BLOOMINGTON — An outcry from the people of Illinois is “the only answer” for cutting through more than a year of gridlock and getting at least a stopgap state budget and a full year of school funding, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Speaking on education funding Tuesday at the Regional Alternative School in downtown Bloomington, Rauner blamed the budget impasse on the Democratic majority in the General Assembly led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“We need the people of Illinois to stand up, make phone calls, send emails and come to Springfield and knock on doors,” said Rauner. “Tell the General Assembly to pass a stopgap budget and pass a full-year school funding bill so our teachers and students can come first.”
School superintendents and administrators from Pantagraph-area districts, including LeRoy, Stanford-based Olympia, Bloomington District 87 and Normal-based McLean County Unit 5, listened and asked questions during Rauner’s visit.
Glen Hoffman, RAS director, said he has been telling teachers and families to write to Springfield for months.
“We can also do things like we did today, bringing the governor here for a tour and to hear him speak. To me, that’s the one hope we have. To put a face and a name to the students in our program,” said Hoffman.
The alternative school served nearly 1,200 students last school year. RAS serves students in Central Illinois who have a variety of academic, social, economic or behavioral issues. Without funding from the state, the school has enough reserves to stay open until March 2017.
Without funding, however, RAS “will have to severely cut back if not cease most of the programming” offered, said Mark Jontry, superintendent of the Regional Office of Education 17, which serves DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean counties.
District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly asked the governor what the game plan will be if July 1, the start of the state's fiscal year, rolls around with no budget in sight.
Rauner reiterated his belief that Illinois residents should put pressure on Madigan to approve Rauner’s proposed bills to keep the state afloat through January and to fund primary and secondary schools for a full year.
“There is no solution where magic money appears to fund schools other than if the General Assembly passes a school funding bill. There is no reason that can’t pass,” said Rauner.
Reilly said that was the answer he expected to hear.
“That’s the only answer he can truly give. It seems there are some differences in philosophies as to how this budget should be done and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of room for negotiating,” said Reilly.