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State Budget Woes: Public Schools in Illinois Take Hit

Education leaders in Illinois have reluctantly agreed to squeeze $300 million out of the state's fiscal 2011 for K-12 public schools, a move that state chief Christopher Koch said made him feel "physically sick."

The full panel of the Illinois State Board of Education today is expected to give a final vote to those cuts, which amount to a 4.1 percent decrease from fiscal 2010. The state's total fiscal 2010 appropriations for pre-K-12 programs was $7.2 billion.

In a letter to educators around the state, Koch warned that the magnitude of cuts facing K-12 could jeopardize federal funding for programs such as special education and career and technical education. Early childhood will lose some funding, Koch said, but it's a priority for Gov. Pat Quinn to maintain that spending at least at 90 percent of fiscal 2010.

Bilingual education, after-school programs, and reimbursements for school meals will all be reduced. Student health and safety programs are slated to be eliminated for the most part, with a few survivors like a truancy and alternative education program being cut by roughly half. To see a full accounting of Koch's budget recommendations, click here.

Illinois, by the way, is one of the states still waiting to receive its slice of the $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement Grants from the U.S. Department of Education, money that must be spent on turning around the lowest-performing schools.

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