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Illinois schools face challenges



Published: Thu, March 28, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Belleville News-Democrat: The names and the numbers change, but the story is the same: School districts are notifying workers of layoffs next school year, primarily because of declining state revenues.

But look more closely, and realize that each district’s situation is unique. Some districts have been cutting costs for several years while others took a “hope things get better soon” strategy and kept spending. The districts with stagnant or declining local property taxes bases are hurting the most.

Unless the state gets its finances in order — a big if — local school districts will continue to feel the squeeze. Now 112 of the state’s 865 districts are either on the state’s early financial warning or watch list, the highest number ever.

School leaders must look for innovative ways to cut costs or generate revenue, just as private businesses have done to survive the economic downturn. The state probably isn’t going to come to the rescue anytime soon.

Some school districts have property tax increase proposals on the ballot next month. Whether voters agree to impose higher taxes on themselves will depend in large part on how well they think district leaders are navigating through these tough times.


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