We are supporting the District 97 referendum because we want to support Oak Park's historically strong school system. Some of the greatest assets of our schools need our support now if we want to keep them and build a stronger school system into the future. Because District 97 has not run such a referendum in more than 20 years, we think it is very reasonable — untimely, given the economy — to be asked for support. The referendum will cost our family about $200 a year.
There are many things about our schools we love and that our daughter would be heartbroken without. Art would be a major loss for her, and our girl gets majorly bummed when she has to miss library time. We are happy she feels so strongly about academic pursuits, and think her school must be doing something right if she's sad about missing the chance to make art or check out new books.
The future of District 97 libraries is our major concern. Should the referendum fail, the district plans to cut school librarian positions by half. The school librarians do much that is unnoticed, including teaching research skills, Internet use and safety, and a love of reading. With a 50 percent reduction in school librarians, we can expect a 50 percent reduction in the teaching and services our librarians now provide. That would be a major loss of learning for children.
The problem with cutting all these librarian positions is not just a personal one for us. Research from many different states, including Illinois, shows that well-staffed and well-funded school libraries produce kids who are both better readers and better writers. They also do better on standardized tests such as the ISAT. In our view, reading is the most fundamental of all the skills schools are responsible for teaching, so cost-cutting in an area known to affect kids' reading development — staffing and funding of school libraries — is just scary to us.
We look forward to many more years of excellent education for our daughter, a third grader at Irving. Because of the reading program run by our school's teacher librarian this year, our daughter has read nine more high-quality books than she otherwise would have. At this rate, between kindergarten and eighth grade, she will have read 81 more great books than she would have without the excellent librarianship we now have in District 97. That is amazing to us.
We're voting yes.
Anne and Kathy Jordan-Baker