Unit 5: State Budget Would Slowly Squeeze Schools | WGLT

Unit 5: State Budget Would Slowly Squeeze Schools

Feb 22, 2021

Flat funding for Illinois schools is effectively a cut. That's Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle's thought on Gov. JB Pritzker's budget proposal.

Weikle said Monday labor and other costs continue to rise even when state funding does not.

"It makes me fearful that we'll get back to the predicament we used to be in several years ago where funding would decrease or remain flat. Costs would increase. Any time expenses are greater than revenue, you have a problem on your hands," said Weikle.

The proposed budget has moved to the legislature for consideration, though some lawmakers said it does not truly balance the budget that remains in deficit.

Weikle said if flat funding goes on too long it will pressure schools into unfortunate choices, adding the governor's proposal does not make good on state promises to adequately fund schools.

"Unfortunately, that flat funding does put not only Unit 5 but schools across the state really behind when it comes to equitable funding and the evidence-based funding model," said Weikle.

She said at no time since that measure passed several years ago has state support been adequate based on the formula. It would be the second year with no increase in state funding for K-12 schools.

Earlier this month, Unit 5 received push back from parents of student-athletes who objected to requirements for COVID-19 testing to participate in sports. Weikle said she was disappointed because some of those same parents were among those calling for the district to do whatever it takes to get the kids playing again.

Weikle said that issue has gone away, noting, in the end, only one parent declined to have their child take a COVID test to play.

Weikle said Unit 5 allows two spectators at high school events per student-athlete and one at the junior high level to watch their child's events. She said some schools are not allowing any spectators and Unit 5 parents appear to appreciate the difference.

Also, a social equity audit continues for Unit 5 as part of the district's effort to address racial and socioeconomic disparities. Weikle said no data has come back yet and the report will by in by June. She said Unit 5 will hold a public presentation in August before adopting a diversity plan to address the findings in the report. She said that plan that will be a living document updated yearly.

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