Estimates on school funding released

SPRINGFIELD - Area school districts and the lawmakers who represent them learned what Gov. Rod Blagojevich's budget proposal might mean for their state funding late Tuesday, but the news did not clear up all of the confusion regarding the spending plan.

The initial report shows that 679 of the state's 893 school districts would receive more money next school year than they got this year.

According to the State Board of Education estimates, Champaign County would come out with a gain of $921,000 for the year beginning July 1, and Vermilion County would get an extra $655,000 overall, but some individual school districts would lose money under the proposal.

The big winner in Vermilion County is the Hoopeston Area school district, with an estimated increase of $175,000, but Danville schools would lose more than $553,000 next school year.

In Champaign County, Tolono schools would gain the most, an extra $444,000 or so, according to estimates released by the State Board of Education, while Ogden Community Consolidated School District would fare the worst, losing approximately $57,300.

However, the State Board of Education cautioned that the numbers released on its Web site, www.isbe.net. are estimates only and are meant as a general guide.

A school district will be able to make a more accurate and complete projection of its own circumstances, the board said in a news release.

Urbana Superintendent Gene Amberg recently told school board members he expected the district would end up with about $300,000 more next school year under the governor's budget proposal.

The State Board of Education figured Urbana schools to get only $148,456 more.

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said he is cautious in reviewing the projections, because similar estimates in the past have later required considerable revisions.

?We've gotten some of these initial printouts and then two weeks later they were changed,? he said. ?At this point, I just don't have enough accurate information from schools. I need to hear from school superintendents and school business officials: is this what you were anticipating??

Lawmakers still have to decide whether they will support the governor's proposal to increase the per-pupil spending level by $250 to $4,810, but eliminate 24 separate grant funds for services like gifted education and science literacy programs and fold that $210 million into the general education fund.

The governor said the move would allow local districts to have more control over spending decisions, but as the State Board of Education's new estimates show, it also results in more money for some districts and less for others.

A similar plan Gov. George Ryan floated last year was not well received by the General Assembly, which must approve the budget.

Blagojevich's budget would keep $567 million in dedicated grant funds for his pet programs, including bilingual education and the early childhood block grant, and he plans to increase reimbursements to school districts for services like special education and transportation, which they are required to provide.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, granted Black's request Tuesday to conduct a special committee-of-the-whole meeting for House members to examine and discuss the proposed education budget. The meeting is set for 11 a.m. May 6.

You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at kclements@news-gazette.com.

Sections (2):News, State
Categories (2):News, Other
Location (2):Springfield, State

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