Logic, data lead to 'no' vote on D97 referendum

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John Dagnon

At the risk of sounding like a bully (less popular these days in Oak Park than fiscal conservatives, teenage boys and testosterone in general), it's time to respond to one of the better-written letters about the upcoming District 97 tax-increase referendum.

In the note, Ian Bird and his classmates stick to broad generalizations and emotional pull to persuade Oak Park's citizenry to vote for a tax increase in order to save cherished programs and teaching positions [Julian student supports D97 referendum, Viewpoints, Feb. 16]. Bravo! If you're going to appeal to Oak Parkers, that's the way to go. It was well written because to use empirical data and logic would only cause normal taxpayers to vote a resounding "no."

However, instead of imploring residents to vote for a tax increase, Ian and the gang should be asking their teachers why, in the worst economic times in 70 years, they will not take a small pay cut collectively to save jobs and programs. Ask your legislators why families in Oak Park cannot use their tax dollars to send their children to the school of their choice. Ask why a teacher cannot work at a District 97 school without belonging to a union or paying union dues. Ask why, if payroll is 75 percent of expenses, does the board fib to us and say they have "cut to the bone." Ask why, if District 97 recently received 700 applications for one open teaching position, we can't find quality teachers that will work for less. Ask why we should pay more when we already pay double the taxes we paid eight years ago without a corresponding doubling of the quality of education. Ask why we have a one-school high school district with an $80 million surplus that could be used to save your programs and teaching jobs, but will not.

Americans spend more on education per pupil than any country in the world. Yet we are mired toward the bottom of developed countries. The well-regarded school district of Scottsdale, Ariz., spends $3,000 per kid versus the $15,000 we spend per child. Since our education is nowhere near five times better, ask where this extra money is going.

Ian Bird and friends, keep up the passion and activity. Stay involved and keep your heads in the game. I just want to hear from you in a few years when you realize that, to live in the town you grew up in, you have to pay nearly $10,000 in property taxes for a 1,500-square-foot house. Lord knows what it will be when you are of home-buying age.

John Dagnon is an eight-year Oak Park resident who says he is "concerned about increasing taxes."

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Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:21 AM

I believe the language was a little more complicated than that - something along the lines of if they provide services to any, they must provide services to all, with some ability to cap expenses. From what I have heard the Districts have figured out how to manage this requirement. If not, please show us the specific number of students served before and after, along with the amount of services, and $$$. Again, the district should make the case based on data, not rhetoric.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 10:59 AM

Actually, the 2004 re-authorization was significant. Prior to this, D97 was responsible to provide services only to youth RESIDENTS needing special education. In 2004, this changed. Now D97 is responsible for providing special education services to ANY child receiving education within its boundries, regardless of residency. This includes ALL home schoolers and private schools (St. Giles, St. Edumunds, Ascension, etc.). The caseload grew exponentially. Did Federal & State funding keep up?


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:08 AM

The Federal law that assures that students with disabilty are not excluded from publics schools was first passed in 1975. It has been reauthorized a number of times, most recently in 2004. To the best of my knowledge this reauthorization did not add any major new demands. Indeed it included a number of features designed to make implementation easier. For example: an IEP now can be ammended by agreement of the parent & case manager without a full meeting of many staff, teachers, et.

To Shameful  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 8:57 AM

I would not judge voting for or against the referendum based on anything I read here on these comments sections. To know what is going on, you need to attend a forum and do some research. No offense to anyone who is posting, but really you have to find info other ways. Not everything said here is without bias. I understand your feelings but don't blame Oak Park or D97 for hearsay.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 3:55 AM

Correction: defenseless population-should have proofread before posting. Sorry for the errors.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 3:50 AM

So then was @KWerner correct that the BD, Carolina is dumping this mess in the laps of special ed students. She is right there are no "new IEP/sp ED requirements that I am aware of. As the father of a student with special needs this is disgusting. Why would they state this if it isn't true? Believing that the ref is necessary is one thing but purposely misleading the public by blaming a defensely population is another. I am speechless and if this rhetoric continues we will leave Oak Park.

I heard the same from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 11:13 PM

@KWerner. I heard it. It came during the "arm graph" There was OakPark.com discussion and the point was new IEP/Sp ED statutes were unforseen costs. Seemed like a good point. It was countered that no IEP reqs changed since 199x?


Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:18 PM

My recollection is the Peter indicated they did not yet know how many positions would be hired back. It would follow then that they certainly don't know which individual teachers would be affected. While it may be necessary to wait for another forum it might also be possible that someone from the union or the district would provide a clarifying comment on this page.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 2:22 PM

@KWerner: You said "Peter said that part of the agreement for the salary 'freeze' was that any money saved would go to paying teachers. He said that this money would be used to hire back some of the teachers." I still think you're misunderstanding but we'll have go to another forum to be sure. RIF notices went out weeks after the agreement with the OPTA on the freeze in exchange for saving jobs. So, it's illogical that they would RIF teachers who they knew they could save just with the freeze.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:19 PM

I know they have "talked" about reductions. But that is not the same as real planning. They have their hit list of teaching positions, but no solid plan for what they will do with the kids those teachers would have had in class. Sounds to me like they went for the knee-jerk scare tactic without realizing that the community might be smart enough to call their bluff and make then do the hard work to come up with a proposal worth the paper it is written on.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:50 PM

@E. Jackson - you are correct. @Voting No: "Why has Dr. R already decided that adjusting class size (and maybe offering some combined classes as has been done in the past) is not possible?" It has actually been discussed at length. If the referendum doesn't pass, it will be on the table for 2012-13. Given the # of classes at grade level currently, reducing staff and raising class sizes will take a lot of planning and changes district wide.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:44 PM

Voting No - the board has been talking about the reductions for at least a year. It was actually an agenda item on a board study session that was held on March 16. I'm also pretty sure they talked about them throughout the summer and had additional referendum study sessions in the fall where they were discussed. I believe all these sessions were open to the public.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:04 PM

Where is the careful and considered study of various options that our board should have conducted before creating its hit list? They are the ones who have access to all the information and who should, with input from the community, come up with reasonable options. Why do we have to accept that cutting core enhancement classes is the only option? Why has Dr. R already decided that adjusting class size (and maybe offering some combined classes as has been done in the past) is not possible?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:00 PM

In response to a question Peter T said that part of the agreement for the salary "freeze" was that any money saved would go to paying teachers. He said that this money would be used to hire back some of the teachers. He also talked about the bumping and reassigning but that was in response to a different question.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 5:58 PM

@Dean: Lemont's plea was: "Out of 68 districts classified as large elementary districts in Cook, DuPage and Will counties, we're the ninth-wealthiest but have the second-lowest tax rate." Lemont is, not surprisingly, also 43rd in instructional spending. Conversely, of those same 68 districts, OP is 30th in wealth and 6th in spending. Lemont may indeed have been funding schools below their means, but that's hardly the case in OP. If anything, we are funding them beyond our capacity to pay.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:39 PM

@CAOP: "The YES side has to present some #s." But you've rejected standardized testing as a valid measure. So, what's an acceptable standard? How do you measure good outcomes in education? Good grades in high school? College admission? Eventual salary? Neurobiological testing like brain scans? How about the wisdom of the market, like how many families move to Oak Park because of the schools? At the end of the day, that might be the best test available.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:26 PM

@Chet21: OK, I misunderstood. Good luck with the spreadsheets.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:23 PM

Citizens - During last night's forum, you said several times that the district needs to make more cuts, but didn't list anything specific other than to say get rid of administration. Can you please provide some specifics about what cuts you would recommend? If possible, list not just general categories like administration, but actual positions and/or programs.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:22 PM

Sorry, 51 teachers and 4 admins were RIFed.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:21 PM

@TellingItLikeItIs Sure, let's look at the whole story of Lemont. (And it's Lemont parents that are helping clean the schools. Their schools in Lemont, just to be crystal clear.) But when you arrive at the end of the story, their schools are declining in quality and Lemont property values are declining more than other suburbs.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:09 PM

@KWerner: You said: "D97 knows they will be hiring at least some of the teachers back even if the referendum fails." I was at that forum too and I didn't hear anyone say that. Traczyk said that some certified staff whose positions were cut (just for example, the director of CAST) will be reassigned to classroom jobs, because they have seniority over other people who got RIF notices on Tuesday. 55 teachers and 4 admins were RIFed and those people's last day is June 7 if the referendum fails.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:17 AM

@Dean: I didn't bring up the Lemont comparison, a pro-ref responder did. I just provided more information. You can't invoke a horror story without owning up to how the horror story started, and that was overspending. I wasn't aware that D97 was asking parents to clean the schools... or is that just a baseless scare tactic?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:13 AM

I went to a forum last night. Among the things that I learned is that the teacher cuts are not cast in stone. In fact, D97 knows they will be hiring at least some of the teachers back even if the referendum fails. Also, they don't know what they will do with the students who would have been taught by the cut teachers or how they will assure the planning time classroom teachers got when kids were at art, etc. Sounds to me that D97 has a hit list but no real plan. I'll be voting NO

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:01 PM

@OP Mom, I am glad you think Irving is great. But since I not not you & you are not me, how would you measure what great is? The board consistently says ISAT scores are up, but if the standard is low to begin with how do you know your kids can do better with the resources we are spending. Education is path dependent - you get one shot at it because of neurobiology. So why shouldn't we OPTIMIZE the system to get the most bang for our hard earned buck. The YES side need to present some #s.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:28 PM

The fundamental issue is accountability. Tech is a lovely idea but if it stays in closets along with the last couple of sets of books that the district adopted and paid for it won't result in any benefits to our kids. My son had a computer "teacher" who got hysterical if he touched any key other than the one she had expressly told him to press. The real issue is who will take accountability for what happens in the classroom? Teachers? Admin? Board? No more money without accountability.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:25 PM

@Dean. I write that "I don't have the hubris to think that I could be a school principal" and you somehow turn that into my "description of principals as hubristic"? If you would kindly reverse that by 180% you will be correct. I knew the last 3 Irving principals very well and will quote the philosopher, MeatLoaf, and state that "two out of three" were excellent. I'm now returning to analyzing the D97 salary/benefit increases of 5% thru 2016. Care to assist?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:56 PM

@TellingItLikeItis The germane point about Lemont is that people don't want to move into a town where parents have to clean the schools. The Oak Park schools are not badly run from a fiscal point of view. D97 has cut 45 positions in the last 10 years and they laid off 55 last night. They will do what is necessary to be fiscally healthy, regardless of the referendum.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:43 PM

@chet21 Ah, but see, it was your description of principals as hubristic. C'mon. THe teachers and administrators, members of the board, they are your neighbors. Not some faceless monolith. Read you rhetoric dispassionately. You often sound like your railing against some evil System. They 're just the folks who live down the street.

Get your facts right No on Ref  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:56 AM

@No on Ref: I completely understand why people are against the referendum and believe this debate is good. However, I would like it to be clear what we are actually discussing/fighting about. Chet21 has been clear he has been talking about FLES. While FLES and Spanish Immersion are 2 different things, I can see the grounds for confusion. As for the Smartboard info, the stuff I found came from an Iowa school website. I cannot say where the stuff D97 posted came from.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 8:29 PM

@Tellingitlikeitis: Wait...overspending and poor financial management were the problem in Lemont's district? Residents lacking the background to hold districts accountable? Oak Park is sounding more and more like :Lemont every moment! I find it sad but amusing...especially since D97 talking points will likely soon trumpet "what happened in Lemont could happen here if you don't pass the Referendum!"

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 8:23 PM

@Get your facts right: Sorry, I will do some additional homework on the multi-cultural and language enhancements being recommended. I guess I got confused by the D97 rhetoric on "the enhancement of its foreign language and arts program..." As for the smartboard research, I'll review the specific studies...but, you sent me to sales presentations which have nice little talking points that always make everything look fantastic and obscure the actual results/implications. Lovely bedtime reading


Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:00 PM

RE Lemont: This Chicago Tribune article cites overspending and poor financial management for their problems, not failure to pass a referendum: "The Tribune's spotlight on District 113A shows what can happen when a school district overspends, the state doesn't intervene and residents lack the accounting background to hold districts accountable." http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-08-15/news/ct-met-lemont-0815-bd-20100815_1_district-audits-district-113a-school-district

Get your facts right No on Ref  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:23 PM

2) It is readily apparent you have no clue on Spanish Immersion. It is at one school. It is a regular homeroom K-5 at Lincoln like Big Mac, Looping or single grade. The cost is the same if it was a non-immersion classroom. What rollout are you talking about? There is no plan to rollout Spanish Immersion at another school if the referendum passes (unless it is a huge secret). I go to WLAC meetings and have never heard that this is on the table (even though, frankly it should be). RU talking FLES?

