IL Comptroller Mendoza visits Williamson County pre-K

(Source: Brittany Jacob/KFVS)
(Source: Brittany Jacob/KFVS)

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois Senate has approved a new system for funding schools that will reduce large disparities between wealthy and poor districts.

Legislators voted 38-13 on Tuesday, Aug. 29 to approve the plan that passed the House on Monday, Aug. 28. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he'll sign the bill quickly to get state money to more than 800 districts that have been waiting for funding for the new school year.

Lawmakers have tried for decades to overhaul a school funding formula that's considered the least equitable in the U.S.

On Tuesday, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza went to visit one the schools in need, Williamson County Pre-K out of Jefferson Elementary School in Marion.

"Every dollar matters…it really does," said Mendoza. She visited the school as a way to put a "face" on the need for money. She toured the school and had a round table discussion with Jami Hodge, Director of the program, Dr. Keith Oates, Marion Schools Superintendent, and State Representative Dave Severin.

"We really truly strive to just help people when we hear about a situation that we can intervene in…we can't always intervene on the time schedule people would like us to, but knowing that you have a problem means that we get engaged and we have to figure out a game plan to get you out of it," explained Mendoza.

In June, if Williamson County Pre-K didn't get its state payment of $1.3 million, then school would have to shut their doors.

Hodge explained just how they pulled it off.

"It's been tough, but I think most of our community has understood the situation that we're in," Hodge said. "Was very relieved when we were able to literally scramble."

They made more than 200 calls to their representative and comptrollers office and even took to social media. Mendoza's office heard about their need and responded with a check.

"If we do have to look 500 parents in the eye and say we don't have a place for you..I'm going to say we did everything we could before we just gave up. And it worked. It worked for us. And we have a great program. And we were able to staff it," Hodge said.

This also comes as good news not only for kids and parents, but also for school administration and staff.

Hodge said everyone is happy. "Parents are happy and kids are happy and they have a program for the school year, that's all that matters."

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