DEERFIELD, IL – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich joined state Senator Susan Garrett and other local legislators at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield today to celebrate the accomplishments of the education funding package for fiscal year 2004, and to sign House Bill 2663 which contains the bulk of school spending plan. In all, school funding will increase by $384.5 million, including over $144 million in new spending for mandated programs and $1.3 million in new spending for Deerfield area schools.
“This was the toughest budget year the State of Illinois has ever faced. We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions about how to cut back spending and instill fiscal discipline. But one decision was very easy to make – we must do more to help our schools prepare young people for the future,” said Blagojevich. “We worked hard and crafted a plan that gives schools the biggest funding boost they’ve seen in many years – an increase greater than the previous 3 years’ increases combined.”
The new education budget will raise the per pupil foundation level by $250 to $4,810, increase funding for mandated categorical grants, increase spending on early childhood education by $30 million, commit $500 million to new school construction, and create a new teacher scholarship program to help attract new young teachers to shortage areas.
Suburban schools will benefit from a $144.7 million increase for mandated programs, also called “mandated categoricals”. The new funds will provide full reimbursement to school districts for the two fastest-growing types of mandatory programs – special education teachers and transportation for children with special needs. Schools will continue to be reimbursed for other mandated programs at last year’s level of 91%.
The budget also provides $42.8 million for grants under the Average Daily Attendance Block Grant, a funding mechanism that helps suburban schools by providing per pupil state aid to school districts that traditionally do not benefit under the current state aid formula.
“Senator Susan Garrett stood up for schools in the northern suburbs and was instrumental in rounding up support in the senate for the education funding package,” the governor added.
“This was the most challenging budget process ever, but we fulfilled our commitment to our children by passing a school funding package that benefits every school in the state. Suburban schools – like those in our community – come out winners under the new plan,” said Garrett.
The general state aid increase is contained in HB 2663, which the governor signed into law this morning. The increase in categorical funding was approved in June when Blagojevich signed HB 2750. Funding for the school construction grant program is contained in the capital budget, which will be acted upon in coming weeks.