SC Voting YES!!!!! from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:20 PM

A friend in Lemont where they did NOT pass a school tax referendum vote last year: Their schools: Let go 30% of teachers, class size now 32 students per class up to 40 by next year, school not as clean, bathrooms not cleaned daily, parents asked to clean classrooms, outside of schools not kept up ( lawns not mowed, snow removal at a minimum).All extra curricular activities were cut,no band sports, field trips, musicals. No sports, field trips,musicals. PROPERTY VALUES HAVE DROPPED 42% in 2 years!

Get your facts right No on Ref  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:18 PM

@No on Ref: 1) The issue on tech is "Where have you been?" There is a tech plan. It has been discussed at length in public. Personally, would rather have tech in classrooms rather than in hands of admins. I have no clue whether this meets your (now) high standards of accuracy: http://www.iowa-city.k12.ia.us/Schools/vanallen/SMARTBoards_&_Learning/Research_Findings.pdf. There is also stuff on D97 website: http://www.op97.org/referendum/addendum.html

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 4:06 PM

@Get your facts right: I haven't seen the research, but I'm interested. Please provide a link to a published, peer-reviewed study on SmartBoards. Also, the tech plan hasn't been around THAT long, since iPads are relatively new....and even if it HAS been around, that doesn't make it smart or well-grounded in accountable results. And if you paid a teacher to do Spanish immersion, it had a cost..and rollout IS part of the plan if the ref passes, right?


Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:24 AM

Well said chet. As I pointed out, the RefYes website justifies high OP teacher salaries by comparison to 11 wealthy towns. However RefYes's comps have an average of $644,000 in property tax base behind each student vs OP's $322,000. OPer's therefore already shoulder a much higher tax burden to support the district's high salaries, and this rate will only go up with the proposed referendum tax increase.

What is going on  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:40 AM

Please take a look at Terry Dean's article today? So, how much will taxpayers have to pay and how much is D97 really asking for?

Get your facts right No of Ref  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:29 AM

@No on Ref 3/7 301pm: You rail on Smartboards? Really? Have you seen the research? Looks like incorporating such tech into the curriculum increases test scores. Not necessarily a cure all for Achievement Gap, but it is better than talking about doing something about the Achievement Gap (which is all that seems to go on around here). If people have a problem with admins getting tech items while the classrooms do not have it, where have you been? The D97 tech plan has been around for years.

Get your facts right No on Ref  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:25 AM

@No on Ref 3/6 123pm: Spanish Immersion is only at one OP school, Lincoln. There is no added cost for Spanish Immersion as teachers are paid union scale. In fact, if we are going to teach language in the schools, this is probably the most cost effective and best way to go. Problem is with finding certified teachers at the lower grade levels. Now FLES, which chet21 has harped about, is a different story as the hour per week is insufficient to actually do much good.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:36 AM

D97 financial problem simplified? Even with annual revenues increasing 2.68% - their spending is increasing by 4.9%. They are NOT "frugal" or "revenue-starved" - they are spendthrifts. Source? Here: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. Please vote NO and send a message that overspending and scaring of parents and Oak Parkers must stop - they are receiving ample tax money!!!

op parent  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:30 AM

In any case, if you took exception to the pitchforks and torches comment, oh well. I suspect B will take it in the humorous way in which it was intended. As for why people her might be a little tetchy about the subject? Something about having our art, music, core teachers getting RIF notices, and people here talking in ooh, teacher-led schools! And other "big" concepts that have been nattered about in journals for years! Really, we have work to do, and one of them is maintain good schools.

op parent  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:19 AM

My vitriol? Please explain. Where am I being vitriolic?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:09 AM

Why does D97 budget from FY2011 to FY2012 show an increase of nearly $3M in "salary and benefit costs"? Freeze? This is an increase of 5%. Next question? Why is the increase nearly $14M from FY2011 to FY2016? An increase of nearly 5% annually. This is a "frugal" district? During a time of financial stress? Health insurance is only a small fraction. BTW, total revenue (primarily OP prop taxes) is projected to increase 2.7% Can't we have less generous D97 wages? This is reason for ref.Vote NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 8:49 AM

@Dean. You are now just being silly. Because I questioned that someone (a principal) with experience solely in ed would not necessarily be able to quit that position and immediately double their salary.....is "principal bashing"? It's also "silly" that someone who is mgr at Proctor & Gamble could quit her job and become a school principal. Would someone NOW think that I just "bashed" P&G managers? That's your logic. BTW, reread my post - I PRAISED the "fantastic Irving principal." Agree?


Posted: March 8th, 2011 8:30 AM

op Parent-I don't understand your vitriol and it is quite tiresome. I appreciate hearing all viewpoints and quite frankly sick of the "no side" being villianized. Why does it have to be us vs them. And why are you speaking for them? You don't seem to handle conflict well at all or have respect for people whose views differ from yours. This conversation is helpful to me and others but your acrimonious rants are so offputting.

op parent  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:18 AM

@B.Lanning, I don't know if anyone considered that, but many on the No side seem to be bashing the idea of and current amount $$ for outside contractors. (And cabs! Don't forget the cabs!) I can just see the same group bashing the line item for a grounds contractor, saying involved parents should pay for that, or get out and pitch in with our rakes and shovels. Or torches and pitchforks.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:56 AM

@Chet21: As kindly as I can say it, I think you should lay off bashing principals. It's unseemly and unproductive. Unless you have something specific to say about a specific principal, please don't attack them as a class. They're trying to do the best they can in the circumstances.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:47 AM

@CAOP Sorry, but you 've really jumped the shark with the idea that you can balance the budget by eliminating principals. That way lies madness, my friend.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 9:52 PM

@No - missed your earlier note but I apologize if I was unclear. "Your group" refers to Citizen's Alliance, whose agenda is spelled out in the comments below. Everyone else here seems to be commenting as an individual (and I agree with you, we all have our own voting priorities).

B.Lanning from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 9:47 PM

Did the Board ever consider outsourcing some of the district positions to save money, for example, the Building and Grounds Department?

op parent  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:46 PM

No, That's wonderful. You say the board isn't open to suggestions, I am curious what your suggestions were, and how the board dismissed them.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:44 PM

@No - "I will be sending suggestions after each D97 school board meeting based on my reading of the detailed minutes. I will be happy to suggest areas they can conserve money, drive accountability, and never forget that the district reports to the taxpayers of Oak Park." On that we can agree. If everyone was engaged through the whole process, we would be the better for it.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:35 PM

@No on REFERENDUM - "First, District 97 has to be open to suggestions and alternative solutions. They are not currently" - If by currently you mean after they approved going for a referendum, then yes. Tough to look at alternative once it's on the ballot. But prior to January 19th there where many many public meeting, work groups, findings by the finance oversight committee and literally hundreds of opportunities to present ideas.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:32 PM

@op parent: Exactly six...which is quite a few for a person with no kids in D97...and six more than probably 95% of D97 parents. But don't worry...regardless of the outcome of this referendum, I will be sending suggestions after each D97 school board meeting based on my reading of the detailed minutes. I will be happy to suggest areas they can conserve money, drive accountability, and never forget that the district reports to the taxpayers of Oak Park.

op parent  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:25 PM

No on Referendum, just curious: Exactly how many of your suggestions have you brought up to the board prior to this referendum?

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:24 PM

@NO - great points, and I'm glad to have an excuse to point out the amazing programs local groups are providing. We already benefit from both an education and arts groups, which both do some work with the schools. And the middle schools do charge admission for plays and events (highly recommend the summer CAST shows - well worth the $8.) Here are some links for your donation: www.oakparkareaartscouncil.org (Artstart in the schools); http://oakparkeducationfoundation.org

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:22 PM

@Oak Park Mom Voting Yes: First, District 97 has to be open to suggestions and alternative solutions. They are not currently...perhaps because they are so engaged with pushing this referendum. The only solution they are open to is a tax hike...anything else has been dismissed as "too hard", "not fully in D97 control", etc. And as for "your group"...let's be clear that there are many reasons to vote NO, therefore more than one "group" opposing this tax hike on already overburdened OPers.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:17 PM

@Chet - that's democracy for you. I think if you look at the qualifications of our current board, you'll find they're a pretty impressive group regardless of your scorn about PTOs. But that's not really the point. The point is that we elect representatives and we go to meetings and we hash decisions out as a community.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 8:15 PM

@Undecided: Regarding funding, there are many options of course....but I'd suggest a foundation be formed specifically to raise funds and seek grants for programming. That with a small participation fee and the goal of self-funding programming (i.e., charge for concerts, theatre, etc.) would go a long way. Heck, I'd donate to the foundation myself...

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 7:42 PM

@OP Mom. I just re-read my posts and no where did I suggest that you were "uninformed." However, I did notice that you were "uninterested" in my desire to see the monthly income statement numbers. Why? BTW, "consensus-building" is wonderful, but you still need specific training to perform your job. I am VERY GOOD at "consensus building," but I don't have the hubris to think that I could be a school principal. The D97 Board typically comes from PTO's - not typically type to question status quo.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 7:31 PM

@Chet - (1) leadership and consensus-building translate very well into the corporate world. (2) The D97 board is not personnel - those elected positions are unpaid community service by fellow taxpayers and neighbors. (3) It's clear from comments on this site that at least some people who say they are no voters have not read any of the information provided or gone to meetings at all. (Which is fine, that's what discussion is for. But don't tell me I'm uninformed simply because I'm voting yes.)

op parent  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 7:26 PM

Undecided, you hit the nail on the head: " If it is the latter, my fear is that everyone (low income kids) will not have access to the program." Of course the parents with means will be able to help their children if these programs are cut. Many will abandon the public schools completely. It's parents in the middle and at risk who will suffer the most if these cuts are made.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 7:22 PM

@OP mom. I agree with your Irving description - including the "fantastic principal," but his training is ed and it doesn't translate to the "the corp world." Anyway, I'm glad that YOU are basing your vote and "trust" on "discussions" with D97 personnel, but I believe in "trust but verify" when it comes to the numbers - esp when we're discussing an operation that spends $70M per year and doesn't have to sell anything to anyone in order to survive - just has some well meaning parents in control.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 7:03 PM

@ Undecided. I appreciate what you're saying. Nothing is perfect. But I also have a friend who pulled her kids out of OP schools to go to private school for a year - and is volunteering to support the referendum. Sometimes a child needs something different, and that's a family matter. I see this is a community question. How do we keep excellent, strong, diverse public schools with great programs that will attract homebuyers also looking at other great communities?


Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:50 PM

Oak Park mom voting yes-that is great that the school system is working for you and I mean that sincerely, but I know of several families who have pulled their kids out of op schools and enrolled them in private school. They felt that their kids were not getting the basics-were unhappy with math instruction (fuzzy math), lack of writing and science fairs, etc. Also, I appreciate chet21's input-his question is very valid-he is asking for accountability which in my opinion is what we all ask for

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:46 PM

clarification: that second "you" is plural. Your group has no positive plan for change. Your group wants to save money on taxes and then go away until the next time someone asks you to contribute. (confusion of the plural login identity!)


Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:42 PM

chet21-excellent point-has this ever been addressed by the bd? No on Referendum-how do you think it should be funded? Through the PTOs or program fees? If it is the latter, my fear is that everyone (low income kids) will not have access to the program.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:41 PM

@ CA. Thanks for your additional comments. You've made it clear that you are not interested in building a solution but tearing down a system that is working. What I see in my kids' school (Irving) is a miracle that "they" tell me can't happen. A diverse student body (in income and race) that is succeeding, and happy. A strong community. A Fantastic principal who could make twice as much in the corp world. Art and music better than I had even in high school.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:36 PM

@Chet. You said, "As most of us know, there is NO ONE on the Yes side that has the desire or ability to question anything about this ref or the status quo" You are absolutely wrong and you have no grounds to say that. I've been going to board meetings, to community meetings, and discussing finance with board members for a couple of years. Because of that, I trust their integrity and their dedication. I'm not an accountant, but what has been presented makes sense to me.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 6:22 PM

@undecided. YOUR QUESTION, regarding whether or not "the bd is bluffing about bravo, language and music cuts" is the MAIN QUESTION for me. WHY did they not have to cut anything when their 6/09 and 6/10 end balances were approx $20M and now they must cut $5M when it is at least $17.3M (adding in freeze savings) on 6/11? With IL now able to pay the school districts on time (due to tax increase) and knowing that D97 receives significant Fed money - we need monthly cash flow analysis ASAP.


