The Illinois State Board of Education says the financial strain on state public schools has stretched them to the breaking point. That has education officials asking for a significant budget increase. Governor Pat Quinn says because of rising pension costs, spending on elementary and high schools has to be cut by $342 million next year. Education officials say schools have already been cut by more than $860 million in recent years. Gery Chico is chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education:
"Across the state, districts are eliminating teachers and teachers' aides, they're expanding class size, eliminating extracurricular activity, draining their reserves, and shortening the length of school days. And some have even approached going to a four-day school week."
Chico is asking lawmakers for an $874 million increase in state spending on education, half-a-billion dollars more than Quinn wants to give them. He also says the formula the state uses to apportion money among school districts is outdated and doesn't reflect the reality that nearly half of Illinois schoolchildren are living in poverty.
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