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."