SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Illinois public schools are in line for $7 billion in federal money.
On Wednesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker and the state Board of Education rolled out a plan directing districts on how they should spend it.
“We’re all yearning for the opportunity to get back to full time as soon as we possibly can,” says Dr. Jennifer Gill, Superintendent of the Springfield School District.
Nearly three in four Illinois students still attend school online at least part of the time. Now, the return to full in-person learning getting a $7 billion boost from Congress.
“An unparalleled influx of resources,” says Pritzker.
The Pritzker administration and the state Board of Education published a 180-page guidebook, urging school districts to spend the money to help students make up for lost time.
“Things like tutoring, extended hours, or intensive mental health services are all expensive programs that might be tough to fund in a normal year,” continues Pritzker. “But this is not a normal year.”
“It’s been a hard year for educators — a hard year for students and most definitely a hard year for parents and families,” says Gill.
Springfield’s superintendent says more than half of the students in her district are still learning entirely remotely.
“It’s hard for a student to have concentration on a screen for that long throughout the day,” she says.
In Monticello, Superintendent Vic Zimmerman sees an upside to remote learning.
“There’s some positives that are going to come out of this, too,” he says.
“There’s some learning gains in other areas, you know we have kindergarten kids who can do zoom meetings,” Zimmerman says.
In his district, the full return to normal is already on the calendar.
“We’re planning on being open next year five days a week, full days so regardless of vaccines,” the superintendent says.
The full $7 billion won’t come all at once. Districts will se the money in several installments over the next 3 years.
While the state board is encouraging districts to use the money to expand services, each district will ultimately determine how they choose to use it.
Springfield public schools will get $107 million in federal education money, along with $76 million for Decatur, nearly $39 million for Champaign, $21 million for Urbana, and $15 million for Mattoon.