CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of the Chicago Public Schools has warned schools won’t open in fall without a state education budget from Springfield, but the city isn’t alone in facing potentially drastic fallout from the ongoing political stalemate at the capitol.
In far south suburban Harvey, some 1,600 students attend schools in West Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147. The annual budget is $16 million, and nearly 80 percent of those funds come from the state, so if state lawmakers don’t pass a budget for public schools, the district stands to lose more than $12 million.
“It would hurt tremendously,” said District 147 Supt. Lela Bridges. “We will not be able to make payroll. We will not be able to pay our bills, keep our lights on, pay our gas.”
The superintendent did not threaten to not open schools in the fall, but with little cash in hand, the future is uncertain without state funding. The potential impact to students would be tremendous.
“Our children come to us for breakfast, and we do lunch. We have some after-school activities for them,” she said.
Parents were understandably angry.
“Approve the budget. Let these kids go back to school on time. It’s not the teachers’ fault, it’s not the kids’ fault, it’s the government’s fault,” said one District 147 mother.
The impasse also hits home in Chicago Ridge.
Kevin Russell, superintendent of Chicago Ridge School District 127.5, said half of his budget comes from the state, so he can keep schools open about six months if the state doesn’t come through with funding.
After that, he doesn’t know what he would do, so he can only hope the governor and lawmakers work out a budget deal.
“Fingers crossed that they get their act together, and they can get this thing solved, so we don’t have to worry about that doomsday scenario,” he said.
If needed, District 127.5 would use cash reserves that had been earmarked for building maintenance and improvements.