Thursday, June 23, 2016

Budget frustration continues

Given the failure to approve a budget for the coming fiscal year by the scheduled session end in May, and the fruitless first half of June that still has produced no state budget compromise, education leaders across Illinois are left disappointed and frustrated. Despite pronouncements by the Speaker of the House that the chamber would be in “continuous session” and would meet at least every Wednesday of June, House members have not yet returned to the Capitol this month. The Senate has never set a tentative session schedule but is prepared to meet “at the call of the President,” but that chamber has not convened in June either.

Citing that the legislative budget working groups have been meeting regularly and are “making progress” towards at least a six-month budget agreement, the House Speaker has cancelled the June scheduled session days up to this point. There is still hope that by July 1 or shortly thereafter both the Senate and House will return to the Capitol and approve a Fiscal Year 2017 spending plan for K-12 education. Senators have been advised to be ready for legislative session next week at some point, though no specific day has been set.

Mindful of the worst-case scenario, the executive directors of the Alliance organizations, with technical assistance from the Illinois Council of School Attorneys, prepared and distributed to school districts a Budget Crisis Toolkit. The packet includes information regarding a school district’s decision to open schools in the fall if a state budget has not been implemented. Highlights include procedures regarding local resource measurements, decision-making options, communication with key local stakeholders, and other items to consider if a school district cannot open schools in the fall or would only have available funds to operate for a matter of weeks or months. The toolkit is available on the IASB website by clicking here.

Regardless of a local school district’s available resources, the uncertainty that is brought on by having no K-12 budget means that no school district will be conducting business as usual until there is a budget. Some districts will be directly affected sooner than others – possibly to the point of having to close the school doors – but all districts to some extent depend on state support. Core academic programs, ancillary student support services, special education services, student breakfasts and lunches, extracurricular activities, and arts education will all be in jeopardy in certain school districts across the state.

It is the responsibility, duty, and moral obligation of the state to provide support for the students, parents, and schools of Illinois. Lawmakers must adopt a FY 2017 budget by July 1.

Alliance leaders say it is imperative that local school district officials include their communities in the discussions as to the possible repercussions of having no budget in place. Parents and community members should also be urged to contact their state representatives and senators and tell them to approve a FY 2017 budget for K-12 education as soon as possible.

Click here to view a video of IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy discussing the impact to schools if a state budget is not approved.