Tuesday, May 11

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'Not one of the six (Logan County school districts) is even close to receiving the (state) mandated 51 percent of school funding,' Mitchell says       Send a link to a friend

[MAY 11, 2004]  State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, held a small, informal press conference in the Lincoln Community High School lobby last Friday afternoon. The legislator announced that he is distributing a petition in his area in a bipartisan attempt across the state to convince Gov. Rod Blagojevich to call a special session of the state legislature. The purpose for this session would be to discuss state funding for schools.

The petition reads:

We, the undersigned, as residents, parents of students, and concerned citizens of the State of Illinois, join State Representative Bill Mitchell in his request to have the Honorable Governor Rod Blagojevich call for a Special Session of the Illinois General Assembly to focus solely on school funding in Illinois, and to determine how the state will pay 51% of all public education costs for all schools in the State of Illinois.

The Illinois state constitution mandates that the government pay most of the operating costs for public schools. Mitchell presented a chart on which six Logan County school districts were compared. Not one of the six is even close to receiving the mandated 51 percent of school funding from the state government. New Holland-Middletown came closest with 27.9 percent.

In Illinois, schools rely heavily on property taxes to pay for educational costs. This is fine in some areas, but in rural areas where property taxes are low and in areas with large populations of apartment dwellers, the schools are not able to spend as much on education as in some of the more affluent areas. The disparity is as large as $4,800 to $17,000.

Mitchell says, "I feel the children in my district are just as deserving as those attending school in the wealthy suburbs, and the state ought to be widening the gap in per pupil education spending."

According to U.S. Census Bureau Annual Survey of Local Government Finances, Illinois ranks 48th in the nation in state funds going to education, with only 3.5 percent of state resources going to education.

 

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In the press release distributed at the press conference, Mitchell wrote, "The Illinois School Board Journal reported in its May-June 2004 edition that a national publication, Education Week, has given Illinois and F for educational funding equity. Our state is the only state in the nation to receive a failing score in this category."

Lincoln Community High School Superintendent Fred Plese stated a severe need for additional funding, saying that the foundation funds do not add up to the amount reported; the schools are only getting a percentage of the allotted money. He said that it is difficult to find money for different programs and pay teachers.

Other schools in our area, such as Chester-East Lincoln, have cut major programs in attempts to balance their budgets when not enough funds are forthcoming.

Rep. Mitchell is making the rounds of his district to try to gain support and signatures on his petition. He was in Clinton and Lincoln on Friday and in Forsyth on Monday. He explained that while the petition won't carry force of law, it will make the governor aware of public sentiments and make a difference in his decision.

Citizens may obtain a copy of the petition by calling Mitchell's office at his toll-free number, 1 (866) 801-1968.

[Ruth Halpin]

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