Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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After-school, gifted program cuts approved by Ill. Board of Ed.

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[July 22, 2009]  CHICAGO (AP) -- The Illinois Board of Education on Tuesday approved a budget that eliminates funding for after-school and gifted programs and cuts money for early childhood, reading and foreign language instruction by as much as half.

Speaking at an emergency meeting, board chairman Jesse Ruiz said Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers had given the board no choice. They approved an overall education budget of nearly $7.3 billion for fiscal 2010, a 2 percent decrease from the $7.4 billion allocated the year before.

And while this year appears to be rough, Ruiz said, next year could be "catastrophic." He urged people to demand answers from politicians soon headed to the campaign trail.

"We need to become very, very, very discriminating in our public officials," Ruiz said. "Keep your dollars in your pocket. Give it to a school before you give it to a candidate."


Education board members also voted Tuesday to severely reduce funding for arts, agricultural education, advanced placement classes, bilingual studies and teacher certification programs. Money for the rehabilitation of truant students and the visually impaired also was slashed.

Advocates who testified at the meeting warned of consequences as dire as more children on the streets. Officials agreed that, at the least, the cuts could hurt the quality and competitiveness of education in the state.

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Of the overall education budget, the Legislature set general state aid -- money allocated to school districts -- at more than $4.7 billion for fiscal 2010, up 2.5 percent, or nearly $117 million, from the previous year. That amounts to about $160 more per pupil for the year.

While they passed the budget unanimously, board members said they felt broken-hearted and dejected.

"I do not envy you," Gerald Brookhart, Peoria regional education superintendent, told them while testifying. He said the board was faced with the question: "Which child are you going to throw away?"

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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