Cahokia School District Sports & Activities Face Chopping Block

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CAHOKIA, IL (KTVI)-- Illinois state budget troubles and declining property values in one local district will likely spell the end of student sports and extra curricular activities along with the elimination of elementary school music, art and physical education.

The Cahokia School District 187 expects to face a three million dollar shortfall for next year's budget.  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's budget speech Wednesday confirmed what Superintendent Art Ryan feared... another year of reduced state funding for public schools.

The loss of the activities will hurt college athletic scholarship opportunities for students and leave them with little to do after school.

"We never had what you would call a lot of pork, but we we've cut pretty much to the bone already," explained Ryan.  The district cut three and a half million dollars in recent years.

Another decrease in property tax collections due to declining property values within the school district plus state spending reductions mean Cahokia faces a three million dollar shortfall for the budget beginning in September.

The Cahokia School Board has until mid-April to complete its 2013-2014 budget and notify teachers who will be laid off.  The district held a series of public meetings last month to alert parents and others.  Proposals include eliminating all high school sports and extra curricular activities to save one million dollars.  Cancelling K-8 art, music and physical education classes would shorten each school day for students by 45 minutes and save another one million dollars.

An expected 30 to 35 teachers along with ten other staff members would be laid off.  Other cuts include closing the Jerome Early Childhood Center and the district's School of Choice High School.

"We do not have a terribly wealthy community so there are not a lot of separate people to go to to look for donations, so we're going to just pretty much have to be stuck with whatever the legislature does," said Ryan.

"I understand the pension situation and realize the state is in bad financial state and needs to address that, but as I've said numerous times before: trying to fix the pension problem on the backs of students is not the way  to  fix it. It's just not right."

Ryan is concerned the budget choices may produce an exodus of students and families from the district which will reduce state funding even more.

Betsey.Bruce@tvstl.com
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