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Peoria Chamber Joins School Leaders in Pleading for a State Budget

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Leaders from Peoria Peoria Public Schools, Canton’s School District and the Regional Office of Education joined the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce in urging Illinois lawmakers to agree on a spending plan Mon. 

The state already owes Peoria Public Schools about $8.5 million dollars in unpaid bills. That’s made it even more difficult for the district to prepare its own spending plan. PPS' Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat says the board struggles to “pick and choose” which bills to pay.

"We plan to open our doors as scheduled Aug. 16, for our kids," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "And if there's no state budget, we will continue as long as we can keep our doors open."

Regional Superintendent Beth Crider Derry shared similar frustrations, saying she recently received a payment from work completed in FY 2016.

Derry, who taught kindergarten and first grade for nearly two decades, says lawmakers could use a lesson on collaboration from 5-year-olds. 

“You know that poster, ‘everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten’? Why don’t we use that?," Crider Derry said. "We’ve got to come together. Because right now, we’re all losing.”

If the legislature and governor fail to meet the July 1 deadline, Crider Derry says Peoria County schools would lose vital grant-funding for programs, including those that address truancy and provide assistance for homeless students.

Meantime, school funding remains to be a sticking point between Republicans and Democrats. The two parties in the state senate proposed separate plans for restructuring the state’s current funding system, considered the worst-in-the nation.


Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Griffin says the board won’t take an official stance in support of either measure.


“The Chamber of Commerce board did not officially vote on that," Griffin siad. "That does not detract from the fact we’re partners with the Alignment Peoria group, as we would be with UnityPoint Health or OSF if there was something specific to better their business.”


On Mon., the Chamber is also scheduled to host State Sens. Chuck Weaver, Jason Barickman and Bill Brady for a public conversation about school funding. Sen. Barickman sponsored the Republican-backed measure SB 1124, which would significantly cut Chicago Public Schools' teacher pensions.

Earlier this month, Gov. Rauner's education adviser Beth Purvis said the governor supports 90 percent of the Democrat's proposal, SB 1, which would send more money to Chicago Public Schools. Opponents call that a "bailout" of CPS, while supporters say it puts all school districts on an equal footing.  


"It just needs his [Rauner] signature," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "But if you don't have a budget, it's all for naught."