"It's easy to say you're for more money
for schools, but when faced with a $2 billion deficit, it's a little
harder to prove you mean it," said Gov. Blagojevich. "Both chambers
of the General Assembly passed legislation this spring that would
boost the state's share of education funding. But a lot of those
legislators later backed down when it came time to figure out how to
pay for the increase. I'm proud to be joined today by these
committed leaders who understand that, though it won't be easy, we
cannot turn our backs on our school children. Democrats in the state
Senate held together to pass a budget that reflects our priorities
but also details how we can pay for them. That budget and the
determination of those legislators should serve as our standard
during the ongoing budget negotiations."
Under the budget passed by the state
Senate and supported by the governor, the state would increase its
spending on K-12 education by $250 per student, which would mean an
additional $106 million for the Chicago Public Schools next year
alone. The money is desperately needed by the Chicago district,
which is facing $100 million in cuts to balance its budget for the
upcoming school year.
The budget passed by the Senate also
includes an increase for early childhood development programs, which
will make nearly 8,000 more at-risk toddlers statewide eligible for
preschool. It also includes an increase of $16.2 million for child
care services in Cook County.
"Tough budget times call for difficult
decisions, and we are prepared to make those decisions, as evidenced
by our votes in the Illinois Senate. The dollars invested in
programs like early childhood education are an investment in the
future of Illinois. It is one we must make," said Senate President
Blagojevich and Jones reiterated that despite the budget deficit, the legislature can balance the
budget and invest in its priorities by making tough cuts in other
areas -- closing old prisons and moving inmates into more efficient
facilities, eliminating unfair corporate tax loopholes, cutting
spending by 2.25 percent in all areas but health and education, and
streamlining state government.
[to top of second column in
Lawmakers from both the House and
Senate vowed to work with the governor and Senate president to
protect education. Twenty signed the
following open letter to Chicago's schoolchildren.
To the school children of Chicago:
The budget proposed by the Governor
and passed by the Illinois State Senate includes $106 million in new
funding for Chicago Public Schools. At a time when Chicago Public
Schools may have to close schools and lay off teachers, our schools
need this money more than ever. Unfortunately, because the state's
budget has not yet been resolved, this $106 million in increased
funding for Chicago's schools, as well as funding for early
childhood education and a host of other programs, is in jeopardy. We
believe it is imperative that the state's final budget include this
funding, and we support taking the necessary steps --- ranging from
closing corporate loopholes, sweeping surplus balances from special
purpose funds, to reducing the size of state government -- to
provide the revenue our schools desperately need.
The letter was signed by Gov. Rod
Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones, Sen. Miguel del Valle,
Sen. Rickey Hendon, Sen. Don Harmon, Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Sen.
James DeLeo, Sen. John Cullerton, Sen. Iris Martinez, Sen. Tony
Munoz, Sen. Mattie Hunter, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Sen. Carol Ronen,
Sen. Martin Sandoval, Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, Rep. Calvin Giles,
Rep. Marlow Colvin, Rep. Ken Dunkin, Rep. Charles Morrow, Rep. David
Miller, Rep. Susana Mendoza and Rep. Richard Bradley.
was scheduled to meet in Springfield with Jones and the three other
legislative leaders to continue budget negotiations.
[News release from the