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Challenging Times for Illinois Public Schools
Illinois advanced landmark reforms in recent years to improve instruction for the 2 million students in public schools. Yet the drain of state resources threatens to derail progress, hamstring academic opportunities and unravel the basic education needed to prepare Illinois students for today’s world.
Illinois confronts a financial crisis that threatens its very solvency. How Illinoisans – whether policymakers or parents, teachers or taxpayers – respond will shape the next generation of students.
The state’s financial constraints and resulting budget cuts have pushed school districts to the brink. Two-thirds of school districts now are deficit-spending.1 Districts have dismissed at least 6,400 educators and aides.2 Others have shuttered schools, lengthened bus routes and curtailed classes in everything from art to foreign language.3
The financial strain is worse in disadvantaged districts with little local wealth and large concentrations of low-income students. Nearly half of Illinois students are economically disadvantaged,4 and for the first time, more than half of schools serve 40 percent or more low-income students.5 Such schools and districts – and the vulnerable students they serve – felt the sting of state budget cuts during recent years, cuts that deepened inequities between school districts.
We must do better.
1 Illinois State Board of Education, School District FY2013 Operating Budgets Submitted to ISBE, 2012. ↵
2 Illinois State Board of Education, Reduction in Force Survey, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. ↵
3 State Journal-Register, “School board votes to close prep academy, 2 elementary schools,” 2013; Sauk Valley News, “School districts cope with declining state aid,” 2013; Belleville News-Democrat, “‘It honestly wears you down’: Metro East schools struggle with funding problems,” 2013. ↵
4 Illinois State Board of Education, “Report Card,” 2012. ↵
5 Illinois State Board of Education “Report Card” 2004-2011; Illinois State “Report Card” 2001-2003 maintained by the Center for Urban Education Leadership, University of Illinois at Chicago. ↵