Endorsement for District 97 Referendum

A strong yes for a brave new future

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

Transforming education in Oak Park is the goal.

Such bold change involves building on genuine strengths evident in the District 97 elementary and middle schools. But it also demands embracing dynamic change in how we teach kids via technology and differentiation. How we grab hold all of our children early on, especially those at profound risk. Such change inevitably involves, not solely but significantly, how we look at teaching and teachers. How do we motivate teachers to change and grow? How is compensation linked to performance in innovative, substantive ways? How do we actively winnow out the relative handful of bad teachers who undermine the shared effort?

How do we make our schools — principals, superintendents, teachers, parents, students — actively more accountable for innovation and success? How do we do it in a framework that is affordable in deeply challenging financial circumstances so that taxpayers, who almost universally care about education and understand the essential role good schools play in this village, can clearly see how it supports our long-term property values.

For us, this is what the April 5 tax hike referendum for Dist. 97 is about. Is the best way to accomplish this change by defeating the referendum and sending a message to the school board that deep program cuts and a stick with which to whack administrators and teachers in future contract talks are the only tools they have?

We understand the impulse. We respect the detractors who are determined to build a better educational system by taking down the current version. But we reject their conclusion.

Wednesday Journal strongly supports passage of this referendum.

Here's why. After years of intensely watching all local elected officials at work, we are particularly enthusiastic about the Dist. 97 school board. They get it. They have actively cut spending year after year. They have worked cooperatively with other local taxing bodies. They are setting a foundation for serious education reform and for a rational financial deal with faculty.

This school board has spent a decade scouring its budget. Year after year, it has cut costs in administration, in operations, in programs. It has been a relentless process that has allowed the district to forestall a referendum for many years. While the district waited, every other taxing body has passed tax hikes and, in the case of Oak Park and River Forest High School, run up fund reserves that are unconscionable and which make the current request from Dist. 97 seem unaffordable for some residents.

Yes, costs have risen in District 97 as critics contend. Those increases are, in part, tied to a rapid rise in enrollment, to added programs such as foreign language and full-day kindergarten, and to an expansion of special education that needs to be continuously evaluated from both a cost and a service perspective.

And don't forget that costs have risen because we are still paying off the bonds that built the two middle schools. Currently that's $4 million a year. The bonds will be paid in 2018.

Costs have also increased because in past years this school board, and all others, have abrogated the responsibility to represent taxpayers at contract time. The contracts and the benefits have been too rich, the givebacks paltry. If we did not believe that the current school board, its administrators, and, yes, even the faculty union, fully grasp that the days of 4- to 6-percent raises, salary bumps and early retirements were long past, we would not be supporting this referendum.

We are confident, though, that the Dist. 97 board does understand that, in an entirely new way, Oak Park has reached tax saturation. There is no more to give — no matter how supportive residents are of our schools.

This is not simply a leap of blind faith. The pay freeze for next year, approved by faculty and other staff, was a positive sign. The end of "steps" — an invisible extra annual pay raise built quietly into contracts for decades — has already been broached with the Oak Park Teachers Association, according to the superintendent. Extraordinarily, two tenured teachers have been shown the door this year with the cooperation of the union. Jim O'Connor, a charter school founder, will join the Dist. 97 board this spring and will bring with him the aggressive yet nuanced "Performance Counts" standard of teacher evaluation and compensation planning. Peter Traczyk, the board president, understands that the nationwide practice of permanent pay raises for teachers who roll up more post graduate hours "is not highly correlated to success in the classroom." Those lane changes ought to be dumped in favor of more effective performance measures. District leaders are ready to push the state hard on reform of a pension system that was grievously overpromised, actively larded as retirements neared, and cynically underfunded.

We ask the district, the faculty, and the administration to get serious now in setting Dist. 97 on an aggressive path toward education reform and the profound overhaul of school finance that must go hand in hand with it.

Current methods of teaching are no longer adequate. The current model of funding our schools is cracking. The wise alternative is to create great change. Dist. 97 is poised to do that. The tempting option is to cut off funds in frustration. Don't do it.

We strongly urge a yes vote for Dist. 97's changed future.

Reader Comments

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theresa broderick from oak park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 6:43 PM

very proud to say I voted YES for the referendum, I have read articles and listened to both sides, and at the end of the day it comes down to my children's future

On a Fixed Income from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 5:19 AM

I'll vote No first thing this morning. In my 30 years in this village, this is the first tax increase I've ever voted against. Why? Because the whole world (the economy) has changed in the past couple of years, but the school district hasn't changed with it. All the lawns signs, buttons, and pep rallies can't convince me that they've really changed the way they see the world and are achieving their goals differently. It's the same ol' stuff...and I can't afford it anymore. Peace.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:21 AM

I'm still looking for anything in any Referendum materials that actually indicates that "transforming education in Oak Park is the goal." Some anonymous poster claimed that "hard work is being done and positive changes are being made" but with no specifics to back that up. So, where again is the reform (planned? promised? underway? anything?) that the editorial refers to? Otherwise, this whole situation plays itself out again in a few years...

John Anderson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 1:05 PM

So let me get this straight, Noel, you created a number based on your own "cost model" for a project that doesn't exist and extended your "cost model" to 2020 and then claims this is what the district is going to spend on a "project" that as of yet you have been unable to identify? I think we typically call that making stuff up. There are plenty of arguments to be made with the real numbers. Shame on you.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 9:29 AM

@Noel - Again, what grounds and beatification? You are distributing flyers that in your own words claim "$5M will be spent on grounds beautification at one school" What school? What project? Surely your cost model it based on something real?


Posted: March 30th, 2011 9:27 AM

@Noel - So, if I understand you correctly, the graph with misleading information is OK because "it was part of our analysis?" I don't dispute the line of operating costs has gone up, but you don't list any reasons beyond "fiscal mismanagement." What factors may have led to higher operating costs beyond salaries/benefits? In my Statistics classes, your analysis, graph, and captions would barely merit a "low C." No Value Added here.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 9:18 AM

So, based on your own analysis, you anticipate it will cost $5 million to maintain the grounds at one school even though they probably haven't spent that much for all 10 schools combined in years and would only allocate $2.8 million district wide through 2018 if the referendum passes? Talk about fiscal mismanagement...although would have loved for you to be in charge of beautification at my school growing up based on those calculations.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:21 AM

I throw a bone to EJ. The $5 mil is a TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP # based on our analysis of what it will cost to implement and maintain the grounds beautification through till 2020. The tax increase is permanent vs the working cash bond scheme which had a limited life. So we created a cost model for this project & extended it out. That is not misinformation. That is a realistic cost design, implementation, maintenance & some replacement.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:17 AM

@ #s, the graph was part of our analysis. If you would like to put your spin, please by all means create your own graph. The trend & the magnitude of % change in op cost per pupil vs % change in enrollment is still troubling & is endemic to D97. We find it odd that the Board does not communicate such useful statistics to the community. If this board & admin valued the tax payer, the large deviations in these #s should have been red flags. A tax increase will just give us more of the same.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:11 AM

Anyone wanting their NO signs replaced can shoot us an email ca.oakpark@gmail.com.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:50 PM

Just noticed that all the "NO" signs on my block have disappeared. Pathetic. A supposedly diverse, inclusive and tolerant community. Lenin, Stalin, and their like are proud! Stifle all dissent!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 5:52 PM

@chet21 - I totally agree. I would hope that nobody would confuse a YES vote with meaning we don't need to continue to do things better. I have always voiced my concerns often when I thought the D97 board was doing things I disagreed with and that will continue long after April 5th.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 5:39 PM

@Jassen. Believe it or not, there is method to my madness (of which I have plenty of...."madness"). I can't overlook the D97 budget projections and, if the ref passes, I'm hopeful that people such as yourself AND the D97 bd is semi-grateful for the many "issues" raised during this debate. Even the WJ acknowledged that business as usual will harm OP (see my 3:02 comment) and I also know far too many people in OP who are already "hurting." Regardless, see you after the 5th!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:05 PM

@Jose - Ha, we are neighbors. Don't you feel the love?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:04 PM

@chet21 - "the Yes people either overlook, don't care, or hope/pray that D97 Bd will address this." I think this is a gross generalization. There are a lot of nuances to both sides of this debate. Teachers salaries and how they are compensated is complicated. I agree with many of the things Noel brings up, we just have different ideas about how to get from here to there. But a nuanced discussion of all of that isn't gonna happen in 500 characters here.

