PEORIA — Area educators gathered Monday to plead for state lawmakers to reach a resolution on a state budget stalemate nearly in its third year.
Representatives from area school districts described the impact of the budget on their own ability to spend, from a Peoria Public Schools that must "pick and choose which bills we're going to pay," according to Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, to smaller districts such as Canton Union School District 66 that may face difficulty staying open.
There, "2,600 kids in Canton schools are being placed in peril," Superintendent Rolf Sivertsen said during the event at the Greater Peoria Chamber of Commerce. "Quite frankly, I find it disgusting."
Absent a spending plan, the district will be missing 47 percent of its annual funds, a number that is unsustainable, Sivertsen said.
"At this point, it's a mystery how we're going to be able to open our schools when we've been completely abandoned by the state Legislature and the governor's office," he said, though he and Desmoulin-Kherat both indicated they would do everything possible to keep doors open for students as long as possible.
"I won't recommend (closing because of the budget) to my board," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "Our kids should not have to be the sacrificial lamb."
Some programs affecting schools throughout the county might be, though. Peoria County Regional Superintendent of Schools Beth Derry warned that without funds flowing to the State Board of Education, grant-funded services her office administers might be suspended.
That means "not bringing staff back and implementing services" including truancy services, services for homeless students, bus driver training and safety and building inspections, she said. And classrooms funded under the Preschool for All program will not open.
The Regional Alternative School at Wildlife Prairie Park can also only stay open for one semester without state funds, Derry said.
She said for the current budget year ending Friday, she is supposed to have received more than 50 grant payments but has only received four. Derry could not immediately provide the amount that is owed to the office for those payments.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.