Illinois nearly 6 months behind in education funding

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois is almost six months behind in its obligation to give millions of dollars to school districts statewide for transportation, special education and other expenses.

The stopgap spending deal Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled Legislature struck over the summer authorized a full year's funding for elementary and secondary education, intending to spare public schools from the uncertainty plaguing other state operations, which were only funded for six months, the Herald & Review reported.

As Illinois keeps up with distributing general state aid, which covers day-to-day school operations, districts wait for two payments of separate funds.

Abdon Pallasch, a spokesman for state Comptroller Susana Mendoza said the office hopes to send last year's final payment next week.

With lack of funding, school officials are forced to dip into cash reserves or borrow money until state funds come through.

Holly Sparkman, a spokeswoman for the Rock Island-Milan School District, said her school district is "always waiting for money from the state."

Decatur School District spokesman Todd Covault said the issue highlights the importance for schools to have money in the bank.

"You better have money in your savings account to cover this, because there's a lot of rainy days," Covault said. Decatur is waiting to receive about $3.5 million from the state.

The stopgap spending plan for other state operations will expire Dec. 31.

Some school officials are beginning to worry about what the outcome will be once lawmakers and the governor finally reach a deal for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, Covault said.

"When they finally get a budget, they may realize that they've (budgeted too much for) education and take some of it back," he said.

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Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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