Education budget likely a tall order; House panel hears state board’s funding request

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois public schools likely will get more money in the coming year, but not as much as they’d like.

State Superintendent Christopher Koch appeared before an Illinois House committee Tuesday and asked for about $7.54 billion from the state’s general fund, or about 10.7 percent more, for elementary and secondary education.

Representatives praised the work of Koch and his team at the Illinois State Board of Education but indicated they were aiming too high.

Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, noted the state board was seeking about $441 more than Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed in his own budget plan.

Given the state’s dire fiscal condition, McSweeney asked Koch where the money should come from.

“How are you going to pay for it? What are you going to cut? Are you talking about raising taxes?” McSweeney asked.

Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, concurred, telling Koch, “It’s doubtful you will be able to get this amount of an increase into the education budget.”

She asked if the state board was willing to make cuts.

Koch said he and his team would return to work with the legislature as often as needed and, if funding dictates, scale back their plans.

Still, he said, most of the money would have to be pulled from general state aid, which is distributed to schools statewide.

“There’s really not a lot to play with in our (line items),” said Koch.

In its budget as submitted, the state board would increase general state aid to schools by about $566 million.

Rep. William Davis, D-Lewistown, chairman of the committee, asked if anyone from the governor’s office was there to go over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s educational budget proposals.

Beth Purvis, Gov. Rauner’s new chief education advisor, was in the audience and said the governor’s office would be ready to meet with the committee next week.