Posted: March 7th, 2011 5:39 PM

taxes have been going up because each taxing body is calling for 3% here, etc. my house has gone up from 5,500 to 8,000 in 7 years and who knows what the 2011 reassessment will bring


Posted: March 7th, 2011 5:36 PM

my dilemna-i want my $ to go to education, but not to other unnecesary services like park district improvements or heated sidewalks. We need the other taxing bodies to reduce their rates and the focus should be on education, exp in these challenging times.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 4:56 PM

@Undecided: I don't think that D97 is bluffing at all. But, I think that passionate and concerned parents will step forward and reach into their own pockets to fund them. Which is exactly what I think should happen rather than the burden being placed on all OPers who already fund the schools at a high level. The programs will probably change, but they will continue in a more efficient form.

op parent  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 4:24 PM

Sorry I left this out: It's Thursday, March 17 at the Main Library, 9:15-10:45 AM This session is open to the public, but will be geared towards families with children currently in preschool who may not be familiar with District 97.

op parent  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 4:13 PM

Undecided, I think that would be an excellent question to bring up at one of the upcoming community forums on the subject. There is a session at the library geared especially for parents of preschool-aged children. You can submit your questions anonymously. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=179824375396011&ref=mf


Posted: March 7th, 2011 4:04 PM

sorry about the typos


Posted: March 7th, 2011 4:01 PM

I know that some of you think that the bd is blufing about bravo, language and music cuts. But what will you do if theref fails and theseprograms are actally cut? I am skeptical myself, but I don't know. And to be honst I would like for my children (theya are currently in preschool) to one dat partipate in bravo.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 3:01 PM

@Undecided: I'm voting "No" because like most OPers my taxes are too darn high and because D97 is asking us all to go well beyond the taxpayers' basic responsibility to fund a good education for children in our community. I mean iPads and SmartBoards? World Class theatre and arts? If they can make it work at the current high tax rate, I'm okay. But I don't think OPers need to fund more. As for this principals thing? Well, I guess there are MANY reasons to vote NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:59 PM

CAOP, please keep up your effort. As most of us know, there is NO ONE on the Yes side that has the desire or ability to question anything about this ref or the status quo. Our country outspends ALL of our first world peers and most of their results are vastly superior. All but one - which is the freedom of thought that you have been presenting. Wouldn't some of this sort of creativity be nice if it came from D97? They just want status quo PLUS more "ed junk." Analysis? Don't make me laugh!

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:59 PM

Budgeting, public relations & working with parents can be centralized. Curriculum, assessment, designing targeted prof dev and can be performed centrally with participation for teacher leaders. We need to focus resources on direct instruction not on layers of administration. When you rip out layers, the system becomes less complex, easier to manage with less resources. 21st century learning can't take place in a system designed for the 20th century. Lets focus on learning not administering.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:52 PM

Schools that utilize teacher leaders, vs principals, allow for the duties to get accomplished, but also lead to greater ownership of the school and the learning. What a concept! Teachers will be more accountable with their peers helping them improve! We hold on to traditions and practices that we are comfortable with and that we understand. Those in D97 leadership will only propose changes that they are comfortable with. They can't think out of the box and imagine more efficient systems.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:41 PM

The reality is, our communities have an image of what a principal is and should be. This commonly held understanding of the position is somewhat diametrically opposed to what the position really is or needs to be. Do we really need 10 principals for our schools when 80% of the non teacher related tasks can be handled by 2 professional managers? We need systemic changes to wring costs out of the existing inefficient system. The bloated admin costs from having expensive principals is just one.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:33 PM

'We're entering an era where all of the existing models of school $ educational leadership are going to be put to the test. Whether its Mother Nature, changing social and cultural expectations, or the advent of powerful new technologies, we're living through a time of incredible educational disruptions. We can no longer look at past models of leadership for all the answers. Our own imaginations and entrepreneurial instincts are going to have to be added to this process of creative destruction.'

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:28 PM

@Undecided, cont, Do we really need to pay $100K for such an unfocused position that does not add direct value for our children? The day to day building/operations mgmt can be delegated to a lower salaried non-professional. Teachers can use peer review for more effective evaluation. How can a Principal possibly know how a teacher is doing by sitting in a few times a year in a class? How can one person's opinion about a teacher carry so much weight and offer any added value?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:18 PM

@Undecided. I agree 100% with your post. I am NOT affiliated with CAOP, but am both impressed/mystified with his proposals/energy. He (and most others from the NO camp), for me, represent what I appreciate about this forum. My concern is that D97Bd is a victim of Groupthink and are overly beholden to those who benefit from the status quo. Along with their court (excepting Jassen), they believe that any questioning of this is dangerous. If they win, there will be no changes. Want reform? Vote NO.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:15 PM

@Undecided, cont, By the end of the 20th century and continuing to today, the Principal has become a jack of all trades and master of none. Eg some duties include Student supervision, teacher supervision and evaluation, selection and hiring of substitutes and probationary teachers, scheduling, data work, team meetings, student intervention team meetings, various building/parent/district meetings, professional development, technology expert, counselor...and the list goes on. Cont,

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 2:11 PM

Good question Undecided. The history of the Principalship began when the 'principal teacher' who had more training, delegated some of the teaching to younger, newer teachers. This came about late 1800s and early 1900s when k-8 public education expanded from the 1 room school house to the multi story, mutlidept school house. Most principals were usually teachers who took on additional management roles. When public schools expanded more after the great Depression, the position changed. cont.


Posted: March 7th, 2011 1:34 PM

@Citizens United for Oak Park-Really?!? We are trying to have a serious reasonable discussion here. @Citizens Alliance of Oak Park-I am leaning towards no, but I have a problem with your suggestion regarding principals. How on earth could a school run without one? AM I misunderstanding something here?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:59 PM

@ Dean. Most of us at CAOP are not knee-jerk-higher-tax-opposers. We DO know what is the difference between an investment and an expense. We will support higher spending IF there is a measurable return. What we see is a district that has spent $$ in the last decade without accountability. We see admin expenses that can be cut without increasing tax rates, given the current state of the economy. This is the right fight to be in. Voting NO is a signal to the board for change.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:52 PM

@OP Mom. cont, A good example of what is happening today is the new crop of math and engineering based jobs that use the visual arts. Most of the founders and employees of startups today in the social media space have a strong math/engineering background and have the aesthetics to build applications and services that are innovative and in demand. This was different from the startups of the dot bomb times over a decade ago. The visual and musical arts influenced them tremendously.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:45 PM

@ OP Mom, Cont. When the referendum does not pass, we expect the Board and the Sup, to reintroduce a set of cuts that involves more admin cuts, such as the principal positions and additional district level cuts. These should at least cover the costs of the musical arts and visual arts. These arts are 'platform programs', that is they reinforce cognitive abilities that help with the core; reading, writing, math etc.


Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:42 PM

More on costs, for lack of further info from Jassen: The only info on comparable districts on the RefYes website is a list of 11 districts with which they justify the high avg salary of dist 97 teachers. Yet the EAV for those wealthy communities averages twice OP's which means that they have 2x the tax base to support their generous salaries. Again, the most comparable dist in YES's list in terms of property values is LaGrange, and they perform better for 20% less in salaries and expenses.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:37 PM

@ OP Mom. We are voting not because we believe the district can cut more admin costs. We cited eliminating the principal positions because in a 21st century school system, their job function is obsolete. They are tasked to do too many things that are does not directly affect instructional/teaching effectiveness. Why would the Superintendent choose to cut programs that would increase the cost over time, eg music & to some extent foreign language? Cont,

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:33 PM

@Gail Moran. Using your logic then the $6 million in proposed cuts can be paid for by parents for only $90 per month per student. Take $6 mil divide by 5500 students in D97 and then divide by 12. If you believe education an investment then paying $90/child per month (for the short fall, remember the taxpayers are still paying $13,000 per student) is well worth it. What's that a cost of the monthly cable bill? We need to make trade offs between consumption and investment!

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:20 PM

@OP mom, your company, if they are a profitable company, has a financial analysis that shows the benefits (as measured in incremental cash flows or a reduction in cost) that can achieved over the life time of the ipad (probably 3 yrs). The must have compared this benefit with other competing benefits and decided that it was worth the $$$$$$ to go with the ipads. D97 wants to spend $7 MILLION on tech. Why shouldn't d97 have a similar process? Tax payers wallets are not troughs to forage at.


Posted: March 7th, 2011 12:32 AM

John Dagon says the country spends more per pupil than other countries. That's not really fair. In some parts of the world, there are no schools or teachers or books. We do know that the US spends more on our military and weapons than all other nations combined. Yet, we were defenseless on September 11. He blames teacher unions for low test scores. Let's hear him explain why no one in command lost their job after the attacks on New York and D.C. And what does he think about watchdogs & Wall St?

taxes equal mortgage pmt  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 6:33 PM

hey already stretched - our taxes equal our monthly mortgage payment, so i hear you. when will the tax increases end???? why can't we say yes to education and no to more taxes???

Already stretched  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 3:13 PM

@Gail Moran: I already pay one third to one half as much as my mortgage on property taxes every month, now they're asking for another four percent. The issue isn't whether Oak Park residents CAN afford it or not, the issue is SHOULD we pay extra into a district without an assurance it will be spent wisely?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 1:51 PM

Dean, my "changing thoughts" regarding ref? I guess that it has to do with collecting more info. I've concluded that D97 board is simply following typical ref script: scare the wits out of the parents and others! This is done by, essentially, holding their children hostage - VOTE YES OR YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE HURT! Next? Any one who dissents from this Armageddon scenario is vilified. You're not slightly miffed that D97 has waited and projects doom? Do you reward your kids when they do the same?

NO on REFEREMNDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 1:23 PM

@Gail Moran: There are many Oak Parkers who feel that they are already paying too much in taxes. So, please stop spending others' money and spend your own first. It's easy to put up a yard sign, but how about those who are passionate like you directly funding BRAVO, Spanish Immersion, multi-cultural, iPads, and Smart Boards, rather than asking all OPers to do it? These items are above and beyond the basic taxpayer responsibility for funding education. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. VOTE NO.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 12:04 PM

It seems to me that something is getting lost in all this bickering about iPads (CPS uses them too). The referendum will only cost you $38 per $1K in taxes that you pay (if you pay $7K a year, you will pay $266, or $26 per month). And BTW, I don't have children in the school system, but I want my Village to maintain its high quality schools.

rooted to the rock  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 10:11 AM

Instead of using all of the state unrestricted $s for the education fund ($8.5M this yr), 97 put $2M into an addition to Lincoln. This made the fund balance look much worse than it is. Next year, will additional state aid for increased enrollment and no building project, there will be enough $s for art and instrumental music even if the referendum fails. Maybe if 97 stopped using the education fund to pay for capital projects, there wouldn't be need to panic teachers and community.

tech question from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 9:34 AM

@Interested & OP mom: The question isn't whether the iPads are a nice thing to have, it is whether it buying them was the best choice considering that D97 knew that their budget was strapped. Are they really necessary to do the job? They aren't quieter, only a little lighter. What was the cost/benefit analysis? How does D97 make spending decisions such as this? This may be a small thing but it is a good example for assessing fiscal responsibility overall.


Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:54 AM

(cont.) Other iPads that may be in evidence around the district are: for special education uses with particular students, on a very limited pilot basis as determined by a building, or the personal property of staff. As to CAOP's comments about waiting for the new iPad, users could always wait for the next better thing and end up never getting anything. By the way, this information was obtained by listening at public Board meetings or reading their reports. Very transparent!

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:50 AM

Much like the children's telephone game passing messages, the message here has become garbled. Regarding the iPads, only those admins who supervise certified staff received them. They are used for in-class observations due to their low footprint and quiet data entry. The principals also have a Dell laptop (not Macbooks) that they received a couple years ago. That is their office machine for major typing/work. The iPads are much more portable and unobtrusive while moving around the school. (cont.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:41 AM

@VN-a. Thank you for the clarification on your points of concern. My point was just that tablet computing is not a wasteful investment; the opposite can be true. It's a pretty cheap alternative. I don't know the specifics of their use in D97.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:39 AM

This is about accountability on a much larger scale than iPads. How does D97 explain the $18,978,091 est. fund balance in their 2010/11 budget ending July 31, 2011 (p. 19)? How does D97 explain how our D97 property taxes have increased by 77% since 1999, while OP household income has only increased 22%? How does D97 explain agreeing to a very generous teacher union contract while in a recession? How does D97 explain $45M of their tax revenue invested in TIFs since 1983 rather than education?

