State’s education system suffers mightily under budget impasse, Republican candidate says
The stress upon the Illinois education system under the weight of the state’s current budget crisis is severely impacting students, schools and districts, said Republican Michelle L. Smith, candidate for State Senate District 49.
Nevertheless, her Plainfield district appears to be holding its own regarding education — for the time being, Smith told the Dupage Policy Journal this week.
Smith is the current president of the Plainfield District 202 Board of Education (BOE). District 202 is the state's fourth-largest K-12 school district.
“Obviously, we cannot speak for other districts, but so far District 202 is doing alright," she said. "That’s the ‘good news.’ The ‘bad news’ is that we’re doing alright because our board and administration made some extremely difficult decisions during the recession.”
Previously, she said, the BOE decided to cut $45 million from its operating budget between 2009-12, with most of those cuts being in personnel — some 350 full-time equivalent positions — though some others also were made in operations and utilities.
“Our board and administration deliberately decided to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible — i.e., no major programmatic cuts, none of the cuts often made under these circumstances like athletics and fine arts,” the candidate said.
However, Smith also said that the reality is that every cut affects students in some way.
“Fewer teachers means bigger class sizes. Delayed curriculum resources, including technology, impacts teaching and learning opportunities," she said. "Less administration and support staff means more work for everyone who remains.”
Currently, Smith said the BOE’s biggest concern is about what’s going to happen next fall if the state doesn’t approve a budget. “There is a lot of very serious talk about districts not being able to open next year. That’s a scary thought for everyone involved,” she said.
The best solution?
“The simplest, most candid answer is that the legislative leaders and the governor must find a way to compromise and solve the ongoing budget battle," Smith said. "Our neediest community members — children, the elderly, the poor — are being devastated by this [budget] impasse.”
And in terms of public education specifically, she added that the Illinois legislature must find a way to fully fund education while at the same time get serious about reforming the way education is funded.
“Those are big issues which are not new," Smith said. "The legislature must give them the attention they demand and deserve for the benefit of our children, schools, and communities.”
Smith’s website has more information at http://michellesmith4senate.com/.