Jose from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:58 PM

I'm wondering whether Jassen and chet21 have ever met in person. This might have been covered in other exchanges, but I really am curious. It seems like they should get a drink together when all this is over.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:56 PM

(continued) That said, I would like to see us implement a model of performance based pay. That is easier said then done, but members of the Board has already committed to pursuing that with the teachers so I think that is encouraging. I will certainly continue to attend board meetings and reminding them of that commitment moving forward.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:52 PM

@chet21 - Couple things. The premise that the board had "abrogated" their responsibility is one I don't totally agree with. My opinion is that we need to pay teachers in a manner that is competitive with the districts we want to compete with for teaching talent. We can all argue about which districts those are but that is my benchmark for where compensation should be. I think we are pretty close. (continued)


Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:47 PM

@Jassen - My comment about the CAOP graph is not about the title, but about the line just above the graph. The line says that "We can't allow operating costs to rise 10 times!" They haven't risen 10 times which would be operating costs from $8,100 up to $81,000. Rather, it should say "We can't allow the % of increase in operating costs to be 10 times the % of enrollment increase." Of course, these two numbers have little direct connection, but we won't let that get in the away!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:02 PM

@Jassen. Sure, 1:17 and 1:30. Also, I'm rereading the WJ endorsement and "cherry picking" this: "Costs have also increased because in past years this school board...has abrogated the responsibility to represent taxpayers at contract time. The contracts and benefits have been too rich..." The Yes people either overlook, don't care, or hope/pray that D97 Bd will address this. The No people look at budget thru 2016, with 5% wage/benefit increases, and say "WTF" and conclude another ref in 2016/7?!?

Gregg Simon  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 2:56 PM

As he brought up the subject of tech, I am interested in Noel's specific plans to fund tech in the schools so D97 can provide the "21st Century education" he has spoken of quite often. Specifically, what tech does he propose having in the schools, what grades will utilize that tech, how much will it cost and how will it be paid for? I note, in your Veritas, you state that we should not give every kid an iPad or iTouch. Can't say I have ever heard that was D97's plan. Thank you.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 2:52 PM

@chet21 - can you save my eyes and just ask it again?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 2:37 PM

@Jassen. "Still Undecided" asked about "pay cuts" at 1:19. I believe, however, that I misread his question. I mistakenly believed it was another in the barrage of "you haven't answered my questions" from many. BTW, still waiting for answers to MY questions from the same group. Also, I don't drink alcohol, but appreciate your earlier invitation for me to stop by for a beer. Win/Lose/Draw, I'll stop by afterwards. Thanks. Remember, I'm a proud (former) Irving parent!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 2:28 PM

@chet21 - "BTW, still waiting for the answers to Noel's 1:31 and 1:24 comments. " I am not sure I see a question in there. Are you asking for a comment on whether some teachers unions have taken pay cuts? If so, I have no problem with a teachers union agree to take a cut. As for his chart, I have no comment on the title of his chart.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:48 PM

I have to take this moment and commend most of the posters related to this important topic. Yes, as Jassen noted, we disagree on some points, but except for a few frantic parents, we've kept the tone and debate civil - which isn't easy considering the emotion involved. My prediction? No 50.4 - Yes 49.6. BTW, still waiting for the answers to Noel's 1:31 and 1:24 comments. BTW, I'm anon because of my kids. Period. I'm not considered a shy and Mitty person by any one. Trust me.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:43 PM

@Noel - "@EJ, come out first. Then we can then tango or do the two step. " Since I have "come out", will you answer the question about concerning the $5M that the district is planning to spend on landscaping at one school. You included it on your flyer, do you have any documentation to support making that claim?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:42 PM

Touche, Noel. Nice to see the sense of humor. Since it seems clear those questions won't get answered no matter how many times I ask them, let's flip the script a little. Not just for you, but for anyone on the no side. If this referendum passes, how would you spend the money to improve education in District 97? Clearly you feel strongly about not putting a dime toward salary or benefits, but what do you think the district should invest in?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:35 PM

@EJ, I like you more than the other others.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:34 PM

@EJ, I don't scream. When I type I use my melodious Barry White (pillow talk) voice. Stop spreading misinformation!

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:34 PM

So, people like steve and chet21 who support your side are free to remain anonymous, but I am not? Still not sure why this bothers you so much, Noel? Or, is it simply your excuse for not answering the questions I have posed? My identity doesn't invalidate the fact that you are providing misinformation, calling people "suckers," refuse to provide the metrics you want the district to so desperately incorporate into the evaluation process. Why so evasive, Noel?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:31 PM

@numbers, the title says %change vs %change not absolute changes.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:31 PM

@chet21 - "And, Noel, notice how the YES people ignore 95% of your pts and question 5% - with an "aha"?!?" I am not the YES people, but I can speak for myself which is, No aha, I just refuse to get in endless debates about the some topics we have covered often. Notice I will not get into any debates with you over fund balances or the importance of foreign language. We just disagree. Raise something new, happy to discuss.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:30 PM

@EJackson. Valid pt, but why has not one person on the YES side answered my question regarding why D97 finds it necessary to make $5M in cuts when the fund balance is only $3M less on 6/30 than the two preceding years? Further, why is a $20M 6/30 balance alright, but $17M denote armageddon? Why doesn't the YES side use their energies on this one? Isn't it critical? Doesn't it make you wonder about "threats" from D97 board and YES campaign? "Numbers" worries about trivial math, but not this?


Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:28 PM

@Noel - If you start at the 1998-99 year and go to 2008-09, your figure is accurate at almost 64%. However, the big jump between 1999 and 2000 was when the bonds for the middle schools kicked in (about a $1300 jump in one year). Your chart scale is wrong at the bottom since it says 2000, not 1999. And your line above the graph is still incorrect, too, stating an increase of "10 times." A 10 times increase would be to $81,000, not $13,348.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:26 PM

@EJ, come out first. Then we can then tango or do the two step. Hiding & demanding is not going to get you anywhere. We have done our homework (BTW it is based on YEARS of research not months) & we would respectfully ask that you to do the same. It will only enhance the conversation.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:25 PM

He continues to scream for metrics and measurables, but won't give his "expert" opinion about what those are. He says other districts have already made pay cuts, but has yet to cite one. Is he willing to also pony up $10k to $15K to fund non-core instruction, even though it violated board policy and state law? What about that $5 million to beautify one schoolyard? Still would like to hear where that came from?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:24 PM

'Still Undecided' you are a savvy & smart internet user. Just type in 'teachers unions taking pay cuts' in Google search, grab a cup of your favorite drink (something strong perhaps) & read to your heart's content.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:22 PM

With all due fairness, chet, Noel has dodged every single question I have posed on this site regarding the misinformation he's been disseminating so I don't really think it's fair to claim the yes people are ignoring 95 percent of his points. Furthermore, the current board president has stated a commitment to move toward a more performance-based contract for teachers and when I asked Noel to cite the metrics for measuring performance, beyond the ISAT, he provided none.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:21 PM

@Int Parent, I agree that a second lang should be taught early but when it involves million of $$ you need metrics & measures to justify that spending. I don't believe most of us voting NO would object to funding second language, as long as there is a measurable & verifiable learning outcome. When that is not in place then we are throwing our scarce resources away & short changing our kids. We need put the adults in charge on notice that we need more accountability. Voting NO will do that.

Still Undecided  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:19 PM

Noel, you mention other CBs that have taken pay cuts. Would you name a couple of them so I can look into their situations before I make up my mind. Any in the Chicago area? Thanks for your help.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:17 PM

@Curious. Nice try, but the YES camp has always cherry-picked. You've also, unless I missed it, added nothing to the dialogue except "it's for the children," and "D97 has been frugal" and "if this fails CAST/BRAVO/ART/MUSIC will be cut!" You get the idea. You've never questioned D97 finance numbers - ever. What is your thought about 5% salary/benefit increases if ref wins? Silence? Bonuses to plump up pensions? Silence? We point out that D97 spends more than almost all school districts? Silence?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:16 PM

@numbers. Do you change in % calc from 1999.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:11 PM

@ Curious - Contract..., tell that to the over 5 million households that have been foreclosed on since 2007. Let's see you honor your mortgage contract when you lose your job, oh wait, tenure. I guess there is nothing to worry about.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:09 PM

@curious. Yes I understand it very well. Well enough to know that he Board ASKED for a 'pay freeze' & got one. I recall that was NOT in the contract. The Board needs to learn the two step & ask for pay CUTS. Where there is a will there is way. Other CBs have done this in these economic times. Why can't we? The board is the steward for tax payer $$, not lackeys for the CB unit. They provided generous raises when times are good & now the CB needs to give back when times are bad.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:02 PM

We ignore the other 95% of his points because he has said the same things over and over and over for 2 months. We find the new fantasies worth commenting about now.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:00 PM

Noel you really don't understand the concept of a contract, do you? Pay cuts require two to tango.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 1:00 PM

@Interested Parent. Gosh, I try to slumber thru to the end of the ref, but ya won't let me? My pt with FLES is that there is questionable value (and it takes time away from core subjects) AND if the award winning RF elem schools can do with out it - why are we, in time of fin'l stress for many, even contemplating this major expense? Can we agree that it's a "want," not a "need" and that it costs a lot? And, Noel, notice how the YES people ignore 95% of your pts and question 5% - with an "aha"?!?


Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:58 PM

Mistake in typing... should be a "38.8% increase."


Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:57 PM

@Noel- Nice put-down..."That's every day math. Do your homework." My question was for you to explain your numbers since the IIRC table shows an operating cost/pupil change from $9612 in 2000 to $13,348 in 2009. That's a 38.3% increase, not 64%. 64% of what? And why did you start at 18% in 2000. 18% of what? And your statement of "increasing 10 times" makes no sense to me at all. Educate me, please.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:54 PM

[85% of our budget is used to pay for the salaries & benefits of the more than 700 people we employ. Schools are labor intense organizations!]. So why didn't the board & the admin ask for 3%-5% cuts in compensation? Why haven't they asked the employees to shoulder more of the inc in benefit costs? Why did the Sup & board only ask for a pay freeze? Voting NO will force the board to face this reality. It will give them the backing to ask for comp reductions. It will stop the over spending.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:51 PM

@JS, yes. We need MORE of these not more taxes. Where there is a will there is a way. We need the PTOs & the community to come up with $$$,$$$ to fund non-core instructional programs. We all know that 10%-15% of the D97 parents can step up & seed a fund (I can easily count 10 families who can kick in $10K each. BTW one is on the Board & the other chairs your side). Only 20% of OP's households send kids to D97. We need to step up to the $$ plate.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:43 PM

@Noel - So as proof that the Board and Admin aren't being creative you quote a creative idea, by a Board member??? Federal stimulus money is/was used, equipment has been purchased by PTOs and local businesses. They have done exactly what you are asking them to do.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:40 PM

[Peter Barber, a board member, urged administration to look at ways to reduce costs, including exploring whether federal stimulus funds could be used and if Oak Park businesses or the school PTOs were willing to pay for certain classroom equipment.] These tough economic times calls for creative, crowd-sourced ideas to fund non-core instruction. This board & admin wants to take the easy path of raising taxes instead of finding the funding from cuts. A vote NO will force the board to dig deeper.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:37 PM

[The $8 mil price tag for District 97's ambitious 21st Century Learning tech plan may be a bigger financial apple than the dist is willing, or able, to bite. "I love tech but we are going to have to establish some priorities in this dist," said Jim Gates, a school board member & former D97 teacher. "My head is sort of spinning. I'm trying to figure out where are we going to find the money for this? I'm not value-judging this. I'm being very pragmatic."] Be pragmatic & Vote NO.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:27 PM

@Num it is every day math. Do your homework. Go to the NIU report card site & get the data & crunch the numbers. There has been a derth of analysis on YES side but plenty of emotional arguments. The truth is scary. It is more scary that people don't make decisions based on data. For over a decade this board & the admin has spent more than revenues. That spending has gone toward higher compensation yr after yr without the commiserate increase in value add. A NO vote will end.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:20 PM

On the CAOP webpage is a new graph showing "startling" data about overspending by D97. The title line indicates increases by "10 times." Noel, please explain the numbers you used and how a 38% increase in operating costs/pupil from 2000 to 2009 equals "costs rising 10 times." You can't just compare the enrollment increase and your 64% cost number (6%x10). Apples to oranges, but it sure looks scary (and misleading). The CPI increase was 29%, so the MS costs were a big part of the extra increase.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:17 PM

@Noel - The FLES program was very well thought through but has been gutted by previous budget cuts. While it may not be as effective as it once was (except in the eyes of Chet21, who never valued it), the exposure to a 2nd language from skilled language teachers provides students with an opportunity to hear another language and value those who speak it well. It's great your kids speak Japanese, but that sounds like a family choice to instruct them. Not everyone has this choice.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:15 PM

[The board decided that while the bonding route was more of a mid-term than long-term solution to school funding issues, that it would be less of a burden on recession-weary property taxpayers. Rather than asking voters to approve a permanent increase in property tax rates, the school board will ask voters to OK the issuance of working cash bonds]. Why didn't they just half the bond amount? Why did the go the way of a permanent tax inc? Why hire big name ($$) lawyers to mislead tax payers?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:11 PM

@ ?? no one doubts that librarians do this. But should they be paid $75K to $100K to do this? Even our public library's librarians don't get paid that much. The bottom line is that the days of increases without commiserate increase in added value are over. We can hire newly minted grads @ $50K and still retain 80% of the value add of current librarians. We can use the saving to fund new programs or improve programs so that NONE of our schools are failing AYP. We need 21st century schools.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 12:07 PM

In response to a League of Women Voters, D97 stated 'Currently in the elementary Spanish program, there is one hour a week spread across two classes, not enough time to be very effective.' As parent of two daughters who can speak Japanese, read & write Hiragana & Kataka script & Kanji, I can say that whoever instituted this program did not think through it. We have spent millions to find out it is not working. Voting NO will bring more accountability. Voting YES will mean more of the same.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:45 AM

They are an essential and core part of the school. There are times when the librarian is in the computer lab helping students, then she has to run and help students find a book, then (when the library clerk or volunteer isn't there) check out the book to the students. It is tough being in three places at once, isn't it? But they do it day in and day out.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:44 AM

How is FLES abysmal? You can't just state something like that and not give reasons or examples. Also, the library clerks are only part-time and they are definitely not raking in the big bucks. Frankly, they should be full-time in order to help the librarians. The librarians don't just checkout books. They are teachers. They teach research and technology skills that regular teachers don't have time to do.

Oak Park father of 6 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:19 AM

The teachers in District 97 are generously paid and our school system has an excellent reputation. However, I think we should be more modest about raising taxes. Look at what happened in Wisconsin. Let's try to live within our present budget and hold down taxes, lest we need to take more draconian actions in the future. Vote NO

Education YES, Referendum NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 10:52 AM

My children attended D97, and got a good education. Added in recent years: Spanish for all (an abysmal program at best), all-day Kindergarden, extra principals throughout the district, aides in every library (supplementing the already full-time librarians). A needless multicultural center at 250K/year that most parents don't even know the purpose of. During times of budget concerns, programs were added at a rapid pace, and no creative thinking to reduce costs.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 10:31 AM

I'm calling it a tie. What would happen if that were the case?

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 9:19 AM

Hi, Scott. Apparently the last time you heard the word "hobnob" was between 6 p.m. last night & 9 a.m. this morning. Also, I like your suggestion: I'll go with 58% vs. 42%, in favor of "Yes." Unfortunately.

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 9:08 AM

I don't know the last time I heard the word "hobnob." I'm surprised that the Wednesday Journal isn't having a contest to guess the final vote on the school referendum like they did with the melting snow in downtown Oak Park (is that gone yet?) If I had to guess, I say Yes wins 54-46. Anyone else?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 8:53 PM

I'm in the same boat, Alan. The only solution is for the pols in Springfield to take action. The way we fund our schools is unfair and discriminates against the poor. I wish we could count on Don Harmon to show real leadership on the problem but he's a lost cause.

CTT from adf  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 6:46 PM

Dan Haley likes to hobnob with the important people, so he'll endorse everything. National Taxpayers provided this data. 96 make more than $95 K. That includes art teachers at $135, $133, $131, $123K. How does that compare with the private sector? A librarian makes $143. Gym teacher $123. Social worker $134. Nurse $132K. ESL teacher $122K. I'd bet the teachers at Concordia would die for that. This is about salaries, salaries and nothing else.Tax relief? Punch 44, 45, 46 for park board

Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 5:45 PM

My wife and I are retired with a fixed income. My question is, will there ever be a time in Oak Park when the line WILL be drawn and the tax upon tax upon tax mentality cease? Or should I plan on this going on forever and losing my house in the process because I can no longer afford my tax bill? From the look of things I feel this will eventually be the case sad to say.

More Money from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 11:03 AM

Vote more and more than ever before! Yahoo!

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 7:51 PM

@Kelly. The ONLY surprise is if the WJ did not endorse the ref. In the past 25 years they have ONLY refused to support a tax increase....once. The sun will rise in the east tomorrow and the WJ will support future referendums - and believe in the "hope and prayer" approach to public policy. Even they acknowledge that "contracts and the benefits have been too rich" - their "hope and prayer" approach is based on blind faith. Vote NO and ensure that these "too rich contracts" change.

