DECATUR – Governor George H. Ryan today awarded a $17 million school construction grant to Decatur School District 61 to build a new structure to house kindergarten through eighth grade students. The building will by located in the Phoenix Park Area, a site of economic renewal with new residential buildings and, now, a new school.
This announcement is part of a two-year, $1 billion state school construction grant program. The first half of these funds has been allocated to 51 school districts throughout Illinois, continuing the State’s investment in modern and improved facilities for Illinois’ school children.
“Kids can't learn when they are busy dodging leaks in their classrooms or when they are working in cramped spaces.” Governor Ryan said. “During my administration, the state’s school construction program has helped build more than 300 new schools and 16,000 new classrooms.”
Across the state these school construction grants, coupled with required local matching dollars, will fund construction of 31 new schools; additions or renovations at 114 other out-dated school buildings; nearly 2,300 new classrooms; and educational opportunities for more than 66,550 Illinois children.
“This is truly a blessing with the state of the economy and the financial state of this district,“ said Elmer "Mac" McPherson, Superintendent of District 61. “We are aware that with these economic conditions, this may be the last opportunity we have for school construction for some time."
The school construction grant program is funded through Governor Ryan’s Illinois FIRST program and helps local school districts relieve overcrowded classrooms and replace old and deteriorating facilities. To date, nearly $2.7 billion in state funds have been awarded to school districts throughout the state through the School Construction Program, which is jointly administered by the Illinois Capital Development Board and the Illinois State Board of Education.
The school construction program, authorized by the General Assembly in late 1997, is the first state building program to assist local school construction in more than two decades. Totaling more than $5.5 billion in state and local matching funds, it is one of the largest such programs in the country.
Under the program administered by the Capital Development Board, local school districts must receive a project entitlement and secure the required local share of construction funds before receiving any state grant funds. The grants range from 35 to 75 percent of eligible construction costs. Enhancements such as swimming pools, gymnasiums and auditoriums are not considered eligible project costs and are excluded from all grant calculations. The Chicago Public Schools will receive almost $98 million or 20 percent of the total school construction grant funds.
Currently, only those projects that address emergency needs, crowded classrooms and old buildings are being funded.