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D122 looks at flow of state funding

As Illinois lawmakers look to engage in budget talks on Capitol Hill, New Lenox School District 122 is one of many taxing districts examining its flow of state funding for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Business Manager Bob Groos provided an update on state funding at the board’s Feb. 16 meeting, saying that everything is good in terms of spending less than budgeted and all the other revenue sources the district brings in, but officials should keep an eye on state funding.

The first-and-second quarter payment, which was due in September and December, have not yet been paid out to the district.

To date, the state owes $2 million in funding.

Groos said district officials need to keep a tab on its spending as they consider proposals moving forward.

“The budget for this year assumes the timing is similar to previous years,” he said. “We always have three of the four payments come in. That last payment is always late and goes through the next year.”

That timing is assumed by a number of school districts through budget talks and attention to issues with the state trying to pass a budget for this year.

“If that process doesn’t go well and the state budget just keeps getting delayed further and further, and we talked about this last year, we’re at risk of not getting those three payments,” Groos said. “Since we’ve received none of the payments so far and it’s almost the end of February, it’s starting to look like we maybe wont get all three of the four that we were waiting on.”

Groos said that would present “a major variation” from what they budgeted when examining the cash flow.

“If we only got two of this year’s payments, we would have assumed we would’ve gotten three,” he said. “That would be a million dollars lower that this year’s budget would get. Hopefully, that payment would just be delayed to a future year.”

Groos said during fiscal year 2015, the district received five payments because of the state’s payment delay and its attempt to catch up.

“I don’t believe you ever lose any of these payments, but it’s just the timing of them can be shifted around where you [get] two or three in one year and maybe four or five in the next,” he said.

The State of Illinois most recently authorized funding for last year’s final quarter payment on Dec. 31, 2016.

D122 looks at success of ExploreLearning Science Gizmos

New to Martino and Liberty Junior Highs this year is the launch of the district’s ExploreLearning Science Gizmos program.

The app allows students in seventh and eighth grade to interact with and explore a number of topics in science, including heredity and electrical circuitry. Educators typically use this to help support students in understanding, not memorizing material taught inside the classroom.

Curriculum Director Dr. Marianne Cucci said this was a program the district looked into for three years before implementing.

“We wanted to make sure it would meet the needs of our students and be something that was supplementing the curriculum,” she said. “We have found it to be very powerful in that sense. The kids are enjoying changing different variables. I think they’re learning a lot on their own.”

In addition, the app intends to stimulate understanding of concepts that traditional lab work might not be able to address.

Students typically work in pairs or small groups to access the program. Classrooms have a 2:1 ratio for iPads.

Access to this app amounts to $4,800, or $4 per student, and is paid for using curriculum funds.

“We’re looking right now to possibly bring it down to sixth grade,” Cucci said.

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