Kelly from Oak Parh  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 6:41 PM

I hope a majority of Oak Parkers recognize the wisdom of this endorsement and vote Yes for the District 97 referendum. Thank you to the Wednesday Journal for being logical and thoughtful in its analysis of this issue.

Why? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 4:53 PM

@OP Resident. I agree - which is why society requires that these professions: doctors, lawyers, politicians AND teachers have an aggressive process to weed out the corrupt or inept. Because of the pre-professional requirements for the JD and MD, the "inept" is a relative term. Only the "Basic Skills" exam provides protection to society/our children from ineptitude of El Ed grads - and that's not the same. Tenure needs to be removed. An MA from Northeastern is a joke and all too prevalent. Adios.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 4:42 PM

Why? you are right. Every profession has their own bad actors. You should see how doctors and lawyers will circle the wagons to protect one of their own. Politicians too. I'm sure you've heard of the "thin blue line" or seen the movie "Serpico". I'm still not dissuaded from respecting those professions or teachers.

Why? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 4:24 PM

@OP Resident. Every "profession" has "problems." I don't think that it's a secret that many top teachers bemoan that some of their peers are part of the reason for why the "problems" exist. Obtaining an MAT from diploma mills doesn't seem to help them "teach" - just bumps up compensation. And the BA in El Ed is not particularly challenging, either. But if it leads to a job at D97 or one of its peers - it's like winning the Lotto!!! One of the reasons for hundreds of applicants per open position.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 3:48 PM

Wow, Why! You have teacher friends who make disparaging remarks about their own profession. Maybe they are the problem.

Why? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 3:20 PM

@OP Resident. The better question is why schools like "National Louis" or "Northeastern" even exist - except as diploma mills which provide the extra "education" necessary to pump up educator pay. If you pass the mirror-test - you're in! We have some excellent teachers in D97 & some are my friends. They laugh and shrug when I ask them why this system of compensation even exists. Ever wonder why D97 has hundreds of applicants per opening? Because El Ed is the easiest BA to earn & D97 pays a lot.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 2:44 PM

I just noticed the banner ad running at the top of the page. National Lewis University is offering courses for a masters degree in education. Kind of ironic when you consider all of the negative comments about the teaching profession posted on this forum. Why would a bright young person want to sacrifice their earning potential in order to help develop young minds? Become a banker! Or arms dealer! There's a move on to turn public education into a corporate profit center. Like our prisons.


Posted: March 27th, 2011 2:31 PM

Face it, the civil religion in Oak Park is education. We can never pay enough to satisfy the "god" for the promise of eternal educational bliss.


Posted: March 26th, 2011 11:04 PM

I'm getting tired of the rants from the same folks who state that lots of districts do better with less. When you control for low income rate and students entering school with no preparation or support, you find that D97 is doing very well. The achievement gap between Black and Whites has closed by 50% over the past 5 years by hard work in the schools. AYP "failures" will be common everywhere due to increasing targets and no new financial support. Congrats D97 teachers and admins!

Mark R from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 9:22 PM

Ultimately I look at this as costing me about $1 per day more in my property taxes. I have too many friends in the city who are moving here specifically for the schools. Our schools help support our property values. I'm going to help support our schools. I know reasonable minds can disagree on this, but that's what it comes down to for me.

No Vote  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 6:36 PM

You didn't support children when you eliminated carriers http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/05-05-2009/Journal_should_compromise_and_keep_its_carriers

can't wait to get out.....  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:44 PM

All I can say is that once my kids are done with school, I'm out. How do retired people do this? Can you imaging a 17k tax bill for - well - not much?

done the research  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:41 PM

Just something everyone should note - and a real concern for me - a lot of data about school expenditures, achievement and other information is available at http://iirc.niu.edu/ This is the state's website and is based on fact, not hearsay, anecdotal evidence or emotion. The most disturbing evidence is the amount we spend on students and the results. A lot of districts do much better with less, and in urban areas. Look at the data, map it on the scatter graph, and see the results for yourself.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:15 PM

@Carol. I read this after commenting on your 4%, etc. post elsewhere. Ditto - and no hard feelings - win/lose/draw. As I wrote from Day1, my kids did very well with D97 teachers. Youngest is now Jr. at OPRF. My proposals/suggestions have been based on reform - not destruction. I honestly believe that true reform will only occur if ref is defeated. I am "under-employed" and know far too many people who are in worst shape - and OP businesses, too. I think D97 has plenty of $$$ for excellence.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:49 AM

@Chet, I appreciate any voice who is contributing by genuinely trying to discuss real solutions to a complicated problem, so yes, thanks!

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:27 AM

Chet - we may be on opposite sides on this one, but you have been nothing but genuine and respectful throughout this debate. I tip my hat to you, good sir.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:59 AM

@EJackson. For similar, but different reasons, I agree with CThrelkeld comments about you. I wonder if she also feels the same about my efforts to "correct misleading and out of context information"? - :-). Peace.

it's not a dollar a day  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:53 AM

I wish people would quit saying the referendum will only cost a dollar a day because that is NOT true. It costs $38/$1000 of your property tax bill. For some people that may amount to a dollar day, but not for everyone. And even if it is a dollar a day the first year, it will be more than that in the years following because our property taxes are going up. (This is a reassessment year.)

Bill J.  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:50 AM

Honestly, the legal mumbo jumbo on a lot of these ballot questions make my head hurt. It's too bad they can't be drafted using the simple, clear writing style featured in See Spot Run. :)

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:43 AM

Points well made and taken, chet. Honestly, my belief is that if the district's bond counsel would have told them to use the higher figure they would have. However, only D97 can say for sure. What seems to be clear, however, is that lawmakers need to go back to that statute and make things crystal clear. If the equalizer has to be applied by law say that in very big, very bold letters.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:33 AM

@EJackson. I wrote "if the Cutler-approved language had been $150/$1,000..." - it was a hypothetical (thus the words "had been"). I absolutely agree (and have previously posted this) that the $38 figure is accurate. The pt I was attempting to make here was that do you think that if the Cutler-language was $150/$1000 that D97 would have said "no problem"? That's the legal weakness that they should be concerned about. I repeat, I don't think that this error was intentional, but it does "taint."

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:27 AM

@E. Jackson, just wanted to say thank you for consistently working here to correct misleading and out of context information. I hope it makes a difference. I know that I am willing to pay approximately a dollar a day extra to save the jobs of the art, music, and language teachers and the middle school sports coaches, and I sincerely hope that other folks feel the same way.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:54 AM

@Chet - agree on the who the heck knows how this will all shake out, especially since it impacts several suburbs. Not sure how you are getting the $150 per $1000 figure, though. The district is saying the $38 per $1000 calculation is completely separate from the ballot calculation - that they went with it because they felt it was easier for taxpayers to use rather than calculate the cost based on assessed market value. AlSaffar agrees that $38 figure is accurate. Do you disagree with him?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:46 AM

@EJackson. In truth, I don't know about how this matter will be resolved legally. First, there are 10 other refs on the ballot in Cook County who might bring suit. Second, I truly do NOT believe that there was a deliberate intent to deceive by D97. Third, do YOU think that if the Cutler-approved language had been $150/$1,000 that D97 would have said "alright"? Fourth, related to #1 - I'm not an atty or judge - or willing to hire an atty. Fifth, the ballot IS tainted. No one denies that.

Bill J. from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:33 AM

I am still undecided on this issue, and appreciate the honest debate being had on this site. I must confess, however, that I was a little perturbed by a comment made by Mr. Kuriakos during the forum at Holmes last night. Both supporters and opponents of the referendum have valid reasons for believing in their side. To characterize yes people who might be making their decision based, in part, on the emotional aspects of this issue as "suckers" seemed like a low blow to me.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:57 AM

You can access the joint statement from District 97 Board President Peter Traczyk and Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar regarding the referendum question that will appear on the ballot on April 5 by visiting http://www.op97.org/referendum/ballot.html.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:56 AM

Chet - You can absolutely say "court case." However, based on this section of the statute, seems highly unlikely you can say "overturned." "Any error, miscalculation, or inaccuracy in computing any amount set forth on the ballot and in the notice that is not deliberate shall not invalidate or affect the validity of any proposition approved." However, if you want the district to "waste" more taxpayer money fighting lawsuits, go for it.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:49 AM

From the joint statement by ElSaffar and Traczyk - "While we have a difference of opinion on what is required to be on the ballot, what we have and will continue to agree upon is that the increase in the limiting rate that the district is seeking on April 5, 2011 will cost taxpayers $38 per $1000 on a property tax bill...We also agree that taxpayers can use this $38 per $1000 figure to determine how much this proposed tax increase from the referendum will cost."