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:35 AM

To restate CA's points, as I heard them, since I think it's important not to miss this for people interested in supporting Citizens Alliance group. Their action plan for D97: Defeat the referendum. Hope that current board members resign. If they do not, lead a recall. If the group plans any constructive or positive steps, they were not stated here, but those plans do not include elective office on the school board.

Voting No - accountability please from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:30 AM

@OP mom voting yes: I believe the question was asked below in a different context: is your company threatening layoffs and huge service cuts? If so, I would question their iPad purchase. Also, every teacher already has a laptop and they aren't replacing anything with iPads; these iPads are IN ADDITION TO what staff already has. That's not a savings.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 8:08 AM

Minor point, but I wanted to remember to comment on iPads. I work for a large corporation and we just purchased about 500 iPads for people whose jobs are away from an office. They're lighter and about 1/4 the cost of a laptop while providing everything those users need for their mobile work (data entry, mail, access to online reports.) It's a big savings and very practical, so it's odd to see it discussed as wasteful here. (just because it plays Angry Birds doesn't mean it's just a toy)

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 6th, 2011 2:15 AM

THE OP RESIDENT NAME CONFUSION SOLUTION -- Which OP Resident is the real OP Resident and which one (or more) of the OP Residents is guilty of pseudonym abuse. I suggest that all OP Resident(s), with the exception of the real OP Resident, be forced to identify themselves. They can just sign in as OP Resident and confess. I also suggest that the OP Blog Security Commission submit a recommendation to the board on how to control the identity theft of unidentified commentors' names.


Posted: March 6th, 2011 12:03 AM

@CAOP: Your ideas are interesting. But you're leveraged into a fairly complex position. On the one hand, you can't object to higher taxes, because you want to shoulder the higher incremental costs. But you'll vote no, indeed lead the opposition, when the opposition is primarily made up people who simply object to higher taxes, period. Frankly, I think you are selling your ideas short by deploying them in these circumstances. You should think about how to make the best, most POSITIVE use of them.

OPR2011_OP Resident OP_Res_heck ya OP Resident Gamma  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:48 PM

KP, Gotcha -- and thanks for the laugh!


Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:39 PM

@Chet21: I don't think the board is engaging in scare tactics. It's being fiscally responsible. Unlike D200, D97 has virtually no reserve capital. That is a fiscal risk. To return to fiscal health there are two options: (1) Pass the referendum (2) Cut $5.5 million to not only stop, but also to reverse the depletion of the reserve. The board is doing their financial planning and looking four or five years down the road. That's a good thing.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:24 PM

Chet21: Your position keeps changing. You complain that D97 should have gone to referendum before 2011. But you also want to defeat it now and have it come up again in 2012. Which is it? To be sure, this is not the best of times to be voting on taxes, but the choice we have is to make the best and most responsible decision now.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:14 PM

I am OP Resident. Oh not not that one. If we all posted under that it would be confusing. Asking for some consistent differentiation. OPR2011_OP Resident OP_Res_heck ya OP Resident Gamma

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 10:31 PM

First, to CAOP, in this online society and forum, we can all find arguments to boost our case. For every point you make about teacher-led schools, I can find arguments against. The real issue here is the referendum NOW. I think you have plenty of ideas and while I may not agree with them, I don't understand why you haven't done more before now. This referendum has been in the works for years. To KPost, I appreciate your comment but after what happened to Jassen, sorry, staying anonymous.

KPost from Oak Park   

Posted: March 5th, 2011 10:25 PM

Rules of engagement. CAOP. I was happy when you first stepped forward. But please speak for yourself and change your poster name b/c you are doing more harm than good. Your issue is more than OP funding. OP Resident? Can you differntiate yourself a bit more? I DO appreciate those who use consistent and unique names. Helps to know who you are addressing.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:50 PM

What is the value add of principals? 'Teacher-led schools are unique because the shared decisionmaking is what defines them. The teachers' participation tends to create a culture quite different from that in a traditional principal-led school: Teachers can't hide behind the classroom door or complain about policies, because they have to come up with solutions. The teachers appreciate that their professional judgment is being respected.'

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:49 PM

CAOP, I look forward to seeing you at some of the upcoming forums. It's unfortunate that you did not choose to run for the school board with the myriad of ideas you have on how to run the district. We can discuss the issues at the forums. I am especially interested in your idea of not wanting more taxes but wanting school families to come up with an additional $5K for their child's education. See you this week in person

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:45 PM

@Tech Question, yes the district fan boys seem to have gone dark on this question. Inquiring minds want to know, why they didn't wait a couple of months to get the new ipads! With TWO cameras! They could record the teacher-classroom interaction and allow for peer review and to capture best practices.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:42 PM

OP mom, I would hope that the board would summarily resign except for the new folks like John O'Connor (he has been a leader of a chartered school and is not stuck in the 20th century). If they don't then we as a community need to demand new leadership & new vision (I would not mind marching like those Egyptians if they don't resign). For some of us (including me) it was a hard decision to vote NO. We have to Vote No to break the pattern of bad behavior. From adversity comes opportunity.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:35 PM

Dearest Interested Citizen, you missed couple of my responses. I said the INCREMENTAL difference or the short fall or gap should be based on a zero based budget and then it should be allocated to parents with kids in D97. We pay yearly fees now. So those fees would go up. I am all for green spaces and I would like to find a better way fund them equitably, like a consumption tax, jack up the vehicle sticker fees for SUVs, charge a $10 tax on bottled water and plastic bags & edible underwear.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:33 PM

@CA: I look forward to seeing the details. I find it interesting that if you have great ideas for alternative funding models that we haven't heard anything about it before. There are no contested seats in the upcoming D97 board election and there were none in the last. I've been hearing for a decade that D97 would be asking for a referendum. Where has CA been? If you defeat the referendum, where is your action plan from there?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:26 PM

So OP Resident, educate me and tell me what the other value add of the principal is and how it increases teaching and learning effectiveness. The current school system model at D97 was invented in the 19th century and modified in the early 20th century. We want to educate 21st century learners and we need a school system that reflects that.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:24 PM

OP Resident. It has been done successfully. The parental input will be similar to the Danielson Model rubric that is used to evaluate teachers by principals. Again it will be ONE COMPONENT. Just like test scores are only one view into a child's ability, the principal only teacher eval is too narrow. A combination of Kids test scores, kids survey, parental input and teacher PEER reviewed evals not principal reviewed evals have show to be more effective in identifying GREAT teachers.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:20 PM

@John Murtagh. We agree. We think that we can do better with $70 million. Clearly there is no accountability for teaching effectiveness and learning effectiveness. It starts at home with the parents demanding higher standards and doing more with our kids at home. That way when the come to school, the teachers can focus, teach more with bigger class sizes, incorporate differentiated learner centric pathways etc.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:18 PM

CAOP, I cannot even believe some of what you are proposing. Parental input on teachers? So popularity will now be an important part of teaching? We all know that parents love the teachers who chat, that doesn't mean they are good teachers. Plus your post is so insulting to principals if you think that 50 to 75 percent of what they do could be cut without anyone noticing.

Tech Question from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:15 PM

I feel like my original questions are being lost in all this bickering. The reason I posed my questions on iPads some 45 posts below was to get at how the administration goes about making spending decisions, and what they will do when we aren't there to question. Are they enthralled with technology, are they being fiscally responsible, are they being good stewards? We can have good schools and a well rounded education for our kids without breaking the bank, but it will take careful planning.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:15 PM

(cont) This will allow music and some of the visual arts to be retained and mostly but not entirely funded. The performing arts would be outsourced and would be entirely fee based. So foreign language and the fee based portion of music & visual arts would be costed out and allocated to each student. We support the other cuts. We will post a presentation of this on our site before the first referendum meeting on Wednesday. www.referendumno.com. Please visit our site & give us your fdback.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:08 PM

@OP mom. The numbers were for illustrative purposes. Again it is NOT tuition. The D97 Board's number is about $6M shortfall. We DON'T believe that number. We would create a zero based budget, eliminating indirect instructional expenses. For example eliminating 50% to 75% of the principal's position and allow teacher led peer review (with parental input) as the primary method of teacher evals. The other duties of the principals can be consolidated into an office of the principal. (cont)

john murtagh - Edit from oak park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:40 PM

INFO FOR CAOP This is not the data you want. It is the data you need. 2008 US GOV STUDY MATH - The U.S ranks 25th of 30 Org. for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and is well below the average score. READING 16 of 30 barely beat average score (by 1 point). SCIENCE 20 of 30 - well below average. PROBLEM SOLVING 25 of the 30 counties --well below the average score. COMMON SENSE - Not ranked - should be. Will we see banners at the next Olympics reading WE ARE NUMBER 20? Educate!!!!!!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:32 PM

INFO FOR CAOP This is not the data you want. It is the data you need. 2008 US Gov Study *** MATH%u2014The U.S ranks 25th of 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and is well below the average score. READING%u201416 of 30 barely beat average score (by 1 point). SCIENCE%u201420 of 30 countries and well below average.--PROBLEM SOLVING-- 25 of the 30 counties --well below the average score. COMMON SENSE not rated, should be. Want to be best in the world - educate the children!

Interested Citizen  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:22 PM

So... according to CAOP, we should use a "pay as you go" method for funding public schools that hits parents of students in the system. Would the same thing work for parks and other public services in OP? If I don't pay, I can't use the public service? Wouldn't this cause terrible budgeting problems with an inability to plan year by year? Also, is this really a public school then? Sounds more like a private school. It certainly wouldn't be "It takes a village..." anymore.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:03 PM

@CA. Thanks for your response. So your group's position is that any budget shortfall should be made up by charging tuition of 5000-10000 per year. Is that correct?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:57 PM

I believe that ipads and K-5 Spanish are perfect examples of why we need to question many things about D97 - their utility and expense. I am very upset that D97 failed to go to ref until 2011 - saying you either vote YES or we must destroy the schools. I am also disappointed that so many are accepting of this. Where is the necessary monthly cash-flow analysis from D97 stating WHY $5M in cuts are necessary? WHY are WE arguing over so much? Is it failed or Machiavellian leadership from D97?!?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:55 PM

@OP MOM. That is an incorrect restatement. First of all the Superintendent said that 'As superintendent, I have listened to citizens, faculty and staff, local business and religious leaders, and our administrative team, and have taken every viewpoint seriously'. Since he recommended the cuts there is an implicit understanding that he, does not believe these are part of the core curriculum.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:41 PM

@ Oak Park mom. That is not tuition. Again I said we should shoulder the incremental increase not the entire cost. As a parent of two daughters in D97 I pay yearly fees. So in our model those fees would be jacked up some where between $5k-$10K. Our kids are worth it right? Did you respect the board when they overspent and under delivered that got us into this mess? What are the measures that leads one to conclude that the board is doing incredibly hard work? We need be less subjective.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:36 PM

@CA. Can you help me understand what you're saying? Is it fair to restate your position as . . . "Music, arts, foreign language and technology are not part of public education but are extras for kids whose parents have the resources of time and money to provide them after the school day." If yes, can you list the curriculum items that your group does support as part of a basic education?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:35 PM

Also, Chet and others, please don't assume that I am not personally struggling or that I don't know people and businesses who are.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:31 PM

Nope, Chet, that is not what I said. I have enjoyed many of your posts, even if I don't agree with you. My concern is that we seem to be stuck on certain things (ipads, no Spanish in RF elem.) What I believe, as a supporter of the referendum, is that we have great (again, not perfect, but great) schools & I want to maintain that. The extras we are discussing (language, art, music) are all offered tenfold at OPRF so there is value in those programs. I do believe the D97 board will cut those.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:31 PM

Why isn't the Yes side talking about the lack of data to drive informed decisions? Why is that they have a command of their intuition leading them to believe that this is the right thing to do. Where are the measures that matter? Where is the detail behind the analysis? In the private sector, where transparency and data driven decisions are encouraged and practiced, million dollar expenditures are routinely scrutinized. If education is an investment where is the due diligence Yes side?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:24 PM

BTW, I wish to apologize for my recent smarmy tone. This was once a site which offered a civil debate on an impt topic and I was elated to be part of it. I've lately been observing that some have been interjecting rudeness and semi-personal attacks and the tone has been growing increasingly intolerant. "Heat" seems to have become the main objective and not "Light." I do understand that this is an emotional issue for most - can we, though, return to a civil dialogue and debate? If not, adios!

