Sunday's Quincy Herald-Whig featured an editorial about the devastating impact the state's unpaid bills are having on local schools.
The editorial referenced Senator Sullivan's recent comment that "too many schools, health care providers and local businesses have been forced to assume the burden of the state's failures."
Senator Sullivan supports a plan to Pay the Bills. Show your support for the plan by signing the petition, here.
Read Sunday's Editorial after the jump.
School cuts point to need for state to pay what is owed
THE QUINCY School Board last week approved plans to eliminate 43 teaching and support positions through layoffs and retirements to shave as much as $1.8 million from next year's budget.
This move comes after the board eliminated 78 positions last year, along with the Teen Parent Services program, as part of a $4 million spending reduction plan. There were 28 positions cut in 2009 and 36 others in 2008, along with the closing of Irving School, for a combined savings of $4.7 million.
Administrators and School Board members are being forced to make these difficult decisions to balance expenses and revenues because the state of Illinois has not maintained an appropriate share of the cost of funding education - a critical priority for Illinois' future.
The state is compounding that mistake now by failing to honor its current obligations, placing an even bigger financial burden on school districts, leaving them with little choice but to cut personnel and programs.
Quincy, which is owed $3 million in past payments, is not alone.
The Rockford School District is facing a repeat of last March when 573 staff members - a mix of teachers, grant-funded employees and nontenured administrators - were dismissed or reclassified. Most were hired back, but the number of teachers laid off could be higher and the number of recalled teachers much lower this year.
The Cahokia School District in the Metro East area last week sent layoff notices to one-fifth of its faculty. Elgin plans to let go 132 employees, including 53 teachers. Crystal Lake has had to reduce staff by offering early retirement to teachers and leaving those jobs unfilled, along with freezing salaries with union support, in the face of $5 million in lost state funding.
The list doesn't end there, but those examples help illustrate the state of education in Illinois today.
The Illinois State Board of Education recently released its annual report of school districts statewide, showing public schools in 2010 laid off a total of 2,102 tenured and nontenured teachers. That was 664 more layoffs than in 2009.
State budget cuts and late state aid payments are the root cause of this surge in dismissals. The situation prompted state Sen. John Sullivan of Rushville to say recently that Illinois must find a way to pay its bills because "too many schools, health care providers and local businesses have been forced to assume the burden of the state's failures."
State support for elementary and secondary education would climb 3.2 percent to $7.2 billion next year under the budget proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn, but that would still be 1 percent lower than in the 2009-2010 school year. Quinn also wants to reduce transportation reimbursements by $95 million, eliminate regional superintendent of school offices and consolidate school districts.
Republican Senate leaders want to trim $725 million from the governor's education spending plan by keeping the foundation level - or how much schools get per student annually - flat for the third year in a row.
All of those proposals must still be debated while Illinois grapples with a massive budget deficit.
Meanwhile, many school districts will continue to cut as state and local tax revenues fail to keep pace with expenses, some of the best and brightest teachers will become disillusioned and leave the profession, and U.S. student achievement will continue to trail other developed countries.
Illinois must first honor its current obligations and quickly pay school districts and educational institutions what is owed them. Then it must work toward a solution to properly fund education long term.
No one is suggesting that will be easy, but it is imperative that we end this corrosive cycle of teacher and program reductions.