Union County Pre-K program staying open

By Arnold Wyrick
JONESBORO, IL (KFVS) - On Monday evening school leaders in the Jonesboro Elementary School District put to rest all of the rumors circulating around Union County about the Pre-K program.
"We are not shutting down the program," said Superintendent Gary Hill.  "We are not laying anyone off, but we are looking at alternative funding sources for the program."
The announcement was exactly what parents and teachers wanted to hear.  The problem the district is facing is a lack of funds flowing regularly from the state comptroller's office.
"The state really hasn't sent any substantial money since the end of October," Superintendent Hill said.  "So right now they're sitting on $500,000 in Pre-K grant funds that's owed us right now."
Parents gathered in the Jonesboro Elementary school gymnasium still had some tough questions for school board members and some praise for the district's Pre-K program.
"They learn a lot more from school especially in the social environment," said Sheryl Gentry of Anna.  "And I like for them to have other children their age to be able to play with and learn together.  We as parents think that when they go into kindergarten they need to know all of that.  And if they don't have the Pre-K program they're not going to learn that stuff."
While school board members assured the parents that they weren't shutting down the Pre-K classrooms, they also pointed out that it's solely funded on a yearly basis via a state grant program.
"We don't know when the state is going to pay us the funds owed," said Jonesboro Community Consolidated School District Board President Don Choate.  "And we don't know if the program is going to get granted from year to year.  It's been that way since we started it back in 1985, but we're going to do everything we can to keep it running."
Some parents say they want all of their kids to have a chance to attend Pre-K.
"I have a four year old and a five year old," said Brandy Eads of Cobden.  "My five year old has already been through it, and my four year old is still in it.  It's been real good for both my girls they've learned a lot."