17 Metro East school districts sue the state of Illinois and governor over funding

ALTON, IL (KPLR) - 17 Metro East school districts are suing Illinois and Governor Bruce Rauner.  The districts filed suit Wednesday in St. Clair County court alleging the state isn't carrying out its constitutional duty to fund student's education.

Bethalto is one of the district suing the state.

The superintendent here says the district is below the state average in state and local funding, and it's making it harder to meet the state's relatively new standards for student performance.

At a recent Bethalto school board meeting the district cut $2.2 million dollars in spending and eliminated 20 jobs. Superintendent Dr. Jill Griffin had this to say about school funding, "We just feel that we are continually backed into a corner by the state of Illinois by unfunded mandates and not fully funding education."

Griffin has expressed frustration with state leaders who make financial promises for kids and don't keep them, "If you get paid twice a month and all of the sudden you don't receive one of those paychecks and you don't know when that paycheck is going to come, you're constantly trying to navigate that situation."

Governor Rauner isn't sure school superintendents have a case, but he does say Illinois’ school funding system is broken, "It's not clear to me that it's unconstitutional, I think it probably is constitutional, but it's not fair."

Long term, it's hard to say if lawmakers will change how schools are funded.

But Rauner says the situation could get better in the short-term if a budget deal is finally reached, "Our goal is to increase state support for schools every year, and every year put more of that money into the lower income districts and have them catch up. They won't be 100 percent caught up within one year, but in a few years our goal is to have it more equitable so schools around the state are treated equally and fairly."

Meanwhile superintendent Griffin says the cash crunch is putting education at peril, “You get to a point where your bare bones and you can't cut any further without really disrupting the education that you're delivering to your children."

Griffin hopes the suit sends a message that taxpayers and teachers, parents and students have had enough.

It is possible that more school districts could eventually join in as plaintiffs in this case against the state.