Funding for education took center stage at a meeting of school administrators, business people and local political leaders in Yorkville Friday.
Linda Chapa LaVia
) said Friday’s meeting at Yorkville High School, which included representatives from nine area school districts, shows the concern many have over the future of funding schools in Illinois.
“I think this meeting happened because we’re in crisis and when that happens, people come together looking for solutions,” she said. “People are looking to survive as right now there is talk about cuts … This is not just about educating kids but giving the stakeholders an opportunity to work together.”
President of the Yorkville Education Association Shawn Collins said the education summit was vital because “it’s important to understand that education is a conversation filled with tension that impacts everyone.”
“There is the issue of property taxes and people paying too much, and the fact that education has experienced rigorous changes and the need to have all the tools for success,” Collins said. “There are going to be budget cuts in the next year with the district and we need to have all the stakeholders here and be proactive.”
Yorkville School District Superintendent Timothy Shimp said major financial challenges include money for expanding programs and getting state payments on time, as well as what the future hold concerning funding for pensions. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed a state budget that in part calls for shifting teachers’ pension costs to local districts.
State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said he has served for years on educational committees and that the key to current funding issues “is to grow the state’s economy.”
“I’ve spent a lot of my time focusing on the K through 12 levels, but also higher education and making connections with early childhood,” Pritchard said. “There remains a disconnect among the elementary and middle schools and high school and college, and we also need education funding reform.”
Pritchard said that “lower property taxes and adequate funding for school” aren’t contradictory as long as the state “follows what the state constitution directs.”
“We’ve been stuck for years on the cost of educating students which the state says is $6,119 while most districts are spending $9,000 to $12,000 per pupil (a year),” Pritchard said. “The state needs to pick up its share which it hasn’t been doing.”
School Board President of Yorkville District 115 Lynn Burks agreed that “Illinois faces some unique challenges” and that through sharing ideas and networking, “we can make our voices stronger.”
“We have some amazing work being done in Yorkville and we hope today’s event makes us stronger as we don’t always have the opportunity to come together,” Burks said.
Sarah Allen, president of the Yorkville Chamber of Commerce, said business has a role in making sure schools succeed.
“What we like about Yorkville and what they’ve done is the internship program where we have paired with schools and this offers another level of education for kids,” she said. “We see businesses as being integral partners.”
Kristine Liptrot, director of communications and community engagement for the Yorkville School District, said the goal is for the event “to become an annual area-wide education summit.”
“Part of our strategic plan is to develop a closer relationship with local legislators and businesses and discuss our needs,” Liptrot said. “The two most important issues are making all of those involved aware of where we stand on the issues, and also provide a sounding board for them. We want to provide counsel from an educational perspective.”
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.