Posted: March 25th, 2011 1:09 AM

"Also keep in mind that the teachers salaries are for 9 - 10 months worth of work. Equalize to 12 months and you can make comparisons to to other industries." Uh, yeah, as long as you "equalize" those jobs in those other industries to 12 months by taking into account vacations and sick days. Or batter yet, equalize it based on actual total hrs worked. Noel, I'm partial to your position, but your continuing sleight-of-hand nonsense is getting out of hand.

Chicago Mag Article  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:36 AM

Chicago Mag article: http://www.chicagomag.com/Radar/Deal-Estate/March-2011/Tax-Referendums-May-Understate-Economic-Impact-on-Homeowners/---After a voter questioned the language on the ref. ballot statement for OP District 97 earlier this month, ElSaffar went over it for the Wednesday Journal newspaper & determined that the figures did not factor in the 3.3701 equalizer. "Voters are being told that they'll pay about 30 percent of what they actually will pay if the referendum passes," he said.

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:54 PM

"While the district waited, every other taxing body has passed tax hikes and, in the case of Oak Park and River Forest High School, run up fund reserves that are unconscionable and which make the current request from Dist. 97 seem unaffordable for some residents." After the referendum, who's going to address this.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:46 PM

I like the word "craft" in this quote by D97 president in this TribLocal story. It's very close to the word "crafty." :) http://triblocal.com/oak-park-river-forest/2011/03/21/assessor-district-97-debate-accuracy-of-referendum-question/ Traczyk said,"The question being raised (by ElSaffar) is: that's not the equalized assessed value. While that is a correct statement, it has nothing to do with what we had to do to legally follow the law to craft the ballot language."

Mr Communications Man from Westchester  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:50 PM


Luke Scottwalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 3:19 PM

As a lifelong OP resident, age 55, I remain aggravated by the continued overspending by both school systems in light of the drop in population from 1970 to today. That and the over-inflated opinion of education quality here in light of statewide rankings. A NO vote and real reform is the only, logical answer.

Questions for lore from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:27 PM

@lore. Can I guess that you are NOT a D97 teacher? They are NOT making less than what they earned 4 yrs ago, etc. Are you in a public school district spending less than the $13,000 that D97 does per pupil? I'd suggest that you apply for a D97 teaching position, but with hundreds applying for every opening......don't quit your present job to pursue this one.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:22 PM

@lore, Have you researched as to why that is? To look at where is the money going? Parents, tax payers, are you asking that really, really, REALLY basic question? When we are spending $13,000 a student, isn't it time to get down to basics and ask where is the money going?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:21 PM

@TScharre&BDolan. Question? Do you think that D97, etc. would have accepted that counsel from Chapman & Cutler if, i.e,., it stated that taxes would increase by $150/$1,000? This, like what is on the ballot, would be incorrect. HOWEVER, do you think that D97 would have said "alright, it's what our lawyer said is correct!"? D97 would NOT have agreed to this and would obtain a 2nd opinion. Innumerable people will be casting tainted ballots on this premise. Can you say "court case" & "overturned"?

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:18 PM

@Carol, What assumption? {{confused}} I am not saying that those teachers won't get fired. They will. I am saying the those making such decisions don't have to do that, but they dangle that carrot because they know that that's what pulls the heartstrings of parents. They're no fools. It's Marketing 101. :) And they will *continue* the emotional blackmail as long as we reward them. That's Human Behavior 101.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:14 PM

I see some people assume teachers get this extra money being pumped into the schools system, wrong! In fact I am making less than I have in 4 years, I have more students less supplies, less resources and no chance to get the useful professional development that I would like to get because there is no money for the district to pay for it. Any class I take is pretty much out of pocket, all books I buy for my classroom library, guess what, out of pocket!Fieldtrips,out of my own DEEP POCKETS!

lore from cicero-oak park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:07 PM

I can't believe so many people want to blame teachers! Really, because it is never the parents fault their kid has been failing for the past 6 or 7 years! Someone mentioned that teachers teach to the test, well it is what is demanded of us by the STATE in case you didn't know the STATE decides who fails and passes based on scores of a test they developed. Every year you have to score higher than the previous year even though your students are new or coming from a different school or grade level!

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:05 PM

@Bridgett, you may be willing to risk those teachers' jobs on that assumption. I am not.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:00 PM

@BarbaraA.Dolan: I just listened to the link you suggested. Thanks for the "heads up".

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:55 AM

@Carol, I think it would be helpful to look at the choice D97 is handing you, and all other parents. They *can* cut costs in other areas, *without* jeopardizing your child's education, yet they *choose* to cut in the areas of arts and language. These are the people in charge of our community's children's education. That is something to look at and question.. A "yes" vote sends the signal that one values their decisions.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:37 AM

But money is the commodity needed in order for my child's fantastic art, music, and language teachers to keep their jobs right now. And I am more than willing to pay the referendum's additional dollar /- a day in order to help with that.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:35 AM

If we continue to buy in to this idea that throwing money at the problem is the answer, then we will continue to enable our educators in failing to find real solutions to real problems. Here is one example of how education is improving *without* spending a gob of cash. It is *how* we educate that is the issue. http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:34 AM

Continuing to support benefits (automatic pay increases, health care, pensions, etc.) at the level we are is simply not sustainable. Not in Oak Park, not in Illinois, not in the U.S. It is basic math. Our state income taxes just went up 67% for the same reason that this referendum is on the table. If passed, more money does not equate to a better education for children. Money will not solve the real problem of our education system. Money is not the commodity needed.

Barbara A. Dolan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:23 AM

If you have any doubts about the actual bottom-line impact on your tax bill of this referendum, please listen to this interview that ran on WBEZ yesterday: http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-23/taxing-districts-underestimate-impact-homeowners-84129


Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:53 AM

At the risk of digressing here a bit I would like to remind Yes voters of the recently passed 66% increase in the state income tax. This allowed Disctrict 97 the appearance of a "lower" referendum amount and imply a fiscal tightening that really does not occur. Additional funds from the income tax increase find their way to District 97. Instead of taking my money out of one pocket, it now comes out of two.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:17 AM

Also keep in mind that the teachers salaries are for 9 - 10 months worth of work. Equalize to 12 months and you can make comparisons to to other industries. The union has negotiated 2%-5% increases year after year with some members making more during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Why can't the Board ask the union for a paltry 2% cut in pay to bring us back to a new normal? Let the union decided if they want to cut more from the $100K crowd vs a 2% cut across the board.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:11 AM

Can anyone voting yes explain why D97 pays the FULL medical benefits of these admins making $100k a year? The certified employees with family coverage pay at least 40%. http://www.op97.org/hr/Compensation Report 10-11.pdf

LanceManion from OP  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:04 AM

@ Not worried - save your breath. Yes supporters have succumbed to the paranoia without taking a practical look at how this will really play out if the referendum tanks. They have fallen hook line and sinker for the false dychotomy: your money or your kids, and they neither want to deprive their kids nor do they want to be perceived as depriving their kids. $13k a kid in spending isn't Latin money, but it is a lot. But the fear prevents a rational assessment of how much is too much.

Not worried at all  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:59 AM

@not worried-I don't think the programs will be cut to be honest with you. I heard that some of the people who have been rifed will be hired back. Plus, if art, language and music are cut, when will teachers get their planning time? Where will the kids go during these periods? This question was posed to Peter T a couple of times and there wasn't an answer.

@not worried  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:53 AM

Again, there is no need to trivialize parents who are involved in their children's schools and know that they do not want to see these cuts made. Of course, we all don't want to pay more taxes. I also am looking to the state and village as problems in the education funding problem - I just don't want my children - who are in the schools now - to have to pay the price for this whole mess!

@not worried  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:50 AM

Its nice that you can provide art and music to your children - not everyone is as able to do this. I believe that art and music are fundamental to a well rounded quality education that should be provided for free to ALL children during school time. In addition, how do you expect the school offices to function without half of their administration cut as well as the teachers who are now gone? There is record number of students and they're bursting at the seams.

Not worried at all  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:21 AM

What are you worried about? I have 3 kids in the district and plan on voting no. The level of education is not going to change all that much if this thing fails-which I doubt will fail anyway. Language program? Please my 3 year old has learned just as much as my child in elem by watching Dora. I provide music and art to my kids on almost a daily basis. Bravo-raise the fees-If my children are interested in it, I would be willing to pay for it or help raise the funds.

