Annual state data released this week shows many Will County schools are maintaining strong financial health.
The Illinois State Board of Education approved annual financial profiles for school districts statewide. AFP analyze the annual financial reports from the previous fiscal year.
Joliet Public Schools District 86 and Joliet Township High School District 204 still have the highest rating from the state – recognition. Lincoln-Way High School District 210 has watch, the lowest rating, for the third consecutive year.
Plainfield School District 202 advanced from review to recognition this year.
Tom Hernandez, the district’s spokesman, said the board and administration had made difficult decisions since the Great Recession to control or reduce costs.
“Here’s the end result,” Hernandez said.
While, at 632, the number of districts with recognition status is at its highest since 2013, ISBE officials stated in a news release that more than a quarter of all districts have issued short- or long-term debt to sustain normal operations.
“Illinois school districts’ financial health has improved over the last year but at what cost to our students? Illinois must overhaul our school funding model, which is the most inadequate and the most inequitable in the country,” stated Tony Smith, state superintendent of education.
Officials with District 86 and District 204 were unable to be reached Thursday.
The last time District 202 earned recognition status was in fiscal year 2005, according to ISBE. Over the years the district has either been rated early warning, watch or review.
Hernandez said the district cut 350 full-time equivalent positions between 2009 and 2012, and saved about $46 million.
“It’s not easy and it’s not done lightly,” Hernandez said.
Lincoln-Way Superintendent Scott Tingley said the watch rating for the district will have “little effect," and that the district has been able to avoid being put on a state financial oversight panel.
He said district officials continue to meet quarterly with ISBE officials.
“As they track our progress, they’ve been satisfied with the direction that we’re heading,” he said.