Champaign’s Unit 4 tries to keep budget cuts from affecting students’ education

By Avani Chhaya

While $2.3 million in budget cuts have already been made to the Champaign Unit 4 school district, the city’s Board of Education is working to keep current and future educators and the quality of the schools intact.

Board Member Kristine Chalifoux said the district has cut back on staff travel and pay raises for administrators among other things in this “extensive” budget cut.

“We’re sort of in limbo,” she said. “We seem to be shown that we need to be cautious of spending our money. We have to assume the worst.”

Chalifoux said the board has not discussed budget cuts for the next cycle, but that it recognizes the most important concern is the education of the community’s children. She said these cuts should impact the kids’ education as little as possible.

Champaign Unit 4 is not the only school district in the state feeling tightly gripped by matters of finance.

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“It has affected education throughout the state,” Chalifoux said. “Champaign schools have fared better than most. We’ve been careful. We’re going to continue to be conservative and careful.”

In an effort to keep the quality of education untouched by the budget cuts, the board is striving to protect the district’s teachers. Chalifoux said they have tried to prevent any financial trouble from disrupting students’ education.

“We’ve been keeping it as far from them as possible,” Chalifoux added. “We’ve been able to protect our teachers and staff.”

For University students who are interested in teaching elementary or secondary education, there are two main categories of teaching education at the University: early childhood or elementary and secondary education. While enrolled in these programs, which take two years to complete, students get placed within a classroom for student teaching experience, said University Certification Specialist Jeff Buck.

Cheryll Douglas, associate director for the Office of Clinical Experiences at the University, said about 600 education majors will be teaching this fall in local schools for field experience. Placing these students in these schools has not been problematic, she said.

“It’s a certain mile radius to be placed for student teaching,” Buck said. “(There are a) number of places they could go.”

Still, University students studying education have felt the impact of district and statewide budget cuts upon graduation and during the job application process.

“It’s difficult once they’ve been certified because districts have cut so many personnel,” Douglas added. “There are not nearly as many available jobs. We’ve not had as many (students) secure a fall placement. All districts would be feeling those budget cuts.”

Chalifoux said the issue is not based only at the school district level.

“It really is at the state level,” Chalifoux said. “We keep seeing cuts from them, and Illinois is not alone. Until this is all turned around, we’ll look into major shifts in the way of educating children.”