School districts get much needed payments

ILLINOIS (WCIA) --- School superintendents are taking a big sigh of relief as general state aid payments are headed to their mailboxes. 

Districts have gone without this money since opening their doors. Comptroller Susana Mendoza says, by the end of this week, she will distribute $805 million. Superintendents say it feels like it's been a neverending road, but now millions are on their way to hundreds of districts. 

"Instead of hunkering down, looking over your shoulder, trying to get in survival mode, now we have this idea of how can we move forward, how can we climb the mountain, how we become world-class with our kids again," said Lance Thurman, superintendent of Riverton.

Mendoza announced the good news just one week after lawmakers passed the historical school funding bill. It will give every district more money, but they will have to wait just a little bit longer to see a bigger paycheck than usual.

"State aid will just be a portion which is called the base funding minimum. They won't actually see their new increases until probably late November or early December," said Brent Clark, executive director of Illinois Association of School Administers.

The next thing on school administrators' minds is doing more for their students without as many financial hardships.

"Deciding what are the priorities for our district, like the idea of moving our kindergarten through third-grade classes closer to the class-size of 15 that supports the research," said Thurman. 

"We've literally been on a nine year starvation and schools have been dwindling. We sense a breath of air refreshing looking to the future to rebuilding our schools," said Clark.

The comptroller's office started sending out checks at midnight. The first wave will distribute $541 million. The next payment of $264 million will go out Friday. 

As for what's next, superintendents are switching their gears to tackle teacher shortages. 


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