'Not one of the six (Logan County school
districts) is even close to receiving the (state) mandated 51 percent of
school funding,' Mitchell says
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[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.
obtain a copy of the petition by calling Mitchell's office at his
toll-free number, 1 (866) 801-1968.