Illinois School Districts Face Steep Transportation Cuts - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Illinois School Districts Face Steep Transportation Cuts

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It's an issue happening up and down the Mississippi, Illinois school districts cutting staff to make up for declining state aid.

They're now bracing for another cutback, a loss in transportation funding.

The number being floated right now, school districts should expect just 19 percent of the bus funding they're supposed to get.

Leaving large rural districts wondering how they'll get students to school.

Half of Illinois school districts cover 52 square miles.

When you take the average, the number jumps up to 76 square miles.

To put that in perspective, the entire city of Davenport covers about 65 square miles.

The Geneseo school district covers 262 square miles, ranking at number 27 in Illinois.

That's larger than the entire Quad Cities area put together, and for rural districts, the big yellow school bus is a given.

Geneseo parent Natasha Nilsson says, "I rode the bus for all the time I went to school."

She says people living outside of town expect a school bus picking up their children. Her first grader has ridden it the last two years.

"It's very convenient I send him outside right in the morning, and when he gets home, he comes right off the bus and right into the house."

Figuring out how to pay for that school bus is getting trickier for the Geneseo school district. Like all Illinois school districts, it's seen cutbacks already.

"We're already at 75 percent pro-ration, they're going to drop that down all the way to 19 cents on the dollar," says Superintendent Scott Kuffel.

He says a cut that steep deserves a one word description.

"Devastating."

Geneseo pays $1.5 million dollars to get students on the bus and into class. The state cut would mean a loss of $775,000 dollars.

"We have been able to squeeze out a couple of routes and compact, but when you're 265 square miles, sometimes people think there aren't efficiencies because there's maybe only 30 kids on this bus, but that's all the population in this portion of the district."

Kuffel says Illinois requires students to be bussed if they live over a mile and a half away from school. Two thirds of the students ride the bus. Without proper funding, bus money will have to come from other parts of the budget.

"They're basically pushing all the costs back to the local level, and most of us understand the state certainly is in dire financial straits, but there's going to be this cycle that's self defeating," says Kuffel.

Putting pressure back on the parents if the busses can't run.

"I would have to drive all the way into to town, to drop him off, it's nice to have him picked up because I go the opposite direction sometimes," says Nilsson.

A direction rural school districts hope Illinois reconsiders.

The governor's proposed budget includes less money for education because of an increase in pension costs.

It remains to be seen if lawmakers can find a way to reform the state's pension system.

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