SPRINGFIELD − A long and frustrating wait may be over for a handful of Illinois school districts that are in line to receive the final installment of state construction money promised to them more than a decade ago.
Districts in Silvis, Du Quoin and Pinckneyville are among those that could receive more than a $1 million each within the next three weeks to help them pay off the cost of building new schools and classrooms.
"They've told us we should get it by the end of the month," Du Quoin District 300 Superintendent Gary Kelly said.
The districts applied for school construction grants during former Gov. George Ryan's tenure, but the dollars never arrived. In 2004, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich visited Silvis and presented the district with a large, fake check. But the money was never released.
It wasn't until 2009 when the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn approved a statewide construction funding law that the money began to flow.
But the funding hit another snag in January, when Quinn canceled a bond sale because of a downgrade in the state's credit rating. The state went ahead with a bond sale earlier this month, with some of the proceeds going toward the schools.
In Du Quoin, the district is in line to receive $1.28 million, which represents the final 10 percent of funds used to build a new high school.
In Silvis, the district will receive $1.5 million to help pay for the construction of a new junior high school, which is now open. It also is paying for renovations to the old junior high, which has been converted into a grade school.
Pinckneyville is awaiting $1.4 million, representing the final installment of $19 million in state funds that paid for the construction of a new high school on the east edge of the community.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said Quinn should be credited for keeping the promise made under his predecessors.
"Kudos to the governor," Jacobs said. "It's been a long, hard fight for this money. I think we're all on the same page now."