Back in September of 2003, the Illinois State Board of Education cut a $30,533 check to Riverside District 96 in anticipation of the passage of House Bill 1180, which would have changed the way the state reimbursed district’s for special education costs.

By February of 2004, the money had been spent, and House Bill 1180 was vetoed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And the ISBE wanted its money back.

“We should have kept the money until it passed,” said Marj Beck, spokesperson for the ISBE’s Division of Funding and Disbursement Services. “The governor vetoed the bill, so we backpedaled and asked for claims to be submitted.”

Dist. 96 never filed a claim, so the ISBE sent a letter on Feb. 27 of 2004, asking for the $30,533 payment to be returned. Beck said she thought all of the loose ends had been tied up until late September, when an audit revealed four school districts, including Dist. 96 owed them money.

Dist. 96 Supt. Dr. Jonathan Lamberson, who was hired in spring of 2005, said he didn’t know about the reimbursement until earlier this month, when he received a collection letter from the ISBE.

“That money has been gone for two years,” he said. “It’s very frustrating the have a commitment from the state board. You think you have funding for programs and then the legislature cuts that back.”

Blagojevich later in 2004 passed an amended version of the vetoed bill. According to information on the ISBE website, Riverside Dist. 96 will receive just over $150,000 from the state for special education reimbursements.

?”Bob Uphues