School will start even with fight on funding

The start of a new school year may be delayed in some Illinois districts, but not in Vandalia.
In recent weeks, Vandalia Superintendent of Schools Rich Well has kept school board members, administrators and teachers updated on the stalemate in the state capitol that means a delay in the release of funds to Illinois school districts.
“There’s no mechanism yet to send out funds for schools,” Well told the Vandalia Board of Education at its July meeting.
“We’re still in a fight to get something passed,” he said. “We’re still part of the discussion (on equitable school funding), we’re still part of the lawsuit about the state not funding their 100-percent obligation with the proration and the loss of categoricals,” he said.
The General Assembly sent Senate Bill 1, which would allow funds for school districts to be released, to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who on Tuesday sent it back to legislators with an amendatory veto. That veto includes the removal of a pension payment and block grant for Chicago Public Schools.
“His veto message on SB1 is massive,” Well said in an update to district administrators on Wednesday morning.
Now, legislators have several options, including accepting Rauner’s amendatory veto, overriding the veto, taking no action and letting SB1 die or compromising.
Should no mechanism be in place by Aug. 17, the first scheduled day for students in Vandalia, the doors will still be open, Well said.
“With the teachers’ contract and the fund balances, we’re obligated to pay staff, no matter what,” Well told board members at the July meeting.
“We’re not going to have them come in and sit in a room and not teach kids,” he said.
Well told board members that there was a movement afoot among some districts not to start a new school year. “That is not something that I look favorably on, nor did I think that any of you (board members) would, as well,” he said.
With its fund balances, Well said, the Vandalia district could operate until Christmas.
Some districts are not in a position to operate for a while because they have not yet implemented cuts like the Vandalia district has in recent years.
“We’re in a positive spot,” he said. “We’ll be able to go for a while. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”
The Vandalia district is in a position to operate for several months, he said, for several reasons, including the use of working cash bonds in recent years to hold the district over until state funds were received.
He told the board in July that the district had received two categorical payments from the state. “We’re still two short,” he said.
“We may or may not get them next year; sometimes, when we get them, they count them as next year’s,” Well said.
Also at the July meeting:
• The board approved the transfers of custodians – Terry Sutherland from Vandalia Elementary to the junior high, Dave Rickman from Jefferson Primary to the elementary school and Taffy Street from the elementary school to Jefferson.
• The board approved the employement of: Ray Seaton, elementary custodian; Jennifer Tackett, high school special education; and Ron Thomason and Tammy Boling, bus drivers.
• The board approved the issuance of general obligation bonds totaling $226,800 for tuckpointing, roof work and roof ledge work at the high school/adminstration building.
• The board accepted the resignation of elementary school speech teacher Susan Strange.
• The board approved the retirement of junior high fifth-grade teacher Lea Ann Rubin in June 2023.

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