Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek is lobbying the General Assembly for funding to fix Jacksonville public schools. Ptacek has long asked for lawmakers to return to a list made in 2004 that would have allocated funding for construction and health, life, safety funds to fix public schools in the area. The 2004 referendum that would have assigned the funding failed to pass in the General Election. Ptacek says he’s been in Chicago and Springfield the last several weeks pushing lawmakers to return to the initiative because Jacksonville public schools cannot issue bonds to complete the buildings.
“I’ve been actively attending the School Construction task force meetings advocating for a return to that list. In 2004, 75% of the money that we would have spent to do the middle school and any of the elementary schools would have come from that funding, if we would have passed the tax referendum back then. Let’s just put it into dollars, if we would have raised $42 million of our own money, which we have now with the sales tax, that would have been 25% of what the state would have funded – we would have all new schools in District 117. The referendum failed. You could have even done it in a smaller scale at that point in time. They are coming back to that list in the school construction aspect. We stand a very good chance of being a high priority on this new list when it’s finalized. We still have a lot of work to do to get on that.”
Ptacek said the main priorities would be to fix Washington, Murrayville-Woodson, and North schools, which he says the board is currently saving up for in the future. He says that the construction for those buildings would come sooner if the list is finalized.
“If we do make the list, we could get up to 65% towards our needed projects. [The school district] still needs to come up with 35% of the money. We are currently saving to maybe do the Washington School project 8-9 years from now. It would be great if we do it now with the money that we have saved up so far. The board and I haven’t decided which new project to put in an application for as far as a grant or construction funding.”
Ptacek says he’s worried about whether Murrayville-Woodson school could be done as a renovation project, but may rather have to have a new building because of ADA compliance. Ptacek believes the Washington School project, which currently has a grant written for it, hinges on whether or not the Graduated Income Tax Amendment passes during the General Election in November.
Ptacek he has been doing his best to educate General Assembly members about Jacksonville’s specific situation with a lack of bonding, being hamstrung as a PTELL district, and the inability to finance. He hopes their understanding will lead to funding the necessary school improvements in District 117 for the future.