Cuts in the classroom are coming to the East St. Louis School District. Teachers layoffs were announced during Thursday night's packed school board meeting.
In all, 69 teachers in District 189 will lose their jobs. Five elementary school principals and two middle school principals will also be cut.
East St. Louis is just the latest in a long list of metro-east school districts forced to make the cuts because of state and local budget issues.
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and comes out of a laborious process where lawmakers are addressing the pension problem piece by piece instead of a total overhaul at once. House members voted in favor 66-50 yesterday. It's the third scaled-back pension bill the House has recently approved.
Thursday's proposal says that no cost-of-living increases can be taken until retirees reach 67 years of age, or five years after retirement and applies COLAs only to the first $25,000 of an annual pension.
Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because for years lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments.
But the budget proposed by Governor Pat Quinn would cut education spending by more than $300 million.
Many Illinois school districts are already operating on deficits after the state failed to fully fund its obligations for the past two years. Virtually every metro-east district is laying off teachers in anticipation of less state funding next year. Some are cutting sports programs and closing schools.
St. Clair County schools superintendent Susan Sarfaty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "Districts are no longer cutting fat from their budgets — they’re cutting bone." Sarfaty says "there's no more fat to cut."
Collinsville schools will be hit the hardest, with district officials voting to eliminate 16 full-time and three part-time teaching positions.
The Belleville district will cut three full-time teachers and one part-timer.
Both district boards say they have no choice but to make the cuts because the State of Illinois has failed to meet their financial obligations to the districts.
The Chicago Democrat will propose slashing $400 million from education in the fiscal year that starts July 1. It also will pin the blame for the cuts on lawmakers' failure to fix the state's worst-in-the-nation pension problem.
The automatic fund transfers include more than $2 billion in spending that Quinn's aides describe as "on autopilot." The amount those programs receive is set in state statute. Trying to cut it is likely to cause a contentious debate.
Quinn's proposed budget also attempts to pay down $2 billion in unpaid bills.
Governor Pat Quinn signed a supplemental appropriation bill Thursday evening that's meant to shore up parts of state government that are running short of money half-way through the budget year.
It includes $675 million in unanticipated federal and state money available for road projects this spring. It also shifts $25 million saved from Quinn's closure of correctional facilities to the Department of Children and Family Services.
Republicans have complained the bill was rushed.
Quinn said Illinois's $100 billion pension shortfall is the number one problem for the state.
That feeling was echoed by business interests. The Illinois Manufacturers' Association says the time for talk is over and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce calls a failure to address pensions unconscionable.
But the president the Illinois Retail Merchants Association criticized the governor's plan to raise minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour, saying it would hurt both employers and job seekers. The governor argued that no one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
During the speech, Quinn also said it was time for the state to allow same-sex marriages, and he renewed his call for an assault weapons ban.