SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced his intention to advance the final two state aid payments to schools for the current fiscal year. Advancing the final two payments is critical for school districts around the state as they try to keep their own budgets balanced.
In past years of revenue shortfalls, governors delayed the 23rd and 24th state aid payments until the following fiscal year. This is problematic for school districts, which budget the final two payments as part of their current fiscal year that ends June 30th. School district officials say delaying the payments until July would create a serious cash-flow problem for them. After taking office in 2003, the Governor committed to ending the practice of delaying these payments.
“Even in tight fiscal times, we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our school children. We’ve made tremendous progress since 2003 to infuse our schools with critical new funding, and delaying these payments would only move that progress backwards,” Blagojevich said. “For the third consecutive year, I am directing that these payments be made on time so school districts can have piece of mind as they finalize their budgets.”
The Blagojevich administration has invested $2.3 billion in K-12 education since 2003, one of the largest three-year K-12 increases in Illinois history. After the first year of the Governor's increases, the percentage of school districts in deficit spending dropped from 77% to 45%. Since Governor Blagojevich took office education spending has increased faster in Illinois than in any other Midwestern state. The Governor has provided funding to allow 25,000 more kids to attend preschool, which has led to Illinois being recognized as one of the top-ranked states in the nation for expansion of early childhood development programs by both the National Institute for Early Childhood Education Research and Pre-K Now. The General Assembly also recently passed the Governor’s Higher Standards/Better Schools plan, which will increase requirements in the core subject areas for high school graduation standards.
In a letter today to Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the Governor asked them to transfer approximately $300 million on June 24th from the General Revenue Fund to the Common School Fund, so the July payments to school districts can be made early. Payment needs to be sent out by this time in order for school districts to receive it by the end of the month. Comptroller Hynes has indicated that it is his belief sufficient funds exist to make the final two payments.