Although there is never a day that goes by that I do not strive to go above and beyond to secure the necessary resources that my teachers need to help children learn, there is no better motivator than spending time in a classroom.
As the superintendent of Wood River-Hartford School District 15, it’s not often that I get to spend as much time as I need in a classroom. It’s tough. Budgeting, meetings and dealing with the day-to-day operations of the district consumes a great deal of time and getting to see the wonderful things that happen in classrooms each and every day is sometimes lost in the shuffle.
But I’ve been lucky. Both out of necessity and want, I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend additional time in classrooms. When finding substitutes is difficult, or emergencies within our district dictate, I find myself in a classroom helping with the direct instruction of our students. The time I have spent in classrooms has been extremely rewarding and reminds me of why the decision to move from teacher to administrator was so difficult. The joy that one receives from providing a loving, caring and motivating environment for children to learn and thrive is unparalleled. There is no better or more rewarding job in the world.
However, the joys I’ve been recently allowed in the classroom have also been distressing as I watch our teachers being forced to do more with less. This has served as additional motivation to fight even harder for adequate school funding for each and every classroom in the state of Illinois.
School districts find themselves in extremely difficult situations when funding for schools is not adequate. Because of budget constraints, tough decisions that can ultimately hinder success have to be made in regard to personnel, professional development opportunities, student resources, and fair wages for our teachers and staff members. And it’s not right! I watch every day as teachers thirst to provide their students with the resources they need and I am not always able to provide it to them because of the lack of funding. And please understand, I am not asking for more money. I, along with many superintendents across the state, simply want to be funded at the full General State Aid (GSA) foundation level.
From fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2015, Wood River-Hartford School District has lost $671,328 in state revenue due to the proration of state funds, and those losses will only continue if the present status quo is maintained. Prorations (cuts) of more than 11 percent in some years must stop. The impact of such cuts only continues to make providing the needed services to our children a harder struggle. As the state looks to improve the rigor of education with the implementation of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), it would only seem logical to provide the funds to be successful.
Dr. Tony Smith, Illinois state superintendent of schools, has proposed to the Illinois State Board of Education a fiscal year 2016-2017 budget that will fully fund GSA for the first time in five years. Although this proposal was unanimously approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, the difficult task of having legislators approve this budget still looms over every school district in Illinois. It’s why I write this today. Please join me in making your local legislators aware of the needs of our school districts. As community stakeholders, parents, teachers and administrators, join me in being an advocate for education and help make the needs of school districts across Illinois known.
Dr. Patrick Anderson is superintendent of the Wood River-Hartford School District.