Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Springfield) made their first joint public appearance in Illinois since Kirk returned to full time duty in the Senate in January at a Great Lakes charter school they helped create which is now being hurt by the Sequester.
Durbin, Kirk and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) met with students at the Learn Public Charter School, a North Chicago public school on the Great Lakes Naval Base, to see the new institution and listen to the students.
“This is our first public appearance in Illinois since Sen. Kirk returned to the Senate (in January after suffering a stroke a year before),” Durbin said. “We wanted it to be here because it is something we worked on together.”
Sequester Reduces School Funding
The school, which opened last fall, is located in a building on the base the Navy no longer needed. It now faces funding issues because the Sequester cut impact aid to schools which educate military dependants not only in North Chicago but Township High School District 113 in Highland Park and Deerfield, North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park and District 34 in Glenview.
The cost to North Chicago is $250,000 a year, according to Durbin. Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools are down about $60,000 while District 112 will be short approximately $20,000 and District 34 $60,000, according to school officials.
Durbin and Schneider expressed hope the problem will be resolved soon. “When Mark Kirk was chief of staff to (former Rep.) John Porter he helped bring impact aid (here),” Durbin said. “We’re going to do everything we can to restore impact aid.”
None of the lawmakers said it would get the special attention given to air traffic delays a week ago. Schneider stressed a smart, bipartisan approach to resolving the Sequester making hard but intelligent choices.
“We all have to work together as a team and find a way to do so,” Schneider said. “We need an answer to close excesses but we can’t use a meat clever. We have to come together and nail it down where we need it.”
Schools in Highland Park and Deerfield Will Adjust
Meanwhile, District 113 Communications Director Natalie Kaplan made it clear the budget would be balanced without a dip in the quality of education at the two high schools regardless of the loss of revenue.
“Of course these cuts in funding are difficult for the District to manage,” Kaplan said. “We have worked collaboratively with surrounding districts to strongly advocate for these funds. However, regardless of what the federal or state (governments) do in regards to impact aid, we will continue to educate and support all of our military families and students.”
In his first public appearance in the Congressional District he once represented since his stroke, Kirk needed the assistance of a cane and a wheel chair to navigate his way from the car to the school and around the building. He also talked about a new mission.
“If anyone has parents who have a stroke and get depressed, don’t want to get out of bed, I want them to call me,” Kirk said. He promised to share his story of rehabilitation and offer encouragement. “I walked up the steps to the Capitol,” he added referring to his first day back Jan. 4.