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:23 PM

Are you using subjective measures to determine if your child is receiving a quality education or are you using objective measures of learning? If you believe that your child is receiving a quality education, is the amount of resources consumed to deliver that quality an efficient amount? If it was not efficient then we are paying too much. If the amount is efficient then bonuses for everyone in the system.

data from data  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:20 PM

chet it's quite a stretch from "can we not question anything?" to, "let's not fund the referendum and see what happens, and then maybe we will swoop in with our fabulous ideas," which is what you guys seem to be saying.

Resident voting no from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:17 PM

@OP Resident: What other districts are doing with their funds isn't material to D97; how many of those other districts are pushing a huge levy under threat of big service cuts? @Chris: what's the ROI on the iPads? How many years worth of evaluations have to be printed to break even on the $500 per device, and did the evaluations not work on the MacBooks staff already had? Most concerning of all is that the pro-ref folks haven't asked where the money will be going; more iPads or students


Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:17 PM

(sorry, that was to caop, not op mom)

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:17 PM

I did not say parents should pay for all of the educational costs. I meant to say the incremental costs that the district is asking. This is a local issue one that we can control. In these economic times, you have to make trade offs. You must prioritize. If you think your kid is worth the investment (I sure do, I am willing to pay more without burdening my fellow community members who don't have kids in D97) then a reasonable, informed person will make that down payment.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:16 PM

OP resident, I get it, you wish for me to "sit down and shut up." Sorry, I won't. You and ref supporters are wedded to the scare tactics from D97 - that we must fund every program and that every program is vital. I attempt to raise one (Spanish) and you not only disagree, but attempt to belittle. I still have a child at OPRF and one just graduated - and they went to D97 - not RF. D97 was great, but can we not question anything? People & businesses are struggling - and you seem to not care.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:16 PM

with all due respect, you aren't making any sense at all.

OP Mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:15 PM

@CA. I expect the D97 board members that I voted for (and whose incredibly hard work I respect and appreciate!) to work within the parameters and with the tools they have. Restructuring the property tax system is not part of the job. As for the rest of your comment - that would be tuition. In what way is that public education?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:13 PM

@ data. What data are you using to determine if your kids are learning the right things at the right level that will allow them to become a 21st century learner? If our schools systems are not oriented and calibrated for 21st century learning, how can you expect the student that comes out of such a system to become one? If you are truly satisfied with the education your child is receiving, then you are betting that your child will be productive; giving to society more than then consume.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:12 PM

By that logic, the people who support the war in Iraq should pay more. Nice idea, but...You are really out of the mainstream, Noel.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:07 PM

@ OP Mom voting yes. WE LOVE SCHOOLS. We favor public funding of education. Research has show that funding public education using property taxes is inequitable. The wealthy gain from it. If you read up on the history of American public education, you will know that local communities funded schools because the graduates, did not move away and stayed in the community. So everyone benefits. If you have kids in D97 & you have the wherewithal to pay more then you should pay more. You benefit.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:05 PM

And a point about Spanish in RF Schools: They do not offer it in K-4 but they do offer it extensively in 5-8, as well as Italian and French. I also want to point out AGAIN that not all RF students do great at OPRF nor do our OP students do poorly. Should we pull up the valedictorians and compare districts? I agree with data, Chet, please give it a rest. I am sure there are schools without art too but I would prefer that our school district not be one of them.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting No  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:03 PM

@Interested Parent. The author of that quote was, Plato, which you kindly left out. We like the classics and we love to quote him. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 7:02 PM

If I wanted my kids to go to RIver Forest schools, I would have moved to River Forest. Oak Park has a lot to offer, I am sick to death of you No people talking the schools down. My kids are learning a lot through the Spanish classes in the Oak Park schools. Stop trying to make us River Forest Lite.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:57 PM

data, good question. WHY am I noting this issue? The answer, if you truly care, is very simple: to PROVE to parents that a cut to elem Spanish will not destroy the the quality of the ed future of their children. Why RF as the example? Because, listen closely, many of their kids go to the same school as OP kids - OPRFHS. Point? If the RF kids, with no elem Spanish, can typically excel at OPRF, then why are so many parents frightened with the cut to elem Spanish? See, simple. Any more questions?

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:34 PM

@citizens re your comment at @3:54 p.m. It sounds like you simply don't like paying for public schools. Which is an entirely different discussion. Thank you for making it clear where your "no" vote is coming from.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:32 PM

@CAOP - "I didn't realize that the board could foresee the use of ipads a few years back when the ipad was introduced about a year ago. They are in the wrong business :) " I guess I misunderstood the original question. My mistake. I directed you back a few years because you asked questions like, "how does admin time in the classroom directly affect teaching effectiveness" which related to a lot more of the eval process than just ipads.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:26 PM

honestly, chet, enough about river forest and their lack of Spanish. Why on Earth should I care? Is River Forest somehow educational Nirvana?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:24 PM

Competence, compensation, financial stress. Competence? Many posters rave about the D97 board-the same bd which has placed OP on the precipice by claiming Armageddon if this ref fails. Why wasn't this on the 2010 ballot? Compensation? Librarians working 6-7 hrs a day, elem Spanish teachers deemed essential for children (when RF doesn't have them?), m-c dept, etc. If ref wins - gravy train continues. Fin'l stress? Gallup reports un/underemployment in US now at 20%. D97 decides to raise taxes? NO!


Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:11 PM

@curious, LOL! (and I never say that--I actually am laughing out loud) My thoughts exactly.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:10 PM

@CAOP - By the way, interesting quote on your website: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." What a comment implied about the Board and Admin leadership of D97. Your point - If you don't get involved and Vote NO, you will be at the whim of "your inferiors."


Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:06 PM

Noel, I liked it better when you used your name instead of the Citizens Alliance front. Then we knew it was just one person asking all the questions and disputing every bit of data. This is like the student asking "Why? Why? Why?" all class period so the teacher can't get to the lesson. Yes, I know I'm not using my name, either, because of feared retribution from the Vote NO folks.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:03 PM

RE: ipads - a quick google search shows that ipads are being used throughout the country by administrators to evaluate teachers. This is not unique to Oak Park. There are many districts using this new, time-saving device.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:58 PM

Dean, I am concerned that D97 is intentionally using scare tactics of "$5M in cuts!" to avoid "defeat and reform." They want "status quo and more" to continue. Many on the NO side believe that a D97 defeat is necessary for reform and that they are over-stating cuts. For example, why are they shouting "$5M in cuts!" if the annual deficit only increased, WORST CASE, by $3M (FY2011 to FY2012)? With an ending balance in 2012 of $17.3M. Vote NO, reform/cut, then vote YES in 2012. What's the rush?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:53 PM

Well, then, CAOP, I do wish you had chosen to run for the Board. While I don't agree with all their decisions, I do have faith that the board members have the best intention of the children and the taxpayers. It is certainly not a perfect board but I do trust them to do their best. If that is not the case with you and your alliance, I cannot understand why more of you are not running for the Board seats that are available.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:49 PM

We will have to agree to disagree. I believe teachers need to be evaluated which will let the principal know if that teacher is capable of teaching students properly. I don't want students tested constantly to verify progress. I also would like for students to know the principal of the building and if the principal has more time to interact with students because of less time with evaluations, I am for that. In my opinion, you are missing the point.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:46 PM

Faith and Hope with the admin and Board is NOT an option. We would give them a failing grade. Put your faith in religion and country not with this board or with this admin. Faith has done very little for our kids. For the last several years this board and admin has produced diminishing returns for our tax dollars. Faith has given us lowered expectations and unbridled spending patterns. We as citizens can only right this. The value of a $ is @ its highest, when you need it the most.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting No  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:39 PM

Evaluation of teachers is necessary. 100,000s of teachers across this country are evaluated without an ipad. Evals couple times a year does not show anything about teaching effectiveness. Teacher evals don't show how children are learning. Evaluating the children constantly does. You are missing the point. Where are the measures that matter to evaluate such expenditures. Heck if this produces measured, effective results then we would be all for scaling it up.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:32 PM

I also value every dollar but at some point, I am trusting the administration & principals to know better than I the best way to evaluate teachers. As E. Jackson noted, we can't criticize them for not fairly evaluating teachers and then complain about less than $20K spent on getting tools that allow better evaluations. If this gives principals more time to be involved with students in any way, I think it's a good idea. I find it odd that this item is being given so much discussion.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:28 PM

I didn't realize that the board could foresee the use of ipads a few years back when the ipad was introduced about a year ago. They are in the wrong business :) Anyway, citizens should not have to dig for data. This board like to give aggregated information without the backing detail. We are still waiting on detail financial information that was submitted days ago. If we don't have the right information (not what the board spoon feeds us) then we cannot make an inform decision.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting No  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:25 PM

@Jassen, I have seen the presentations and I requested additional information from D97 and I was provided the detail spending amounts for the ipads and the software license costs for creating the Danielson Model rubric. There ZERO information as to the cost benefit analysis. There zero information as to how this improves teaching effectiveness. What are the measures? What is the baseline value? What is the target improvement value? How long will it take? What are the alternatives? ZERO.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:18 PM

Most of us value every dollar. How can anyone have a clear conscience about voting Yes, complain about teacher cuts and then defend non-critical spending. Our point is that the district has NOT created a zero based budget where non-instructional spending is scrutinized and eliminated, like ipad spending. If it does not directly affect instruction then we need to suck up and eliminate the expense. Over time with our modified behavior we will have the funds to undertake pilot projects.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:10 PM

Plus, the no side keeps talking about the district's $75 million budget and overpaid teachers. So, I am not sure how spending $15,000 on this resource, which is .0002 percent of their total budget, makes a significant difference in the grand scheme of things or will save a teacher's position. On the list of reductions presented on December 14, not buying these would save one of two things - Web producer stipends or the movie license agreement.

Tech Question from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 5:09 PM

@Chris-does the rubrix require the iPad hardware or could D97 have used a less expensive laptop? Did it work on the previously existing computers? Is the software on the D97 network or loaded onto individual machines? Could fewer laptops/iPads strategically located have sufficed for completing the live evaluations, and then the administrators access them again later from their offices instead of each administrator getting an iPad? Just looking for some clues for how critical this choice was.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:53 PM

I agree with OP Resident on the iPad issue. Furthermore, a number of people have talked about how the district needs to improve its evaluations of staff to ensure that we have the best people teaching our kids. Sounds to me like they are undertaking a process aimed at achieving that very goal.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:44 PM

@CAOP - Great questions. There was a presentation given to the board that covered many of those topics. The presentation is here: http://www.op97.org/Presentation on evaluations.pdf Some of the more detail questions can be found in the many presentations and board packets that go back a few years when the district was revamping their evaluation model.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:44 PM

Citizens - perhaps you should read the article on this site regarding the recent census results. Oak Park's population decreased by 1.2 percent since the last census (hardly that significant), while the "Asian and Latino populations went up significantly, increasing by 13.8 percent and 48.3 percent respectively." Doesn't really seem to correspond with your less diverse comment.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:43 PM

I personally could care less about the Ipads although you seem to be stuck on that and cabs, CAOP. The reality is that we need our schools to stay strong. No one wants more taxes but I also don't want the district to go down in quality. And I am offended that someone who speaks of diversity is comparing Mann vs Longfellow or Irving. All Oak Park homeowners pay plenty of taxes, not just the northsiders.

Citizens Alliance Voting of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:40 PM

Why didn't the district use an itouch or existing Blackberry devices since the software is available for both devices? Why not use existing laptops? Why didn't the community donate gen2 itouches so that we could have avoided non-critical, non-instructional expenses?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting No  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:36 PM

How does admin time in the classroom directly affect teaching effectiveness? So what is the value add for purchasing ipads and using the Danielson Model on them to conduct evaluations? What is the metric that the district uses to determine if this scheme was worth it? Yes there were 294 evals. Compared to what? How does it help a child learn? What was the alternative? What was the opportunity cost? Why was it worth more than a teachers salary? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks Chris

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:28 PM

The iPad devices, through the use of an in-depth rubrix that corresponds with the Danielson Model, enables our administrators to provide teachers with comprehensive, more immediate feedback following an observation. Most important, it reduces the amount of paperwork they need to complete, which allows them to spend more time in the classrooms. Approximately 294 evaluations either have been completed, are in process of being completed or will be completed in the next few weeks using the iPads.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:15 PM

So many of our neighbors have moved out during the this Great Recession? Oak Park's population has decreased in the last 10 yrs, leaving us less diverse (something that we should not be proud of). How many more will move because of all the increases in taxes (combined)? How many of us have heard anecdotal stories of friends, relatives, coworkers who love to move to Oak Park but can't afford the taxes! If we want a stable, diverse community we need affordability also.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:11 PM

Lots of talk about investing in schools, certainly a worthy investment, except that is not where all your property taxes are going. Since 1983 (and continuing until 2018), over $45M of D97 school funding has been invested in TIF projects, such as Whiteco, Sertus and now more brick-paved streets. There exists a huge leak of school funding into TIFs which requires increasing D97 property taxes. Before bailing out the sinking D97 budget boat, we should first stop the TIF leaks.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:06 PM

For all the Yes voters, how do you feel about the fact that the district just spent about $15k-$20K on ipads for the administration. Is that the kind of spending you want to see when they are laying off teachers? Any idea how much they are spending on consulting, travel, cabs (yes cabs)? We will have detailed analysis along with our recommendations for the upcoming PTO Referendum meetings. Listen without prejudice. Unity in diversity.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 4:02 PM

Parents in our community NEED to have MORE skin in the game than the those in our community who don't have kids in D97. Affordability influences diversity in our community. Just look at the diversity distribution within our district (Mann v Irving or Mann v Longfellow). We spend close to $70 MILLION on D97. We can do more with less with smart, diverse, dedicated members of our community. If you believe in community and equity then you will Vote NO.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 3:58 PM

Voting yes.....

