St. Clair committeeman hopes school funding fight ends soon
Bill Layman says he doesn't have an answer to the pension problems plaguing Illinois schools, but he does know one thing: Public schools need the state's legislators to do their job.
“We need the funding,” Layman told the Metro East Sun regarding Senate Bill 1, the state's education funding measure that has been on hold for months.
Layman is a Republican precinct committeeman in St. Clair County and a member of Lebanon Community Unit School District 9.
The public school funding deadline was Aug. 10, but as of Aug. 28 the bill has not been made into law. The legislation was sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner, but Rauner rejected provisions in it paying for Chicago Public Schools' pensions and vetoed those payouts. The amended measure was then sent back to the legislature.
Layman said it's basically a wait-and-see for schools throughout the state.
“As a school board, I don't think we really have much say-so,” Layman said. “We’re happy to get funding no matter what.”
In terms of the ability of school districts to keep their heads above water, Layman said the financial health of a district depends on many factors.
“It varies from school district to school district,” Layman said, adding that schools in his district could stay afloat for 16 months based on existing assets, revenue and borrowing power.
Layman said some of the education system's financial issues go back 20 years over multiple administrations. Part of the problem, he said, involves the state practice of borrowing from pension plans, which creates financial imbalance.
“They kicked the can down the road for years,” Layman said.
Layman questioned the role of teachers unions and state officials in allowing the borrowing to occur, but said some of the burden will probably come down on educators.
“These employees who have done their part are getting robbed,” Layman said. “I don't even know what the solution would be – I don't see a viable fix.”