Schools prepare for massive cuts

February 26, 2010 4:38:53 AM PST
Governor Pat Quinn's new proposed budget calls for a reduction of at least 11 percent in state funding for schools, which could lead to teacher layoffs.

One suburban district is even suggesting the school year may need to be shortened because there won't be enough money to pay for staff.

As it stands now, the governor's proposed budget would result in the state spending an average of $600 to $700 less per student. The loss for many individual districts will reach into the millions.

"Your immediate reaction is to say to yourself 'How are you going to make it?' That's the first reaction," said Supt. Creg Williams, Thornton Fractional District 215.

Classrooms like this one at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City could remain empty for 20 extra days next year. The suggestion, which would have to be approved by the state board of education, is unlikely, but shows how dire the situation is. That's just one scenario being discussed by educators who say they simply can't cut any deeper.

"Two million bucks for us will mean anywhere between 20-30 teachers, it could also mean our entire sports program, our clubs and activities," said Supt. Williams.

Thornton Fractional, like countless other districts, has been suffering from delayed reimbursements from the state. Now Governor Quinn is talking about slashing general funding for education to the tune of nearly a billion dollars. But he's suggesting the cuts might not be as deep if legislators go along with his proposed income tax hike.

"We need to have revenue to pay for important things like education," said Gov. Quinn.

On Thursday afternoon, the head of the Chicago Public Schools says he's facing a billion dollar deficit.

"It's incredibly serious," said CEO Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools.

Without concessions from teachers, changes to pensions and new revenue, Huberman says CPS will not be able to cut their way to a balanced budget.

"All that's left are class sizes and programs. We are at the bare bones," said Huberman.

"This is a devastating number, that is why you're seeing all the cuts in so many school districts," said Brent Clark, Ill. Association of School Administrators.

Local school board president and parent Don Swibes says the options facing schools are unconscionable.

"They are going to hold $1billion hostage for a tax increase is unbelievable. Legislators and politicians of this state should be embarrassed for what they've done," said Swibes.

School administrators are facing a deadline: If they are going to layoff teachers next year, they have to give notice by mid-March, which is just a few weeks away.