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 3:54 PM

Simple question. If each school created its own district, how much would you ask your neighbors and residents? It is not $32/month anymore. Some areas are subsiding other areas. 80% of our households in our community is subsidizing the 20% that has kids in the district. If you believe that education is an investment, like most of us, then you need to pony up $5000 per year per child (in addition to your current taxes) to sustain the current levels of funding. What is unfair about that?


Posted: March 5th, 2011 3:15 PM

@John murtagh: well-put: "It takes decades to build a strong school district, but only a few years to destroy it. I am voting YES for the students."

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:48 PM

@opmom agree with you! But I just don't see any effort to change that. I just keep seeing everyone's hand in my pocket and I am tired of giving.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:35 PM

@Concerned - I agree with you, and that's why we need to continue to invest in education. It's not just an OP issue - education is getting short-changed everywhere. Which is pretty much the definition of "kicking down the road." And Illinois is #49 of 50 in providing state funding for schools.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:35 PM

may not my (mistype also!)

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:29 PM

Well, cash flow is a big issue when you have to feed, house your family. Investment my have to take a back seat during these hard times. This country is going through many scary changes. Funding solutions really need to be addressed not kicked down the road. Kicking down the road has become a bad habit!

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:12 PM

Noel, not Nick - mistyped.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 2:11 PM

@Sorry Voting No: I hear you - the recession has hit my family hard. There are no extras for us. (certainly not the $10,000 extra/year that Nick thinks we have, hah!) We are personally hurting. But it would be a false economy to vote purely on cash flow. We're invested in this community and in our home.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 12:57 PM

OP GRANDFATHER VOTING YES - It takes decades to build a strong school district, but only a few years to destroy it. I am voting YES for the students.

Sorry Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 12:30 PM

$40 a month may not seem much to you, when you are out of work it is. Property Values are already going down without this! Some in this town must have a money tree in their yard!


Posted: March 5th, 2011 12:29 PM

@Put: You said: "It's not YES or NO on this referendum." Let's talk reality. We will vote YES or NO on this referendum. There is no third choice. To share funds between D200 and D97 we would need to have a unified school district. It serves no real purpose to muddy the discussion about the referendum with ideas that are legally impossible.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:48 AM

One more time: That list is not the complete list of layoffs. More to come later in the month.

OP mom voting yes  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 11:04 AM

Allowing our schools to lose art, music, and theater will destroy our property values, period. An earlier commenter said buyers compare OP to Berwyn or FP, which is just wrong. When executive relo. firms, or 20yo's moving from the city, look for a place to buy they are comparing us to Naperville, Evanston, etc. We have it all here, we are so lucky - think of what you are willing to throw away. For what? $40/month? To prove a point??

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 10:14 AM

For those of you that watch the D97 Board packets, the lists of admin being reduced and released are now available. For those online posters who have cried for admin cuts, the packet shows 3 recommended reductions from the Curriculum Dept.: Asst. Supt. Kevin Anderson (to curr. coord.), Felicia Starks (back to a classroom), and Lynn Allen (Multicultural Center Admin eliminated). Also, a middle school AP is on the list for return to a classroom. Too bad. No other admin cuts in other dept.s noted.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:37 AM

From the presentations I've seen, in the event of a NO VOTE, all elementary art teachers would be gone and only art elective teachers in the middle school would remain. For music, the elementary instrumental music would be gone (4-5 gr.) and general/vocal music would remain. As more academic pressure is put on regular K-5 teachers to raise test scores, art will probably become a "when we have time" thing rather than a full experience for all children. Too bad!


Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:31 AM

sorry, I meant that maybe they will assign remaining tenured teachers to teach MUSIC in several schools, not art. Art seems to be gone.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:31 AM

@Elaine - My guess would be that D97 preferred keeping some programs fully supported rather than diluting all of them. While schools could share a librarian or gifted teacher, music (or art) programs would be severely hurt by cutting exposure back by half. Maybe better to have at least one remaining strong program rather than two decimated ones? Elem. Spanish went through this a few years ago and now some citizens don't value it because it isn't "strong" enough.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:30 AM

Elaine Mary, they did eliminate music classes, at least at some schools. My guess is they will assign remaining tenured teachers to teach art in several schools? Not sure. More layoff notices also to come later in the month.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:27 AM

@CAOP - Nice Veritas page you have up. The scales are too small to read, the first two charts are for all Chicago-area home prices, and you seem to want us to believe that schools have the power to overcome national economic disasters. While some homes in OP have been hit hard (probably overvalued to start with), others haven't changed much. The negative effect of BAD schools would have been worse. All this effort & fighting over about $400-$500 per tax-paying unit.

elaine mary  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:12 AM

does anyone know why 97 decided to eliminate art classes instead of music classes? both areas list 9 teachers. why didn't the admin. split the difference and reduce art instruct by 50% and music instruct by 50%? when reductions were made a few years ago, the plan was to reduce not eliminate.


Posted: March 5th, 2011 6:04 AM

@Put, D200's money has nothing to do with D97's. If you have problems with how D200 got their money, take it up with them. Maybe lobby for consolidation, if only to annoy the people in River Forest. In any case it would be illegal for them to divert the money to D97.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 1:07 AM

Review the source documents at our site https://sites.google.com/site/referendumno/source-documents Look at the ASA excel files and review the vendor expenses (greater than $25K tab). We should all ask if the district has created a zero based budget for direct instruction. If not how can you ask for such a huge amount? We at CAOP will fund an increase but not $48 mil. We need to start small with FULL accountability. We need measures that matter. SMART measures.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 1:01 AM

To the Yes side what meaningful measures are you using to determine the value from the $48 mil? How and by how much will teaching effectiveness improve? How will the $7 million spend on technology improve teaching effectiveness,self-discipline, motivation, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, social harmony, creativity, improve emotional expression, an appreciation of diversity. Awards and prizes do not help our children become 21st century learners.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 12:50 AM

Twisted tax logic from the Yes side. We need to increase taxes to get quality schools. That will help property values and help all of us. Well then why not just raise property taxes by 50% make schools ultra-super-uber-whatever so that our property values will be stratospheric. Allowing us to sell out and bring in those buyers,who are willing to shoulder the high property taxes! Click here for more info. https://sites.google.com/site/referendumno/veritas/property-values

Put existing education $ to work  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:36 PM

It's not YES or NO on this referendum. Find a way to use the $80 million of reserves that OP/RF taxpayers have paid to D200 used for EDUCATION instead of sitting in the bank. Since D200 has enough surplus for years to come, change the referendum to reduce D200's levy by some %age for RF taxpayers and move that same %age for for OP taxpayers to D97 instead of raising taxes. Tell the districts to work together to invest in education rather than a money market account. They have a common goal.


Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:30 PM

Chet21: You know, at the moment, the Social Security System is solvent too. This is about fiscal responsibility. Look at the projections http://www.op97.org/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf What we're voting on in the referendum is establishing a financial base for a decade or more into the future, not whether D97 can get through the next year without literally depleting its reserve.

More Current from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 6:50 PM

@ VotingY -- You shouldn't include awards for specific teachers who retired more than 5 years ago, they haven't been here to teach our kids. Certainly going back to 1974 isn't a fair assessment of current quality.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 4:58 PM

WAIT A MINUTE - Jassen and I are NOT looking at the budget figures correctly. How so? We are assuming that little in taxes is collected by D97 until the 2nd prop tax installment. But that's just one component. How much AND WHEN does D97 receive $$$ from the state and feds? May I presume that their expenses decline after June 30th? We need to see the monthly figures to determine cash flow. I just don't have faith in D97 - allowing $5M figure of "cuts" to stand - when, worst case, they had $16M.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 3:57 PM

Jassen, please go this site and read the last paragraph: http://www.rrstar.com/carousel/x1958453303/Illinois-Governor-Pat-Quinn-defends-income-tax-increase. MY translation: YOU are MUCH MORE correct than I am. I KNEW that there was an ed increase from state ($250M), but it's perhaps $.4M - NOT $3M. Do you, though, agree that $5M figure is emotional scare tactic? And what IS the "magic number" for end-year fund balance? We know that it's NOT higher than $20M. With no cuts, we're at $17.3M.

Voting Yes from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 3:26 PM

To those who think D97 is low quality: Additional District 97 awards: Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation Award, ICTM Presidential Award, National Association of Secondary School Principals State Principal of the Year, Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Junior High Mathematics Teacher, Global SchoolNet Educator of the Year,....the list goes on, and; Global Virtual Classroom students building websites with students across the world (facilitated by our gifted instructors) - Since 2005, D97 has won SEVEN grand prize awards, three second place awards one third place award and five special merit awards in the international competition

Voting Yes from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 3:23 PM

To all who say our schools are not great:D97 has earned a Bright Red Apple award 10 times since 2000 placing our district in the top 10% in the state. This award is based on a combination of factors including: ACADEMIC PERFOMANCE, pupil/teacher ratio, expenditure per pupil, educational level of teachers and average teacher salary. D97 has 12 Golden Apple Winners or nominees. How many other nearby districts can claim that? District 97 has 74 Those Who Excel Winners since 1974.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 1:39 PM

@chet21 - "the SOLE reason for this change was income tax hike in IL" Great, so we agree. You said in your original post that the referendum was changed because of "Add'l money from the state" which obviously isn't the same thing. There is, as of now, no additional money coming from the state. Just a likelihood that bills will be payed on time and so the cash flow issue is reduced.

Ginger Yarrow from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:33 PM

There is much to respond to here, but the proposition to just cut teacher pay is insulting to our staff and doesn't address a number of the larger issues that the no-voters mention anyway (real-estate tax funding of schools, waste at the district level, etc). Since when is it good public policy to underpay your most valuable asset, and since when is it a crime for teachers to make a decent living, even if it is in a very few cases six figures? They can't work for free .

oak park parent  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:09 PM

I don't see how eviscerating the schools is going to improve the schools or property values. Then again, unlike a lot of the No people here, I see a lot of greatness in our schools.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:19 AM

@oak park parent: Well, no D97 makes the top 100 schools in Chicagoland (it's not even a stated goal),...too bad, because that WOULD potentially raise property values. D97 is apparently in the Top 10% of state schools, which is really good, but not great. It seems that as long as D97 schools stay significantly better than Berwyn, Cicero, Forest Park, there's little risk to property values (btw -- D97 spends 33-59% more per student than these others, so that won't happen)

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:19 AM

@Ms. Song - while you are at the Cook County Clerk website, take a look at property tax distribution for all properties located in the DTOP TIF district. You will find that 80.4% of their portion of property taxes goes to the TIF, leaving only 5.6% for D97. For OP residents, 32% of our taxes go to D97. Since 1983, the DTOP TIF has collected $75M. Who makes up the shortfall for DTOP taxes diverted to TIF? OP residents! We are all for quality education, but the tax burden has to be equitable.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:18 AM

Maybe it's time to rename that much-touted accolade the Bright Red Ink Award.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:12 AM

Ms Song, D97 decides to reduce levy by $3M per year ($27M for 8 years) solely because of on-time payments? Didn't Quinn specifically state that 2% increase would provide more money to education? Transportation costs at D97 are trivial - we are not a bus/commuter district. Yes, Julian/Brooks/Lincoln have some busing, but it's minor. Please answer this question: if FY2012 gap, with no cuts, is only $3M more than FY2010 and/or FY2011 - why are you and Board claiming $5M needs to be cut?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 11:05 AM

To be very clear: the IL income tax increase from 3% to 5% (still lower than our neighboring states for most tax brackets) does NOT mean new $$ for D97. It merely allows D97 to assume that the state will pay its bills on time & that D97 won't have to in effect float the state an interest-free loan for 6-9 months going forward. FYI, the state is now talking about cutting funding for school transportation.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 10:57 AM

@Ms. Song - cap rates aren't the only factor in D97 property tax revenue. Even if cap rates were set at 0, the increased property valuation and therefore tax base would have provided a significant revenue stream for D97. Why else has D97 property tax revenue increased 77% during 1999-2009? While D97 (and salaries) has benefited from this property tax increase, household income in OP has only increased 22% during the same time period. Household income can no longer support property taxes in OP.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 10:30 AM

Jassen, here you go: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/01-18-2011/Oak_Park_schools_settle_on_referendum_rate_hike. They went from $9M ($75M/8) per yr (bond sale) to $6M (ed fund increase). The quotes in the paper make it clear that the SOLE reason for this change was income tax hike in IL. The fact that they reduced annual request by $3M is VERY SIGNIFICANT. What do you think? Thanks.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:58 AM

Just for clarification, the Bright Red Apple Award is based on five categories: academic performance; pupil/teacher ratio; operating expenditure per pupil; educational level of teachers; average teacher salary. You can access additional information by visiting http://www.wdstudio.net/schoolsearch/pr11braa.htm.

oak park parent  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:35 AM

I keep hearing this canard from the No side, that Oak Park schools aren't great. What do you mean by this?