@worried mom  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:08 AM

ok, I really am a worried mother of children in District 97. I don't find any humor in your sarcasm. Many D97 parents are truly worried about their childrens future - and justifiably so. These are real issues facing the families and children of our community! Leave your sarcasm behind and have some compassion for the parents who may disagree with you but have very real worries about this important issue! I don't drive a volvo or belong to a book club. Just want whats best for my kids.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 8:47 AM

Just to clarify how much your taxes will increase: taxes will increase by 6.5% if the referendum passes. It would increase by about 2.7% if it fails. The school will get an additional 2.7% no matter what.

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 8:19 AM

@ WORRIED - It's not your fault. It's not your fault.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 8:02 AM

@WORRIED MOTHER from OP: Because it somewhat aligns with my own feelings and prejudices, I find your satire amusing and relevant. But (and this is just one guy's opinion) a barb can draw just as much blood with a scalpel as a hatchet. Rethink the ALL CAPS and leave some room for kindness Peace, my friend.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 8:00 AM

wait, which Jason are you...I am a Jason, but not the one that wrote that last comment by Jason. I just don't want the readers to confuses us-you and me- like the do OP Resident or OP or any of the other similar(exact) names. I am not, and have never been Violet Aura, although maybe Les Golden is as he is often accused of switching names.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:59 AM

Fellow residents- The WJ had to endorse the D97 referendum for the tax increase. Let's face it, the newspaper can't afford to make enemies with the school union and andministration. They would loose too much money if they did so. The scool folks are experts at manipulation and would make sure that the WJ understood that there are consequences to not supporting them. The WJ took the path of least resistance in their "yes" endorsement.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:51 AM


OP Resident  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:57 AM

Union members across the country have stepped up and delivered concessions and accepted wage freezes. No one can blame all of these budget woes on the middle class & working poor. Numbers don't lie. The salary gap is widening between management & labor. Look at the salaries being paid at Village Hall. The top brass haven't been pinched and some are earning more than $125K. How about the outside legal counsel & paid consultants? Have they been asked to take a cut? Where is the fairness?


Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:38 AM

If the union really cared about our kids, schools, or community, they would be willing to sacrifice much more than a 1 yr pay freeze, (which isn't even a real freeze). Why not offer a pay CUT, or pay more of their their own h-care or pension costs. A teacher with 30 yrs service can retire at 55 with a guaranteed pension of $60-$100k or more for the next 25 yrs. That makes each one of them a millionaire, funded by US, while we wait til 67 for our social security, which pays around $20k-30K max.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:28 AM

IT'S THE BENEFITS, STUPID. Anyone who actually thinks the no voters don't care about our kids or the community are clearly ignoring and/or can't counter the facts put forth. I have yet to see a single idea put forth by the supporters which actually does anything to correct the structural deficiencies that exist and simply throwing more money at it doesn't fix the simple fact that we can't afford to keep providing teachers a guaranteed million $$ retirement plan.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:26 AM

What does it tell you that the union is willing to sacrifice dozens of teachers rather than offer more than a 1/2 assed 1 yr pay freeze while asking us to increase taxes indefinitely? If you don't realize that these teachers are retiring with a million $$ nest egg, you don't have a clue about the facts. I pay more into my social security and no benefits until age 67, which will be less than $30k/yr while also paying 1/2 the cost of my own health insurance. ITS THE BENEFITS, STUPID


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:28 PM

"those who want to raise already high taxes are out to throw minorities under the bus" Right, because "minorities," as you call us, don't have kids in D97.

Heinz from Oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:12 PM

Regardless of the endorsement position, what a horribly written disposition paper from the Journal. If your thesis is "This is about transforming education..", seriously, try and make a proper supporting argument on how voting Yes on the referendum will accomplish that. You had an opportunity here to bring some clarity to this complex issue, but instead put forth a weak and random collection of emotional and financial points. I would've sent this back for a re-write.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:03 PM

The point being, that if the State gets its way, the schools in Oak Park will not be a draw for families to move here, since the pot of money will all be one big pot for Cook County (except for Chicago) and our property taxes will be used to fund schools in other communities, "evening out the playing field."

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:47 PM

And while there is all this bickering going on within the community, I'm wondering if anyone is paying attention to Gov. Quinn and the folks in Springfield to consolidate school districts. In other words, all OUR money that is currently local, the state is looking to "consolidate" it, in 2012. Why isn't anyone talking about that? Here is the bill: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1886&GAID=11&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=59079&SessionID=84

Mark Finley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 4:12 PM

There are 9 administrators in D97. Well paid I am sure. We need teachers not more bean counters. Vote No unless and until the board removes 6 of these administrators. I might add that other districts manage quite well with one superindent, one assistant in charge of logistics and one assistant in charge of circulum. Any more is fluff. I ask what does all of these extra people do for their 50 hours a week? Oh, they only work 35 not the 50 the rest of us do?

@ Jennifer Alten from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 4:05 PM

If NO voters are "throwing children under the bus," those who want to raise already high taxes are out to throw minorities under the bus. Sadly, minorities are disproportionately represented among the poor and those "poorer" people will no longer be able to afford to live here. I guess your yes vote will eliminate the achievement gap - there won't be any minorities left in the schools. So, if I'm stingy, you're a racist. I'd rather throw everyone under the bus to use your words, than just some.

Leaning No  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:14 PM

Judging by the yard signs I saw while out on a run today, I'm guessing this is going to pass. So the WJ endorsement isn't a huge surprise. But I think I'm still voting No though I was on the fence. The possible cuts all sound reasonable as a way to live within our means. Or at least don't outweigh increasing taxes in my book. I'm glad everyone wants to support the schools but I'm skeptical that the District is using our money effectively.

Jon Donohue from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:28 PM

Despite the endorsement, I will be voting NO. District 97 has not done enough to mitigate the tax burden to OP taxpayers. D97 won't even consider suing the Village like D200 or trying to eliminate the TIF (D97 did sue OP in the past, so there is precedent). The elimination of the TIF will not solve all of D97's budget problems, but it would definitely reduce the tax burden to all of OP taxpayers. It is only right the D97 try to look for funding from all sources, not just the taxpayers.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:59 AM

Cutting through many of the personal affronts, insults and sarcasm from both sides of the argument, the core issues are difficult for the voters trying to make an informed decision-to tax or not to tax. I hope that baggnight does not speak for our teachers in OP. Nothing angers a taxpayer more than a teacher telling her to home school her kids if she has an opinion on an issue of importance. Teachers are absolutely not the enemy, but neither are the parents and voters who have to pay for it.

Level set on our tax burden  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:49 AM

Take a look at this article to get some perspective on the outrageous tax burden in Oak Park. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Property-Taxes-Reach-the-bizwk-126729767.html?x=0

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:00 AM

@Baggnight: What in heavens do you teach, woman?! Please do not tell me that English is included in the mix. You have run-on sentences, as well as improper use of periods. I will forgive you if you teach science or math, but for the love of God, this is facepalm city here. I support teachers making good salaries, too! I just think you may have inadvertently stepped into it...

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:53 AM

@Will not vote from anger: baggnight sounds bitter and angry to me, much more so than TCav. But I agree with your point that we need to play nice. We can disagree, but no matter how this ends we all have to live and work together as a community. I think our teachers are quite good and I, too, want to pay them what they are worth. But, many taxpayers can't afford another tax increase. Please everyone, do the research and be an informed voter on April 5.

T. Cavenagh  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:51 AM

I said nothing about salary, so the $108,000 paid to one of the posters seems irrelevant to me. Moreover, I submit that it is neither 'bitter' or 'spiteful' to oppose a ballot initiative on the grounds that it is based, in the words of our own assessor, "on an aggressive misreading of the statute."

WIll not vote from anger  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:33 AM

@TCavenagh, I want to work, etc. If you want your side to win the referendum, you'd be better off not posting. I find the spitefulness of your posts so off-putting that, even though I have some deep questions about the way D97 runs, I want to vote YES just to avoid siding with such a bitter group.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:32 AM

@ T. Cav.... Sorry for my grammar. I thought I was just posting to some website not writing a novel. I wasn't editing everything I was writing. I am a teacher from another community and make $108,000 a year. I will write more comments in a few weeks when I am off for three months vacation. GOOD LUCK WITH THE OAK PARK REFERENDUM... I HOPE IT PASSES.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:29 AM

@T. Cavenagh from Oak Park. Yes, apparently.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:28 AM

"We are mislead?" "Grammer"? Is it too much to hope for the pot not to call the kettle black?

