O’FALLON – The District 90 Board of Education decided to use some unexpected state funding to reduce class sizes at their recent monthly meeting.
District 90 Board of Education President John Wagnon said the district’s ability to consider hiring on three class size reduction teachers came about when the Illinois General Assembly passed a budget for schools on June 30.
“This year the state legislature passed a budget for the schools and it included the full funding amount for schools, which hasn’t happened in something like seven years. It looks like it’ll be a one time thing. What they’ve done in the past is called proration. They’re supposed to pay a certain amount for every student, but in the past the state has only given us a portion of what they’re supposed to. That proration has cost us several hundred thousand dollars a year in terms of funding we were owed,” said Wagnon. “This year, in the budget they passed, the state still allocated a prorated amount per student, but they also added a one-time ‘grant’ that brings every student up to the funding level they were supposed to be at.”
While District 90 doesn’t know exactly how much more they will receive, Wagnon said it will be a sizable amount of money and the Board wanted to use it wisely.
“We talked about what to do with this money. It looks to be a one-time good deal and so we wanted to put some away to bump up the funds we’ve had to beg, borrow, and steal from. We also wanted to hire three class size reduction teachers with the money. We expect to receive enough funding to be able to hire these teachers and still be able to back fill the funds we want to boost up,” Wagnon said.
The District felt it was important to address class sizes, as large class sizes directly impact students and their learning environments. Much like grant-funded positions, the three class size reduction teachers will be reduced in the Spring of 2017 unless the General Assembly reallocates the funds required to keep them or another funding source can be found. Wagnon said its too early to say what grades these teachers will be assigned to, but he expects it will be the lower grade levels.
“We don’t know until registration finalizes where the teachers will be assigned. We’ll probably make that call in late July or early August. We’re in the very early stages of getting those positions filled. I can say we’re probably going to target the younger grade levels just because its a more significant impact. If you have a kindergarten class with 30 kids in it and a sixth grade class with 30 kids in it, it would be better to put a new teacher in kindergarten and break up those large, younger classes,” Wagnon said.
In other business…
λ The Board approved the updated handbook for the 2016-17 school year. Wagnon said the handbook stayed mostly the same except for some required changes related to Senate Bill 100, which made changes to school districts’ disciplinary procedures.
λ The Board received a quick update on the construction at Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary School. Construction is on schedule and expected to be completed by the beginning of the school year.