If Illinois lawmakers fail to agree on a balanced budget, schools across the state could be forced to lock out teachers next fall.
Most superintendents across the state said they can open schools in August. But they don't know how long they can stay open.
If schools close early, Mike Chamness, director of communications at the Illinois Association of School Administrators, or IASA, said local districts are still on the hook for teacher contracts and other costs.
“It's not a case where 'This can carry on til Aug. 1, and overnight there's an answer,'” Chamness said. “It's not that simple for school districts and their planning. For most schools it's too late to game plan for teachers.”
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“Once April 1 passes, our teachers are automatically hired for next year.” Quincy Public School District 172 Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb said.
Webb said it cost him $6 -million a month to keep his schools open. He said 80 percent of those costs are salaries that he has to pay even if there's no state budget.
Webb said the only way to avoid paying teachers is a lockout. He said he doesn't want to do that.
Chamness said the IASA sounded the alarm before lawmakers left the Illinois Capitol last week without a state budget.
“Three months ago we told our people 'Start to plan,’” Chamness said.
LeRoy Community Unit School District Superintendent Gary Tipsord said his school board decided months ago to plan for a full school year, regardless of what happens in Springfield. But he admits it will be tough.
Tipsord said he has enough money to cover 72 days of school. He will find the rest.
But Tipsord questions if lawmakers in Springfield have the same kind of dedication to making sure school kids across the state get a full year's education next year.
“The question is, what motivates those in Springfield,” Tipsord asked? “Is it power and position and leverage? Or is it solving a problem?”
Illinois lawmakers were supposed to agree to a new state spending plan by June 1. That didn't happen.
Illinois has been operating without a state budget since July of last year.