including a growing population of students who are learning English as a second language. District officials told the task force proposed changes to funding could cost
their district well over $1 million annually.

While one representative pointed out that would be less than 5 percent of the district's budget and that the district already spends almost $15,000 per student each year, another representative from the Chicago area suggested that the district has that money because community members had agreed to pay higher property taxes, and he went on to suggest that it might be unfair to deny the district its current level of financial aid because it
was doing well financially.

At least one Central Illinois superintendent in the room made several loud sighs, chuckled and exclaimed his surprise as
representatives of the Chicago-area district discussed their finances, including the number of months' worth of cash
reserves the district has on hand.

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