T. Cavenagh from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:25 AM

We are mislead, intentionally it appears, by the District 97 Board about the actual cost of this ballot initiative. Now we have a teacher lecturing us (using appalling grammer, I might add) about the travails of the classroom - at 10:00 in the morning on a class day. Is it too much to hope for some integrity in this conversation?

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:23 AM

Certainly teaching is a tough job and sometimes a thankless job. The issue is that someone has to pay the teachers, and that someone is the taxpayers. When the community is spending $13,000 per child to educate its children, people look at that number and say: that's out of line with the national and local average, and more than enough given performance. People generally don't want to penalize students or teachers, but we also don't want to continue to pay increasing costs. The line is drawn.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:14 AM

come into the classroom with 28 kids for one day. See what we deal with daily. Also as far as tenure. Sure it protects us. But 95% or more of us are good teachers. Everyone thinks tenure only protects the bad teachers. Listen people there are some bad teachers and I will bet you work (even in this economy) with some bad employees too. Ever been to a fast food restaurant and had bad service - they are still working there.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:14 AM

We make 50-100,000 a year to teach and care for your children. You obviously must trust us somewhat. If you don't - may I suggest you stay home and home school them. Maybe we should all spend less time bashing the educators and more time working with our kids. I have four students in a very high performing district who are failing every single class and the parents don't care. Additionally, before you jump all over us and say "you only work 9 months per year" then I say...


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:13 AM

Think about this... Awhile back - before I became a teacher. NO ONE wanted to go into teaching - WHY? because the pay was so low. That was when all of you "private" sector people were all saying you would never be teachers because the pay sucked. You were all living large with your fatter-than-a-teacher paycheck. Now jump to 2011... now we, the teachers, are all of a sudden rich. I mean we are right up there with CEO's, Football Players, and Charlie Sheen. RIGHT?


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:12 AM

People - don't you get it. We as teachers have done everything we have been asked to do. We have no choice but to get money taken out of our check every week for our pension. We do not have the option of saying "NO" i want to invest it myself or put it under my mattress. Yes the state is in trouble, but blame that on our corrupt government that doesn't put in their share of the responsibility. The teachers are not to blame.

Dear Recent Homebuyer  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:12 AM

I can't wait to see how you feel after this year's reassessment. You are in for a treat! I made the mistake of looking back this morning at what my property tax bill was when I first moved to OP many years ago. That first reassessment was a real shock. In my many years in OP, I haven't complained about the taxes, but I have hit a breaking point. I am frugal with my own family finances. I am beginning to resent that D97 does not show the same fiscal restraint. iPads for administrators? Really?

I want to work for you  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:09 AM

To all "yes" voters: could you please tell me where you work? I want to come work for you. You are very generous bosses and will give me a pay raise, pension, sick pay and other generous benefits everytime I ask. After all, we as a community are the bosses of District 97 staff and I see how generous you are to them. Can I start at $72k benefits (estimated at about $54), or $126k total pkg? I'd like to make the same as the avg "poor" underpaid teacher in OP so I have a fair wage.

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:02 AM

1. So is the Journal now working as D97's PR agent? Since when was this vote framed as a transformational vote? Isn't this a "we're running out of money" vote? 2. St. Giles spends about $7,000 per kid and manages to provide an excellent education. D97 should be able to satisfy all its spending needs with the additional $6k per pupil and also provide an excellent education. D97 is rich beyond the dreams of Avarice, but cries poor. Bureaucracies tend toward empire building if not held in check.

Stop Blaming Others  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:57 AM

If I filed bankruptcy, I could blame 100 people for my fiscal mismgmt. However, ultimately, it would be my responsibility to shore up my balance sheet. Shame on me for not saving for a rainy day. Same with District 97.You can blame whoever you want for getting us here("treasury robbers per Tom")however now we are here. Now we have to clean up the balance sheet. What was Dist. 97 doing during the good times? Adding 29% more teachers; while students increased only 9%. Where is 97's rainy day fund?

response to worlhood  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:54 AM

The post to which you are responding was not written by Jennifer Alten, but was direct at her. She posted how appalled she was that some OP taxpayers would throw our children under the bus to save some money. I am just saying that many of these "yes on the referendum" folks stood silent when the village decided to stop providing crossing guards. What's her justification for that?

Recent Homebuyer  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:51 AM

My family bought a house in Oak Park a little more than a year ago (after having rented here for several years). I know several other families that recently bought in town as well. If this referendum fails, the desirability of Oak Park in the eyes of potential homebuyers will plummet. It's a buyer's market and will be for some time to come, and killing the referendum will send a loud message that Oak Park doesn't care about its schools -- probably the main reason families buy homes here.

OP Family Man  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:41 AM

Here is another reason to vote NO..http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-teacher-pensions-0323-20110322,0,3559582.story Tribune story about how in the near future tax payers will need to make up huge amounts in pensions. So if you say yes to this, you will also have to deal with the pending crisis in pention funding as well. Save now to pay latter.

response "to Brian A"  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:37 AM

"My main point is if you're going to vote, if you're [only] looking at the ballot number, you're going to get a bad number," ElSaffar said.

Tom from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:23 AM

I'm an "empty nester" who will vote Yes. My heart goes out to seniors on fixed incomes, who suffer unfairly from a system that puts the burden on property rather than income taxes. I have no sympathy for those who simply oppose taxation as a general principle. We are in financial straits as a nation not because public workers are overpaid but because robber barons raided the treasury and now want the rest of us to pay for it. Let's go after them rather than the teachers.

to Brian A  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:09 AM

Actually the assessor didn't write the article and it says nothing about the $38/$1000 being misleading. It says the BALLOT is misleading. Totally different. In fact Ali points out that he was consulted on the $38/$1000 figure and agrees with it, just not the ballot language.

question for Jennifer Alten  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:09 AM

Were you this outraged about throwing our children under the bus when, to save a few bucks, the village decided to stop providing crossing guards at intersections near the OP catholic schools? Somehow I doubt it.

Get out your checkbooks "yes" voters  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:05 AM

What the "yes" crowd does seem to understand - whether it is "yes" for increased federal, state or local taxes - is that they can pay more taxes if they wish to. The tax you owe is only the minimum that you need to pay; not the maximum. If they feel obligated to pay more, why don't you do so. Get out your checkbooks "yes" voters - your government is awaiting your generosity.

response to Brian A. 2  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:57 AM

It is pretty bad when your assessor writes an article how the $38 per $1000 in property taxes is misleading. http://oakpark.patch.com/articles/assessor-error-underestimates-district-97-referendums-tax-impact It swells to $126.04 per $100,000 of a home's value. And I agree. That is only for the 1st year. AFter that, with increased assessed values, the amount will be drastically higher.

response to Brian A.  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:08 AM

Only it won't be just a dollar a day. Maybe that's what it will be the first year, but it will be more after that. 2011 is a reassessment year for OP property taxes, and so our taxes will be going up. You'll be paying $38 for each $1000 of your new higher property tax bill.

Heartless from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:02 AM

Heartless? Clueless? A neighbor, a BIG ref supporter, who presumes that I'm voting "yes" because I have kids at the school (I'm not), told me about "X" and how unfortunate it was about her not being able to find a job. I wanted to shake and ask him if he didn't see how his "YES!" campaign was going to be another dagger to "X"!?! Want another revenue source? The "Yes" voters commit to pledge $38/$1000 - IF the ref fails. D97 cuts and "YES" people add. Nice combo!


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:59 AM

This editorial is depressingly contradictory. Journal praises the board for supposedly cutting costs and points out that the board has been a perpetual Santa Claus in handing out raises, both overt and covert. It continues to sweeten pensions.When board people talk, I honestly cannot tell them apart. Taxes have gotten so high, so out of whack, that people really are going to be leaving. There are a lot of people like me who are going to leave as soon as they can sell.

