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Schools say underfunding will ultimately have high cost

Update 6:00 pm MAHOMET -- School leaders say trying to fill the funding gap isn't anything new, but they hope state leaders do something about it before it's too late.
Update 6:00 pm
MAHOMET -- School leaders say trying to fill the funding gap isn't anything new, but they hope state leaders do something about it before it's too late. A survey released Thursday shows most superintendents across the state are concerned about money. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera finds out what impact a lack of funding could have.

Some district leaders say they rely more on state money than others. Districts, like Mahomet, don't get as much money from property taxes as bigger cities, like Champaign and Urbana. So, if they can't count on state money, they say they're not sure where else to turn.

When you're going to grade school, you're probably more worried about pencils than pensions. But, superintendents across the state say it's one of the biggest problems facing schools these days.

"My biggest fear is that we pass pension reform, we don't do anything to correct the school funding problem that we have right now," said Mahomet superintendent Rick Johnston. "That combination wouldn't be correct, wouldn't be right."

With money on the minds of district leaders, Johnston says his schools face challenges which others in bigger cities don't.

"We have the 14th lowest tax rate out of 15 school districts in Champaign and Ford counties," said Johnston. "We do look different than Champaign and Urbana."

Even though the city has a few local businesses, Johnston says they're more reliant on state aid. But, that doesn't mean they're going to stop growing. For example, they're building an early childhood education center with money from a county tax. As they try to make ends meet, districts across Illinois say they still look to the state for guidance and hope they see better days in the future.

Mahomet's superintendent says they've already made cuts and increased class sizes like many other districts, but they're doing what they can to get by.
Original: 5:01 pm
SPRINGFIELD -- More than half the schools in the state say they need more money to keep going, or they'll have to make cuts. A new report from the state shows a lack of funding is the number one concern for schools statewide.

It's not a new problem. Schools can always use more money, but they say, now they're at the point where, if they don't start getting more help from the state, they're going to have to cut.

Classrooms all across Illinois are already feeling the pinch. Lately there's added pressure because of what schools call "unfunded mandates." They're required programs which schools have to follow, but they don't get any extra money to implement.

Schools say it's getting to be too much to handle. One example putting a strain on budgets now is the change to Common Core Standards.

School officials say there has to be some kind of funding change, otherwise they won't be able to survive a few years down the road. One idea brought up in the report is increasing the income or local sales taxes.
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