CHICAGO – With November near, candidates have a last shot at gaining votes with promises and plans. Governor Pat Quinn inherited an economically-strapped Illinois. With the state still owing money, budget cuts were a necessity. Quinn’s choices undoubtedly affect re-election chances. Education, spotlighted by losing the Race to the Top, hits the bottom when it came to Quinn’s budget plans.
Quinn’s Education Budget Cuts
Governor Quinn cut $1.4 billion for the 2011 budget; education took the hardest hit. While k-12 spending per student is $6,119, mandated grants for art, foreign language, transportation, and school breakfasts lose $311 million according to Jamey Dunn in an Illinois Issues brief. Illinois will receive funding from the federal government, but nowhere near those lost Race to the Top funds.
Also, Dunn reports for Hold-Harmless funding, Quinn vetoed all $15,670,600. Hold-Harmless funds were developed to assist schools in adjusting to changing funding formulas. Since FY1999 districts have become dependent on these funds, which the Education Funding Advisory Board believed not to be a permanent source of funds in January 2001. Regardless, cutting funds affects the highest-need schools.
As the Board of Education struggles to save money with minimal negative impact, writing exams for grades 3, 6, and 8 will be cut. The Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) does not fall under No Child Left Behind mandates, and cutting writing will save $3.5 million reported in another Illinois Issues September brief by Maureen Foertsch McKinney. By cutting writing exams, schools will focus less on writing. Evidence from 2005, when the exam was dropped, demonstrates this, which factored its 2007 reinstatement.
Illinois‘ Race to the Top
Illinois recently passed legislation to allow more charter schools, develop teacher assessment tools, train administrators, and make teacher certification easier for alternative certification programs (ex: Teach for America). After losing Race funding, how does this legislation help to compete for funds in 2011?
Only five of Chicago’s top thirty schools’ students are considered 50% or above as low-income. However, 10 schools with greater teacher-to-student ratios, show 9 of 10 are low-income in a report on top Chicago elementary schools for Chicago Magazine. Statistics demonstrate the need for more teachers, highlighted by Race to the Top teacher retention and quality demands.
Budget cuts leave districts to problem-solve meeting day-to-day demands. Whether Quinn is re-elected November or a new governor, educational funding is still subject to future cuts.
Chicago Virtual Charter School
OMG! WTF! LOL! Those currently needing a translator to understand text, IM, and email abbreviations, it’s time to learn. The Chicago Virtual Charter School revamps curriculum and expands programming. Virtual classrooms are a hot topic for questions regarding school alternatives, social development, and public funding in home-based education.
While virtual school offers one-on-one instruction, it lacks opportunities traditional public schools offer, like physical and arts education. Statistics demonstrate direct correlations between arts coursework and standardized test scores.
Illinois’ financial troubles will not vanish after November’s election. Focus on maximizing resources and spending require creativity the educational system is criticized for lacking. Candidates currently quiet about economic plans show no end in sight for this cycle.
Ash, Katie. (2010, September 21). Schools Combine Virtual and Face-to-Face Teachers to Meet Student Needs. Education Week [online]. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/009/22/04edtech_collaboration.h30.html
Dunn, Jamey. (2010, September). Briefly: Quinn Calls Budget a Work in Progress, Illinois Issues: A Publication of the University of Illinois Springfield, p10.
Dunn, Jamey. (2010, September). Briefly: Race to the Top: Illinois Jumps Over another Hurdle, Illinois Issues: A Publication of the University of Illinois Springfield, p. 13.
Education Funding Advisory Board: Report for General Assembly. (2001, January). Illinois State Board of Education. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.isbe.state.il.us/efab/html/Report_012001.htm
McKinney, Maureen Foertsch. (2010, September). Briefly: Writing Test Bumped, Illinois Issues: A Publication of the University of Illinois Springfield, p. 13.
Race to the Top Fund: Purpose. (2010). Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html
Rodkin, Dennis. (2010, October). Winning Combinations: Best Public Grade Schools 2010, Chicago Magazine, pp 70-81.