EDUCATION

Illinois Education Reform Suffering From Spending Cuts

07/19/2011 05:42 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2011

Popular Illinois education reform intended to improve teacher performance has hit a major snag: there isn't enough money to put it in place.

Senate Bill 7, which passed through the Illinois House in May with a staggering 112-1 majority, is aimed at lengthening the school day and makes it easier to fire underperforming teachers. It changes the requirements for tenure and increases the majority needed for a teachers' strike to 75 percent. It was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last month, and was notably applauded by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saying, "Illinois has done something truly remarkable and every state committed to education reform should take notice."

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sang the program's praises in the Chicago Sun Times, saying, “Chicago kids will no longer be held back by the shortest school day and school year in the country. We finally are going to give the kids school day length and school year length to both achieve academically and have safety.” 

Before the new law, Chicago public schools had the shortest school day in the nation of about 1,000 hours a year. That's about 41 fewer days than New York public schools, and three years less than the Houston public school system over the span of K-12 education.

The future, however, is uncertain.

State Superintendent Chris Koch lauded the legislation, but made it known in The Chicago Tribune that laws need more than enthusiasm to have their desired effect.

"In many ways, we are making the most aggressive reforms in the history of the state here for education, and we keep doing it for less and less money, and there's a point, there's a breaking point for all that, where things will fall through the cracks," Koch told The Tribune.

The Bloomington Pantagraph reported that the state's new $32.9 billion budget is $2 billion smaller than the one that preceeded it.

According to The Tribune, the Board of Education noted that over $7.6 million had been cut from their allotment.

Republican State Rep. Roger Eddy, a school superintendent from Hutsonville, Ill., told the Associated Press that while the reforms have potential, they “come at a time when there are very limited resources and the state's facing fiscal challenges.”

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