Jonesboro School District pre-k program in jeopardy
Parents and teachers of the Jonesboro School District are dismayed at a ruling by the Illinois State Board of Education, ISBE, that puts the district’s pre-kindergarten program in jeopardy.
For nearly 30 years, Jonesboro Elementary School has funded its pre-k classes with grant money from the ISBE’s Early Childhood Block Grant.
On Monday, June 4, Jonesboro superintendent Keith Reinhardt was notified by email that an expected $122,000 grant had been denied.
According to Reinhardt, Jonesboro missed funding by two points. For a school to be eligible, they must receive a minimum score of 60 from the average taken from the scores of three evaluators who judge a school’s needs based on an evaluation rubric. Jonesboro scored a 58.
However, Reinhardt also points out that the evaluators’ individual scores ranged from 68 to 51. He suggests that such a wide range of scores would seem to indicate a problem with either the evaluations or the rubric by which the scores are calculated.
Reinhardt addressed the issue at a special meeting of the Jonesboro CCSD Board of Education which was held Thursday, June 14.
Among the concerned people in attendance at the meeting was Jonesboro kindergarten teacher Susan Ramsey. She spoke about the importance of the pre-k program and the benefits it has for incoming kindergarten students.
“Many studies conducted around long-term effects of students attending quality preschools and pre-k programs show a strong relationship between preschool attendance and success in diverse areas of life,” said Ramsey.
“Our Jonesboro pre-k program provides our students with a quality foundation to become successful students and adults.”
Local legislators, including State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, and State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, have also taken up the cause in Springfield.
“There’s been a lot of contact with Senator Schimpf and Representative Bryant. They’re both passionate about this issue and upset with the results,” said Reinhardt.
“They can’t make any promises, but they are working on this. Senator Schimpf has been in contact with the Illinois State Board of Education and Representative Bryant has contacted the governor’s office.”
Schools have two weeks to appeal the decision. Jonesboro’s appeals would have had to be received by ISBE in Springfield by Monday, June 18.
However, Reinhardt says he only received the evaluators’ comments on Wednesday and copies of the rubric that the evaluators used on Thursday. This left just two work days for Reinhardt to prepare an appeal and deliver it to Springfield.
Another problem the school faces is that the appeals process can take up to 60 days, which means the school year may have begun before a decision has even been reached.
Should the appeals process fail and the decision isn’t overturned, Jonesboro will have to wait four years before applying for the grant again.
Other schools in Union County are facing similar problems. Cobden School District No. 17 was left off of ISBE’s grant list, leaving them in the same situation as Jonesboro.
Anna School District No. 37 made the list for funding. However, according to superintendent Chuck Goforth, the Anna pre-k program has received funding, but there still are some questions as to the amount and the types of services they will be able to provide.
The Lick Creek School Elementary District announced on social media that it has received grant funding and the pre-k program will go on this fall as scheduled.
Shawnee School District superintendent Shelly Clover-Hill has stated that since the district’s pre-k program is funded with title money, they remain unaffected.
Local PTO treasurer and pre-k parent Pamela Turner has issued a call to the community to contact Springfield to implore them to overturn their decision.
“You can contact ISBE and the state superintendent by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org,” says Turner. “We also need to contact Governor Rauner at 888-261-3336. Emails can be left on his website at www2.illinois.gov and send letters to: Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706. I would also contact Representative Bryant and Senator Schimpf to ask for their continued support”
“It’s really important to call and send emails more than once,” says Turner. If you know an infant to 4-year-old in the Jonesboro School District, this effects them! We can’t get the grant for at least 4 more years if we do not get funding this year.”