- Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 04:18 PM
TAYLORVILLE – Illinois’ outdated, unfair system of school funding is forcing Taylorville public schools to consider laying off teachers and staff, consolidate schools and eliminate athletic programs. Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 is faced with the challenge of cutting $680,000 from its budget under a state system that defunds downstate school districts.
State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and Taylorville CUSD 3 Superintendent Gregg Fuerstenau spoke out for the need at a press conference at North Elementary School on Tuesday.
“The state is failing Taylorville. The school board and the district are doing everything they can to make due with less and have been taking extremely difficult financial decisions for years. Regardless of these savings the schools are being strangled by a funding system that has no connection to the realities of teaching students,” Manar said.
“We have great teachers and staff and provide our students with the best resources that we can afford. But we can only do so much under Illinois' unfair school funding structure. Our students are in desperate need of a balanced funding structure that treats down state students fairly. A student’s zip code should not matter,” Fuerstenau said.
“As a public school teacher for more than 30 years, I know firsthand how students are harmed by inadequate funding and resources," Scherer said.
"It’s a struggle for any teacher to give individualized attention to his or her students and meet each child’s unique needs. Research shows that large class size is the number one detriment to teaching and learning, and to backslide into large class sizes would only short students of many opportunities for growth. It is unconscionable for the state to do anything other than fairly and equally fund all schools, no matter where the students come from,” Scherer said.
The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the district for its sound finances.
Taylorville teachers already take home smaller paychecks than the statewide average and the district’s administrative costs are within the lowest 10 percent of unit districts in the state.
To educate students, the school district can only afford to spend $7,163 dollars per student, well below the state average of $12,521. Students and teachers must also cope with above average class sizes.
The state has made minor improvements to increase funding to districts like Taylorville. This year’s state school budget set aside extra money for financially distressed school districts. Under this increase Taylorville schools receive an additional $53,000.
Despite increased funding and cost-cutting measures, the district is still facing the difficult decision to cut another $680,000.
Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Taylorville based on the needs of their students. Under the reform plan, Taylorville public schools could see an additional $1.07 million in annual state aid.