Jon Donohue  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:32 AM

One thing that is overlooked in this argument is that high property taxes depress property values. Oak Park has one of the highest taxes in Cook County, but the schools are not great. One should expect great schools given the amount of taxes paid. D97 have not been good stewards of our tax dollars. Good schools plus extremely high property taxes, equal lower property values. It would be interesting to know how many people in Oak Park pay more in property taxes than they do on their mortgage.


Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:14 AM

The Bright Red Apple award, simply put, awards spending. High expenditures and salaries two express criteria. So districts who acheive high results for less would be penalized and excluded. So it's no surprise that OP is working its way up the list of spending awardees. SchoolSearchRankings.com is special interest group that sells its services to "Citizen Tax Groups", thus has a vested interst in promoting spending without regard to the relative burden on the taxpayer.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:06 AM

For additional information & documentation on local tax rates, please visit http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/taxagencyreports/Pages/default.aspx

Carollina Song  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 9:05 AM

According to the 2009 Tax Agency Reports from Cook County: the capped rate for District 90 was 2.643 and total rate was 2.819; the capped rate for District 200 was 2.347 and total rate was 2.46; the capped rate for District 97 was 2.226 and total rate was 2.655, even though D97 has to serve kids for more than twice as long as D200. With the successful passage of a referendum, D97's capped rate would be 2.600, still lower than D90's rate.

J.Q. Public from OP  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 8:46 AM

The tax rates for the suburbs are elementary HS tax rates, where appropriate. Or, if the community has a unit district (Elmhurst 3.53 and Barrington 3.39) it is that unit district's tax rate. Does $ = results. Absolutely not. It is a lot more about setting high expectations and supporting all members of the educational community to meet those expectations. That is a result of integrity and doing what's best for kids. I just don't believe in paying more when the core principles aren't there.

oak park mother from oak park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 8:36 AM

I was stunned and disappointed to see that the Wednesday Journal had printed this letter attacking a child's point of view. Why not respond to the many adult taxpayers who have written on this site and in printed LTEs? Mr. Dagnon, I hope your next opinion letter will stick to the facts and avoid the sarcasm pointed at a child. Wednesday Journal - how about some editing? Those first two paragraphs of this don't add a thing except sarcasm and personal belittling.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 8:07 AM

@J.Q. Public - "I researched the tax rates for a number of suburbs..." Could you elaborate on what these numbers are referring to? They certainly don't refer to the elementary school district tax rates.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 7:00 AM

@chet21 - "D97 reduced ref from $75M to $48M. Why? Add'l money from the state." This is incorrect chet. For starters, where are you getting $48M from? Second, they changed the referendum type because they are anticipating getting paid on time by the state, not because they will get paid more. As of right now, there is no increase in funding from the state.


Posted: March 4th, 2011 6:37 AM

chet, what I see is you keep serving up the same number and supposed solutions that keep getting addressed/shot down. Then you start up anew. Rinse, repeat. (undecided, this is spillover from other threads, so pardon me if I am posting a bit frustrated.)

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 6:23 AM

Concerning the comparison of school districts: I did some looking into the 29 Cook County Bright Red Apple districts. These are identified by SchoolSearch as the places prospective homebuyers may want to relocate. D97 is one of the 29 and is squarely in the middle for operational costs per pupil at about $13,300. Fourteen districts pay more and 14 less (2008-09 data on IIRC). These are not all the same size but are identified as highly desirable places to live. Nice to be on the list!


Posted: March 4th, 2011 6:01 AM

@L Ripley and Gail Moran, great posts.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 4:54 AM

@Gail Moran: There's no promise anywhere that D97 will actually improve if the referendum passes. This isn't even pretending to be about better preparing children. And, by the way, I value the future....but certainly not as much as pro-referendum folks value their own children's future. So, feel free to spend on your children's future by supporting D97...but I'd rather not until they show themselves to be acctable. And this will do NOTHING to protect property values in OP. Zero. Nada.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 4:29 AM

Pt. 2. ONLY uncertain variable is new state aid. I KNOW that they reduced the sum "needed" by $27M and I KNOW that they've always used 2018 as the end year, but I'd appreciate more info. Sum could be less or more than $3M but not significantly so. Can we, though, at least agree to remove the emotional "scare tactics" of $5M in cuts if the ref fails? This math SUGGESTS that NO CUTS would be required?!? Back to bed for me - insomnia should now should be cured!!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 4:16 AM

Pt. 1. Kelly & Jassen, here's my math/logic. D97 is "fine" with end-yr $20M balance (see FY2010 & 2011). Concern? $16M end-yr for 2012. Next? Add back freeze ($1.3M). Next? D97 reduced ref from $75M to $48M. Why? Add'l money from state. $27M reduction spread over 8 years (max. 2011-2018) = $3M per year. Add $3M and $1.3M to $16M and we're back to $20M - with no cuts. IF TRUE, then D97 can easily withstand ref defeat and THEN work on add'l reform for 2012 ballot.

epic lulz  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:14 AM

Children are not our future. Our future is PLASTICS!

Kelly Pollock from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:00 AM

@chet21, Based on your link, I do agree that the district has $20 mill. HOWEVER, I do not agree that they do not need add'l funding from the referendum. Did you notice the part of the projection where they run out of money in FY2015? Would you deplete all of your savings just to pay your regular bills or would you save some for a rainy day? D97 needs add'l funds to offset increasing costs and to improve language programs, classroom technology, and school playgrounds. Vote YES!

Gail Moran from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 11:55 PM

We need to decide as a community whether we value the future over our individual, personal financial concerns. If you decide that you value the future, you will vote to fund our schools so that our kids can compete in the global economy. An added benefit: our property values will remain strong.

L. Ripley from Oak Park   

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 11:02 PM

I am reading, both literally and implicitly, from many who argue that money does not ensure quality results. Giving 97 more money won't ensure better results. If that is true, then why are the same people only using data that makes that comparison between 97 and other districts? Comparing districts by size, EAV, and test results is about as enlightening as comparing parishoners of Ascension and Calvary based on their look as they walk into each building on a Sunday morning.

J.Q. Public from OP  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:34 PM

I researched the tax rates for a number of suburbs (found on school report cards). In OP for schools we currently pay a rate of 6.05. RF pays 5.83. Evanston: 5.15. Winnetka: 4.27. Glen Ellyn: 4.56. LaGrange: 4.6. Riverside: 5.14. Berwyn N: 5.25. Berwyn s: 4.62. Elmhurst: 3.53. Barrington: 3.39. I could not find a town where taxpayers pay a higher rate for schools. Several of our schools are not meeting AYP as it is. Why are we even considering paying more?


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:28 PM

@data-we have been having a respectful exchange thus far-please don't start with the personal attacks.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:56 PM

data, please enlighten. Do you at least agree with the $17.3M figure? Are you then questioning the wisdom of these non-CAST/BRAVO/ART/MUSIC cuts? I can respect that you benefit personally from D97 (parent or staff) and want no cuts at all - and more in spending. Why, though, do you refer to my numbers as "voodoo economics"? Are you solely interested in adding "heat" - and not "light" on this matter?


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:44 PM

chet, from what I can see, your numbers just add up to the voodoo economics of the Reagan era. I hope readers wise up and realize they should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:37 PM

Jassen, add the $1.3M to $16M and it's $17.3M. How much add'l money is coming from state? Let's use $1M. Now we're at a minimum of $18.3M. D97 started FY2011 at $20.4M and this sum didn't set off millions in cuts. Why not? Next? $.2M (M-C Dept) & $.6M (K-5 Spanish) & $.35M (Media Specialists). Sum? $1.15M. Next? As Mayor Rahm said, "teachers are not underpaid" - a second year of the freeze is necessary. D97 outspends almost every district and prop taxes in OP are already very high. Vote NO!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:16 PM

@Kelly Polluck - Thanks for getting involved in the comments. The document chet21 refers to also contains a fund balance for the end of next fiscal year that is $16M and 2.7months of cash on hand. Unlike chet21, both the ISBE and the financial oversight committee for D97 consider these inadequate. As chet21 notes, this document was prepared before the admin, OPTA, OPTAA, OPESPA agreed to pay freezes so there will be in improvement of an estimated $1.3M for next year in those projections.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 7:35 PM

Kelly, glad you asked. I've posted this several times before but for the new readers: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. BTW, this does NOT include the teacher freeze of $1.3M, add'l money from the state income tax increase - or any other cuts. NOW do you believe me? Please don't be blinded by D97 scare tactics. Finally, my name (like your's) is irrelevant, but my words & ideas are not. Any other questions?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 5:43 PM

1. In football, they taught us how to tackle by focusing on the center of the runner, so not to be faked out by all the feints and moves. The D97 referendum is the same thing ... lots and lots of moving parts (variables), easily used to fake out anyone trying to tackle this issue. So what can we, the public, focus on to give us true bearings on the referendum? I would suggest a bottom line comparable assessment of property taxes, D97 budget revenue, household income and CPI over the past 10 years.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 5:42 PM

2. I suggest looking at your property tax bills to assess D97 allotment and tax burden. For example, during 1999-2009, my total property tax has increased 107%, while the D97 portion has increased 77%. During 2001-2011, D97 annual total revenue has increased $27M, or 75%. During the same time period, the CPI has increased only 25% (BLM, Chicago area) and mean OP household income increased only 22% (U.S. Census). I agree there is a systemic deficit, but it is w/ OP household budgets, not D97.

Kelly Pollock  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 5:34 PM

@chet21, I have read most of the comments on the WJ site to various referendum articles. I also attended a forum that was very informative. I DO believe that the district will cut programs and that there is little wiggle room to cut elsewhere. I have read why you will not post your name but would appreciate you taking a stand (as I did) and revealing yourself. And please provide documented evidence of the $20 million that D97 has to spend on operating costs.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 4:25 PM

Kelly, nothing personal, but you are the 100th "I'm voting Yes because (fill in the blank) and the district will otherwise implode.....art, music, drama....! All of your emotional concerns have been previously addressed and proven false, but after we do that - another "I'm voting Yes because" appears the next day. Please take the time to read the numerous posts on this subject. I'll assist in one area - NO ONE but ref supporters believe that "art/music," etc need to be cut. D97 has $20Million!

JC from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 4:17 PM

There are a few things that strike me when reading the District97-providdd information: 1. the fear mongering (if you don't give us the money, bad things will happen), 2. there doesn't appear to be a clear plan on how the money will be spent, and 3. the initial intent was to borrow as much money as they possibly could. There may be a need for finances, but this strikes me as a knee jerk reaction that is not well thought out. I'd prefer to see an annual substantiated request for funding.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 4:14 PM

Jassen: There you go again, syaing "D97 is different, so it's not comparable". We pay our teachers more than Wilmette's district and more per student as well. And don't get me started about our results in comparison (i.e., they're lower, alot lower). Just admit that D97 isn't doing everything the "best in class" do...then FIX IT. Taxpayers should demand this by VOTING NO.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 4:04 PM

@Jassen - I'm curious which of my IIRC criteria you disagree with. As outlined below, it's simply a matter of type, size, test performance, and EAV. You can't really compare an elementary district to HS or unit (combined) districts which would be expected to have higher expenditures. So the list is what it is. Comparing on the same criteria with collar counties (Lake and Will) OP still is the top spender. So I'm curious what your stance that OP spends less is based on.

