Impact could affect local schools this year
By Lucas Wright
As the clock struck midnight to close out the month of May on Tuesday night, the Illinois General Assembly closed session still without a budget for the state.
On the morning of Wednesday, June 1, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was making the rounds through multiple southern Illinois communities. One of his stops took him to the Vienna Correctional Center, where he addressed a crowd of local news outlets along with local elected officials and community members.
Rauner’s topic of discussion centered around his proposed bill that would carry the state’s education and prison systems through the end of the year, without a current budget in place.
The state has been without a budget for over a year, and with Rauner taking office just over a year ago, he has taken most of the criticism for the issue. Wednesday, Rauner took his chance to make it known he believes Speaker of the House Mike Madigan is behind the gridlock in Springfield.
“The tragic fact is: Speaker Madigan and his democrats have controlled the General Assembly for more than 30 years. 30 years of total power,” Rauner said. “In those 30 years, we have the highest deficits, debt and unfunded pension liabilities in America thanks to their policies.”
While Springfield has come to a screeching halt in policy making, the rest of the state has suffered at its expense, and the effects are starting to be shown right here in southern Illinois.
As a result of having no budget in play, local schools have had funding issues and the impact could hit the schools hard during the new school year in 2016. The topic of shutting down schools will become a reality in the near future.
“If the state doesn’t pass a budget there will definitely be schools throughout the state that are in the position that they won’t be able to open their doors day one in the fall,” Vienna High School Superintendent Joshua Stafford said. “Schools in Johnson County are able to open their doors. Vienna High School will be able to make it through at least January.”
After that point in January, things seem to be dim for Vienna schools according to Stafford.
“I don’t know what the exact solution is after that, but there is definitely nothing off the table,” Stafford said. “When your checkbook balance goes to zero because you are not receiving the revenue the state owes you, you’re looking at all the options. There is a potential in January that we may have to close our doors.”
With the topic of shutting down schools across the state, it would seem like the state legislature would be looking for a way to find a budget to keep schools open, but there is a roadblock in the way for funding to pass, according to Rauner.
Rauner said the General Assembly is trying to prioritize a buyout for Chicago areas schools ahead of other schools in Illinois.
With this in the way, Rauner’s press conference focused on highlighting the key points of his K-12 education-funding bill. The governor calls the bill a “clean” funding bill, free of any other policies. Rauner also is in the works of passing a bill to fund universities, prisons, facilities and critical government operations. He said the bill would get the state through to January where he hopes the state can “redo the funding formula and make it more fair and more supportive of the school districts, particularly those downstate.”
While the answer to Illinois’ budget problem does not look to be solved anytime soon, the Governor said he is hopeful for a solution this year. He also pointed out with it being an election year most in the General Assembly are prepared to drag out the fight throughout the entirety of 2016.