States: Ill. Districts Off the 'Watch,' But Still Facing Financial Woes

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Seventy-four Illinois school districts have climbed off the state's financial-watch list, but officials said that hidden problems remain in many of those districts.

"A number of districts have converted short-term debt to long-term debt to escape the watch list," said State Superintendent of Education Joseph Spagnolo. He argued that the state school board should revamp the way it measures troubled schools.

"The board needs to fine-tune its financial barometer to bring greater fiscal accountability to the public," he added.

The watch list, released last month, this year includes 98 of the state's 924 districts.

The state places districts on the list if their year-end balances in four major financial categories slip below 5 percent of the year's revenues. Last year, 145 districts made the list.

State officials said that 27 districts are newcomers to the list, 61 districts are on the list for their second year, and 10 districts have reached the state's grimmest status of being "in financial difficulty."

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