On Friday, the state Senate voted, 54-0, to approve House Bill 1254, bringing Chester District 139 one step closer to a waiver for the state aid the district lost out on when its students were out of school for James Brockmeyer's funeral services.
The bill now awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature to be signed into law.
"This bill remedies an unfortunate situation where the Chester community school district was losing funding due to hosting a memorial service for fallen Police Officer Brockmeyer," said State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) in a news release the day of the vote.
"The legislation ensures that the Chester school district will not lose funding and that other districts will be able to support community recognition of our first responder heroes."
Schimpf was one of the co-sponsors of the bill, along with State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton).
"I appreciate the efforts of the Chester Board of Education, Superintendent (Rick) Goodman, Regional Superintendent (Kelton) Davis and Representative Costello to act quickly on behalf of Chester District 139 and I look forward to Governor Rauner signing this bill into law," Schimpf said.
The vote came two weeks after the District 139 Board of Education decided to make up the school day missed for the fallen Chester Police officer and volunteer firefighter's funeral during a special reorganization meeting on April 28.
The board members voted to have the last day of student attendance be May 19, with a 1:40 p.m. dismissal.
"There's nothing good happening in Springfield," said Tom Welge, who was re-elected as the board's vice president during the April 28 meeting. "I would not count on anything being passed."
Previously, the board voted to make up a snow day on April 13 and noted during the special meeting that the state budget mess in Springfield factored into its decision to make up the day for Brockmeyer's funeral.
"I know we want to roll the dice, but financially, we're not able to roll the dice," Goodman said.
The day and a half in missed instructional time was estimated to cost the district between $19,000 and $20,000 in state aid, depending on student attendance.
Board president Mitch Hammel stated during the April meeting that while the district had been told that passage of the bill was a likely possibility, it wasn't guaranteed.
"No one has ever guaranteed we would get the money," he said at the time. "Not to this day are we guaranteed to get the money for the half day either."
Board Member Dan Colvis was complimentary of the work Costello and Patsie Hopkins, who is a member of Costello's staff, have done on HB1254, which expands the list of what partial days of attendance can be used for - including the utilization of a school district's facilities by local or county authorities for a memorial or funeral services.
"I want to commend Jerry Costello on the fine job he's done supporting Chester," Colvis said.
In his release, Schimpf stated the legislation was necessary due to a decision by the Illinois State Board of Education that an early dismissal of students to facilitate the hosting of a memorial service in the high school gymnasium would preclude that school day from counting toward mandatory attendance requirements.