While I was delivering yard signs in support of the District 97 referendum today, I met a man who openly scoffed. "If they need money, they should just cut a few administrators," he said. "All this hysteria about eliminating BRAVO — it'll never happen."
Oh, yes it will. The referendum is not a trick. And if you think about it for a minute, you'll see why.
The district has not sought an increase in 20 years. During that time, the cost of providing health care to employees exploded; schools are people-intensive. Unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind were implemented. Costs, from technology to utilities, have risen. The only thing that's gone down has been interest rates on reserves.
I believe District 97 has been very frugal, living within its shrinking means for many years. It is seeking the minimum increase needed to get by for the next six years. If the referendum doesn't pass, the district will be forced to cut more than "just a few administrators." Its realistic projection includes:
1. About 150 staffed positions, including:
All the elementary art teachers
All of the language teachers (including Whittier's wonderful Dawn Deaton, who has taught my sons so much)
Half the librarians
Half the media specialists (because our kids don't need to know technology to compete in today's world)
Half the gifted and differentiated teachers (who support primary teachers in every classroom)
2. All middle school sports
3. All programs like BRAVO and CAST
4. All fourth- and fifth-grade music instruction
You can read the details on the District 97 website, including information about the programs they are cutting or reducing no matter how the referendum turns out.
The teachers and teaching assistants in District 97 already have agreed to a one-year pay freeze. Do you think the unions would have stood for that if the shortfall wasn't real?
Nobody wants an increase in taxes, but for a household with a tax bill of $10,000, the increase is only $380. That's miniscule compared to what will happen to my property value if we eviscerate our schools in this fashion.
I'm voting yes for the District 97 referendum. I'm doing it for my kids. I am doing it for my neighbors' preschoolers. I'm doing it for my elderly neighbors who someday will want to sell their house. And I am doing it so I can tell Senora Deaton that I voted to save her job.