Local schools say time is running out for them to stay open without state budget

By Gary Scott on June 10, 2016 at 7:19am

The threat of a September without schools has been used by all sides in the state budget battle, but a survey finds that some schools could open this fall without state funds.

The Illinois Association of School Administrators found that on average schools districts could stay open for five months without state funding by completely using up their reserve funds.

In Cass County, Virginia Superintendent Brent O’Daniell says how long they stay open in the 2016-2017 school year depends on if the school board decides to tap into reserves.

“Even though our reserves are not that extensive, they could help us hang on for a little while. If we were to decide to go ahead and spend every dime that we have, we could probably make it through the first semester, but after the winter holiday, as we get into January, it’s going to get a lot tighter and more difficult for us to keep the doors open,” says O’Daniell.

“We are completely bonded out because of our construction project, the new building that we built, so borrowing money for us is not an option. So, if they don’t pass a budget and we don’t get state aid, we’re going to start reaching crunch time somewhere around the holidays,” he adds.

Some school districts in the area like Riverton will have to delay opening in the fall unless they get state money, according to O’Daniell. While he says all school districts are in “big trouble” without a budget, more locally he says superintendents he’s spoken with intend to open school on time.

A report in the Jacksonville newspaper got comments from, among others, Winchester School District, which says they could close after one semester, and Waverly, whose superintendent said they should be able to stay open for the full school year.

O’Daniell says this is an unprecedented situation for school districts in the state.

“I’ve been a superintendent, I’m starting my tenth year, and this is the first time I’ve experienced anything to this magnitude. We always have challenges that we have to overcome, and I’m proud of the way that public schools in Illinois have approached and conquered those challenges. We may have met our match with this one, though,” O’Daniell stresses.

“If we can’t get some sort of funding from the state, we may have to go to the taxpayers and ask them for more money to keep the doors open.”

In Chicago, CEO Forrest Claypool says schools won’t open without state money, according to the survey.