Kelly Pollock from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:54 PM

I fully support the referendum and will vote YES on April 5. I attended the Beye referendum forum a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the questions asked and the answers given. D97 has not had an operating referendum for 20 years and they have done an admirable job of cutting over the last several years. I urge everyone to vote YES to keep vital programs in our schools (art, music, drama, Spanish, etc.) and to keep our community strong.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:48 PM

So, as I understand it, we need more funding for our schools AND at the same time the village is pushing for redevelopment in the Comcast building that could add as many as 51 new students to D97. How does this make sense? Stop the madness!

Yes vote from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:35 PM

Strange to see an attempt at "logic and data" only to find the data wrong, therefore the logic missing. Adding to Jassen's fact-checking of the amount spent per child Oak Park vs. Scottsdale, let me say I spend about $5,000 in taxes for my 1,500 s.f. home in OPn ot the 10k quoted. More importantly, the quality of our schools is one of the main contributors to property values. We need this referendum to keep the quality moving up.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:25 PM

Tweaking the IIRC search to include the wealthiest districts (by EAV), generates a list of 13 additional comparable districts. Amazingly, spending by OP ranks right near the top, even among our better off neighbors. OP is only outspent by three districts, all of whom benefit from a significantly higher tax base, with EAV's ranging from 160% to 215% of OP's. While we all would like to lavish our youth with the best, we need to ask why 10 of 13 richer communities do as much or more with less.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:02 PM

@Undecided - I can post something on our website with a longer list of districts and criteria that I have been using for comparison. Really tough to do in 500 characters here.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 2:59 PM

@Undecided - Just got a chance to look at these. 1) I am not sure I totally agree with the criteria and or whether these districts really fit. Just for example, I wouldn't consider D111 to be on performance par with D97 at all. 2) While I do agree there are some good comparisons in here, it becomes a really small sample. I have not limited myself to Cook County, but looking across suburbs when I have been comparing districts and using a much larger number of districts. part 1.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 2:58 PM

From the Illinois interactive report card--http://iirc.niu.edu/ OP's instructional cost is actually quite similar to RF's (op $7,911, rf $7.518). Our overhead is $1k higher per pupil, which makes sense because we have something like 3x the number of free lunch/disadvantaged student population.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 1:25 PM

Jassen, what is your response to Telling's findings? I am genuinely interested in what you think about it.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 1:20 PM

Excellent. Thank you very much for the information, Telling. Just trying to wrap my head around all of this.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 1:14 PM

The search for comparable district type, size, test performance, and EAV (assessed property valuation per pupil) yielded the following in Cook County: SD 97, 102, 111, 117, 122, 123, 140, 146. District 97's expenses were among the highest by a significant amount. Full stats are available on the website.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:51 PM

@Telling - Just curious, what seven districts are you using for comparison?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:43 PM

Repeat of prev post: Noel, I can NOT thank you enough for your willingness and efforts. I was happily surprised this morning when I received an email blast from a Mann/Julian/OPRF parent/friend - asking me to consider voting NO on the ref. I'm guessing that this was sent because of your initiative. You now have my personal info and so, to repeat, thanks and let me know what I can do! Let's defeat this ref and THEN start the process of reform!!!

Think Different from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:43 PM

Apologies...apparently there's already an Oak Park Education Foundation that does much of what I was describing in a previous post. Perhaps their mission should be broadened (and commensurate funding via donations) to encompass BRAVO/CAST, mutli-cultural, Spanish, etc.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:41 PM

The same search of comparable Cook County elementary districts shows OP to be the clear number one in instructional expenditures and the highest average salaries by 12% over the next closest district. We clearly are not "doing it for less" as Jassen claims. We are doing it for more, nuch more, than most now and the district is asking for yet even more.


Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:28 PM

For local comparisons, all parties might find the IIRC useful: http://iirc.niu.edu/ A search for other large elementary districts in Cook county in OP's EAV range with high achievement (>80% composite) yields 7 comparable districts. At $13,348 OP is already tied for #1 for operating expenses per pupil, with the next highest districts in the mid $10,000's. And if we are talking about closing a $5.5 million gap, tack on another $1,000 per pupil - making OP the outlier at well over $14,000.

Sorry Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:15 PM

My wallet is empty! State Tax increase, County Taxes, Gas now near $4 a gal. I have had no increase in my paycheck for 3 yrs. Houses in are area not selling!

Peter R.  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:37 AM

So I've looked. What exactly are you describing as expenses that "should have been avoided in the first place"? By what calculus should they have been avoided? I see a lot of tabs with payment ranges and who was paid but not much else (justification, etc). Are you forming your opinion based on your interpretation of who was paid and how much? PS - link on your site did not work for whatever reason, I found it through the state site.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:38 AM

I am part of the Vote NO campaign https://sites.google.com/site/referendumno/ Reducing expenses that should have been avoided in the first place is not a sign of fiscal responsibility. Look at the Annual Statement of Affairs http://ftp://ftpfinance.isbe.net/ASP/ASA10/06-016-0970-02_ASA2010.xls and you will see all types of expenses that can be cut further without a detrimental effect on instruction. We need SMART measures and hold the board and admin accountable before we spend more.

Peter R.  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 8:24 AM

EMPHATIC 'YES' VOTE. For a forum apparently so dedicated to facts and data there is much cherry picking and not much objective assessment. Those who have paid attention over the last 5 - 10 years know that D97 has been one of the more fiscally responsible local bodies. Vote no if you can't afford otherwise, but the consequences are real. As for Mr. Dagnon, I'd rather listen to arguments from invested teenagers than his insincere attempt at reasoned debate.

Think Different from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 7:36 AM

How about a not-for-profit foundation established for the benefit of D97 schools? Jassen could deploy his army of passionate people in a fundraising effort that could fund programs above the "basic" education that the district can provide and the dollars would not be tied to all those difficult state, local and union rules. Then, those that are passionate could support it without raising taxes for all. Donations of just over $1K per student would equal the net of the referendum.

One more NO vote  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 7:00 AM

We already pay high taxes and we expect our school districts to use that money wisely. My no vote is not against education, its against uncontrolled spending. D97 should be in good shape - last year they had over 30 teachers making $100,000 - $135.000 who retired. Younger teachers make about half those sums. That should have saved a lot of moeny.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 5:14 AM

@Interested Parent: Yes, the answer to all comparisons where schools are more efficient/effective than D97 seems to be "oh, but that doesn't count...they're different." It's beginning to sound to me like pro-referendum folks are just a bit closed-minded to solutions other than raising taxes.

Noel Kuriakos from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:50 PM

We need to make meaningful comparisons to ANY school that spends the same amount and is effective. D97 has failed thus far to show how the last 10 yrs of spending has increased effectiveness. Any sustainable and efficient system produces more that what it consumes. D97 has failed to show any metrics to that extent. Those of us voting NO would increase funding if D97 can show accountability and effectiveness. They have not done this. The board and the admin has abdicated its responsibility.

Noel Kuriakos from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:44 PM

Today we as parents of children in D97 have abdicated our duty to pay for our children's education and instead have allowed the taxing system to spread the cost to others. We use these savings to spend on ourselves, thus being selfish. Almost every family in D97 with kids can cough up $5-$10K to support the schools if they just cut back on their conspicuous consumption. That is what being a part of the community is all about.

Noel Kuriakos from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:41 PM

I don't believe any of us voting NO is against public education. It is evident that financing public education based on real estate is outdated and unfair. If you read the history of real estate tax based funding, it started out in the late 1800s when community members who were educated in the community, stayed in the community and did not move away. So naturally as a taxpayer you supported reasonable taxes toward this end. This is no longer true the 21st century.

Dean B. from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:00 PM

How best to quantify the suggestion that teachers take a "small pay cut collectively" to balance the budget? There are 392 FTE teachers in D97 and the budget is $5.5 million out of balance. So, that's a pay cut of $14,030 per teacher or in the neighborhood of a 20% cut. Is 20% small? I don't think so.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:07 PM

I also think you make clear in your arguments that your beef is not so much with the particulars involving D-97. but with the idea of public education in general. Perhaps you might want to elaborate on this side of your argument a bit more?

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:03 PM

John, I fail to see how "logic & data" support your conclusions when the figures you introduce are patently false. Scottsdale schools, like all in Arizona, receive $3,267 per pupil from the state -- perhaps that's where you conjured up your $3k figure. The actual figure appears to be more around $8,500, though the stats I've seen are less than transparent. Given OP's property values and the quality of services provided by D-97, I don't think our costs are out of line at all.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 3:25 PM

After looking at various budget documents and news stories about school budgets in Arizona, it appears that spending per pupil is seriously under-reported. It appears that budget items labeled as "fixed costs" are not included in the per pupil cost as they are in other states. This apparently would add another $4K - $5K to the per pupil cost. Also, special ed costs are often "hidden", resulting in lower apparent costs to the public. Arizona is different!

Taxpayer from River Forest  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 2:29 PM

As a River Forest taxpayer I have no opinion on the District 97 referendum. However, when there is mention made of using funds from District 200 to cover a shortfall at District 97, I do have an opinion. There are aparently some in Oak Park that don't know that 25% of the residential property tax revenue collected by District 200 comes from River Forest taxpayers. That is why that surplus cannot be used to fund District 97 shortfalls and that is also why Districts 97 and 200 cannot be combined

Amy Ward from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:56 PM

Noel, you are completely entitled to your opinion. However, I hope you are in no way implying that either Julian Middle School or the Julian PTO endorses the idea of saying no to the referendum. As a fellow Julian parent, I don't think it's appropriate to use your position on the PTO as a springboard for your efforts in opposition to the referendum.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:12 PM

@No on REFERENDUM - Thats a good question. Oak Park isn't in Arizona though so without a lot more info, the comparison is meaningless. The meaningful comparisons I can make, those between D97 and other Chicago suburban school districts that perform similarly, show me that on average, we are doing it for less.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:48 AM

@Jassen: Wow. What I'm missing is how D97 apparently spends over $5,000 more per student than Scottsdale (that's 40% more) and can even be asking us for more money. Just another proof point that OP taxpayers aren't currently getting their money's worth. And yet D97 wants more...

Can't support referendum  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:39 AM

D97's threat of cuts makes no sense. Classroom teachers get planning time. That time takes place while the kids are at art, foreign language, etc. If we fire all those teachers what happens to the planning time? Also D97's list of cuts does not specify how much money is saved by each cut. And there is no mention of the $$$$ saved by the 30 teachers who were making $100,000 to $135,000 before they retired last year. Until the numbers make sense I cannot support the referendum.

Noel Kuriakos from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:54 AM

I am one of the coordinators for the vote no coalition. We have a group called Citizens Alliance of Oak Park (CAOP). email ca.oakpark@gmail.com to get on our mailing list. We will have a website up and running tonight. You can contact me Noel Kuriakos 708.275.2260 or nkuriakos@gmail.com to find out how you can support our effort. Please forward this to anyone you might think will join our effort. I am a parent of two daughters in D97 and I have many reasons to oppose this referendum. I am also a PTO President of the 7th grade @ Julian Middle School. I have been asked to attend and present the opposing side's view at number of upcoming events. If you would like to join me or if you are interested in presenting please contact me.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:45 AM

John, a well written letter. There are some points we can agree on. I would like to ask if you could clarify some numbers for me though. Scottsdale Arizona Unified does indeed perform very well but they do spend $8269 per pupil as of 2009 data. Somewhat different than the $3000 you quoted. D97 spends $13,348 per pupil, a little below your number of $15K. I am fully willing to admit I might be missing something though.

Adele from OP  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:20 AM

Thank you WJ for printing the other "View". The one year teacher salary freeze is PR and not true reform or sacrifice. We have reached the outer limits of prprty tax and cannot indulge / absorb anymore. We the tax payers have been taken for granted but now that mortgages are upside down and inside out, but taxes STILL go up, time to say NO.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:15 AM

Great note. Other like-minded individuals can communicate via facebook. Just search for "No on Oak Park Referendum" and join (or just monitor as many do).

Ronnie 100 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:56 PM

Very nicely done, John. No, you don't sound like a bully at all. You sound like a well-educated, reasonable person with a great deal of common sense and an appreciation for the future of our village and our country. Logic and data usually don't play well in our town, but you make it seem very unthreatening. Maybe the WJ would hire you to write as a counterbalance to Ken Trainor!

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