school xing SPRINGFIELD – A measure introduced by State Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville) would allow students to take the bus if their route to school passes through high-crime neighborhoods.

House Bill 5195 would allow a school district to claim reimbursement if it provides free transportation to students living within one and a half miles of their school that have to walk through an area with a “course or pattern of criminal activity” as defined by law enforcement.

“Students should be able to get to school without the fear of becoming a victim of gang violence,” Clayborne said. “This measure will protect these kids and let them focus on their studies instead of fear their commute to school.”

Current law already allows a school to offer free transportation to students within one and a half miles of the school if they have to pass heavy traffic or railroad tracks.

Under the proposed legislation, local law enforcement would define which areas are considered to have patterns of criminal activity.

A student’s parent or guardian could also petition the school board to have a specific area considered to have a pattern of criminal activity. The school board’s decision would require approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation, The Illinois state Board of Education and local law enforcement.

HB 5195 passed the Senate Education Committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.


“Nobody wants to take on any more debt than is necessary, but this is clearly an extenuating circumstance that mandates this action from the General Assembly on behalf of our students,” - State Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville)

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville) is working to ensure funds are available to rebuild the damaged Wolf Branch School District 113 middle school building.

Clayborne’s House Bill 1265 allows the school district to exceed its statutory debt limit to secure funds for emergency repairs necessitated because the building sunk 25 inches last year after the collapse of an abandoned mine below it.

“It is a miracle that no one was hurt when that mine collapsed,” Clayborne said. “Through this legislation, Wolf Branch will be able to fix the school and get back to the business of educating our kids.”

As a result of the damage, the middle school has been deemed unsafe and all 372 middle school students have been moved to the district’s elementary school building, resulting in significant overcrowding. All of Wolf Branch School District 113’s 797 students are now schooled in one facility.

Clayborne said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has taken steps to use federal funds to prevent the mine from further collapse and the district is pursuing other grant money to rebuild its facilities, but the raising of the debt limit is unavoidable considering the circumstances.

Illinois law only allows a school district to borrow a certain percentage of what their land is valued at, and Wolf Branch is allowed no more than $12.6 million in debt. This project would require $17.5 million, so one-time action from the General Assembly is required.

Per the legislation, the debt limit would decrease by the amount of any further state or federal grants received for the project as well.

“Nobody wants to take on any more debt than is necessary, but this is clearly an extenuating circumstance that mandates this action from the General Assembly on behalf of our students,” Clayborne said.

HB 1265 is currently assigned to the Senate Education Committee.


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