Brian A. from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:55 AM

For me this comes down to an additional dollar per day in my real estate taxes. I know that's a lot of money for some, and for some it will cost more. But for me it's worth it. I moved here for the schools, and I think voting Yes is an investment in our kids as well as our property values.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:30 AM

@Alan, glad to hear you agree. Now you might understand the puzzlement with which you have been greeted by those of us who support the referendum. If you had been in our schools and attended board meetings you might know that hard work is being done and positive changes are being made by hard-working people who are being maligned as "out of touch" by many of the No people.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:29 AM

Property taxes are going to double even without this referendum passing. Check out this article in the Chicago tribune, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-22/news/ct-met-teacher- pensions-0323-20110322_1_teacher-pension-pension-mess-pension-costs If the state shifts the burden to districts, we are screwed. The only choice is to leave the state.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:08 AM

Surprisingly, I like quite a bit of what was said here. The idea that there's much work to be done and that change is needed is refreshing because that isn't the message the "Yes on Referendum" crowd pr the Board has been pushing. Unfortunately, nowhere is there any indication that "transforming education in Oak Park is the goal." It should be. I, too, ask the district to get serious...and will be doing so by voting NO. Come back with an actual reform agenda and then you'll have my vote.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:57 AM

Thanks for your response. I find that there are a lot of intangeables that make Oak Park attractive to buyers and renters, like the green/open space (our parks, helped along by their recent referendum), among other things paid for in our local tax bills. Schools too, even if you don't come here for them.

response to question  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:29 AM

I wish I would have chosen Forest Park, but I didn't know about it. Another single guy that I worked with lived in OP, so I knew more about it. I thought crime in Austin would be too high, but I've been the victim of crime in OP, so not sure that OP is much better. In fact, I am seriously thinking about leaving OP after many years of living here.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:17 AM

@response: If affordable housing, diversity, and closeness to the city were your only criteria, why didn't you choose an affordable place in Chicago, like Austin, or a more affordable suburb like Forest Park?

response to thinkaboutit  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:07 AM

I didn't move here for the education either. I moved here because of the easy access to public transportation to the loop, relatively affordable housing (compared to houses in the city), and the diversity in OP. Schools honestly played no role. I was unmarried and childless when I bought my house, so try again. Two of the reasons I moved here--affordability and diversity--are at risk if taxes keep going up.

epic lulz  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:51 AM

"I'm appalled at those who are so willing to throw our collective children in front of the bus simply to save a few bucks." --- It's nice to finally see a stake driven into the heart of the myth that the "yes" side does not slur the "no" side as a bunch of greedy child-haters.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:30 AM

@Thinkaboutit" Be careful of gross generalizations. I did not move here (back in 1985) for the "education." I moved here because I foolishly fell in love with a particular home. That has since cost me, in pro-rated and inflation- adjusted dollars almost $155,000 for education alone. Does that not even grant me right to voice an opinion?

Thinkaboutit from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:50 AM

Education is the single reason to move to OP. That focus supports our stores, ALL schools and our property and rental values. OP has great private schools b/c we expect good schools. For valid reasons, some send their kids to our great private schools, but the reputation of all schools is essential for our community to survive. Diminishing our schools will not benefit the private schools or the landlords who urge a "no vote", but will lead to the demise of the reason to be here.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:20 AM

@chet21 - either way, I still have that beer for you in my fridge come April 6th :-)

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:18 AM

Noel, my child goes to Whittier. They did not strictly teach to the test. Hardworking, dedicated teachers worked to pull up scores. With innovative programs, such as walk to reading. Where the kids were put into smaller (smaller not larger class size) targeted reading groups to work on the skills they needed. Teachers came to school early to work with kids and stayed late. These attacks on our teachers are unwarranted. If you see them in action, you would want them to earn the same as A-Rod.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:12 AM

@EJackson and Jassen thanks for you replies. The monthly pro-formas don't exist and the state just raised our inc taxes and so I think we can presume that payments will FINALLY be on time. Also, EJ, you should know that I've made MANY suggested cuts. Again? M-C Dept ($200K), 1/2 of librarians ($300K), K-5 Spanish ($700K), return to FY09 step table ($1.4M). Add in almost 3% natural revenue increases. Result? Armageddon avoided. Might need small bonding in 2012? Perhaps. Also, keep Irving asphalt

News flash  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:11 AM

I must have missed the news about the achievement gap being strictly a D97 issue.

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:08 AM

Thanks Wednesday Journal. Appreciate all the facts and the reality check for both sides. There is a way to achieve without throwing the baby out with the bath water. Better to say "Oak Park has high property taxes for good schools," than crumble "High property taxes and nothing for it."

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:04 AM

Great quotes, Noel. Now show me the actual proof that these districts have cut salaries and benefits. Not cuts to programs or positions, which D97 is doing to the tune of $1.2 million regardless of the outcome of the referendum. Also, I don't base academic progress strictly on the ISAT. You know why Brooks didn't make AYP last year? One sub-group missed the cut line by a minor percentage. That's it.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:00 AM

Peter Barber, VP of the Board said he remained concerned that 75 percent of black students met or bested the testing standards, compared to 95 percent of white students. Robert Spatz said the tests are geared toward bringing up the lowest performing students in two specific subjects, reading and math, and wondered if Whittier and Irving weren't simply teaching to the test. "There may be a cost with what happened at Whittier and Irving weren't simply teaching to the test."

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:58 PM

Many school districts could boost student achievement without increasing spending if they used their money more productively. Without controls on how additional school dollars are spent, more education spending will not automatically improve student outcomes. How a school system spends its dollars can be just as important as how much it spends. High-spending school systems are often inefficient. - AmericanProgress.org

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:55 PM

"We have a lot of districts that have been going through adjustments, lowering what had been negotiated. A number of places are giving give-backs %u2014 it's a sign of the times that we're in." -Mike McGue, Lake County Federation of Teachers. EJ, do you work for D97 or any other district?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:53 PM

Barrington Brd of Ed Prez Brian Battle said the community response to budget cuts evolved as the economic strain worsened. "People know it's time for everyone to cut back a bit. ... I've seen that change in the past three years," The Glenview board credited sound fiscal mgmt for the districts' ability to run surpluses at a time of severe deficits elsewhere. The board said it preemptively cut $850K in spending from projects & another $1 million in cuts from the 2011-12 budget.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:49 PM

Saw that article in which Nancy Robb was quoted. Not one mention of cuts to salaries or benefits. "To reach the planned $4 million surplus - and to account for the same amount in state funding shortfalls - the preliminary budget includes spending cuts, which include delaying purchases and projects, plus maintaining a one-degree temperature difference year-round throughout the district's five high schools."

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:48 PM

Keep in mind that these are D97's projections based on their assumptions. Even the consultant that came up with these provides a slide full of disclaimers. So the structural deficit number is a smaller number that what is stated by the board. By cutting salaries by 15% across the board & making employees shoulder the increase in benefit costs will bring the costs inline with the CPI levy increase. Keep in mind that the district sells DSEB bonds, gets TIF $, Fed Funds, State Funds.

Tad Wefel  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:47 PM

"When times are hard and money is tight, spend less." - unknown taxpayer Something or someone has to give, and in Oak Park, it's always the taxpayer. Businesses on Lake can't afford operating costs. Why? Its not that rents are too high. Its that property taxes are too much. The list of OP homes on the MLS keeps growing and growing--while prices keep falling and falling. Yep, time for more from the taxpayer. Because People of Oak Park: this is not a cost issue. Its a revenue issue.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:46 PM

@Jassen: I've been following most of these threads from the get-go. And I am probably reading my own prejudices into this, but I sense someone walking the dog back. Either because you are honestly conflicted. Or because your long-term commercial interests might be adversely affected by your short-term advocacy interests Or, who knows? But you do seem very quick to disabuse anyone of the notion that you're working for D97. Despite your early efforts on their behalf.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:44 PM

@EJ, FOUR of D97s schools failed to make AYP. 40% That with a higher $/pupil. Should we be proud?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:43 PM

So, let's use chet's number of $3 million less as a starting point. Where are you making $3 million in cuts? Cuts to specific programs and positions...taking into account that if you let go of higher paid teachers without cause other than based on how much they make and/or break the current binding, legal contract with the union, your taxpayer dollars will likely go to pay the district's legal counsel when it gets sued.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:39 PM

Voting NO is not cutting off funds. Voting NO means tighten your belt & live within your means. Cut salaries & benefits across the board by 15% like nonprofits & other districts have done in the last three years. Stabilize the ratio of exp to rev by pinching every penny. 'We cut around the edges. Our overall philosophy was we did not want to make cuts that would impact student learning or services." - Superintendent Nancy Robb, Schaumburg, IL'

I've got it  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:35 PM

I think I am going to start my own referendum. I spend too much and my family could use some more cash instead of cutting back on our lifestyle. Bet it is not too hard to get the Wednesday Journal to sign off on this...

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:32 PM

First, chet, if you can guarantee that the state will pay school districts on time, that will be great. I am pretty sure they may have finally paid up for FY10. Noel, Elmhurst failed to make AYP as a district, two of the junior high schools in Schaumburg failed to make AYP and Glenview 34 failed to make AYP as a district. Solid comparisons.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:31 PM

So this Board has allowed about $750K in foreign language spending for several years KNOWING that it has been ineffective but decides to throw it on the barbie when it is time to put a gun to the taxpayers head for a tax increase? That is leadership & accountability? They are going to make these profound changes? Like they said Constance Collins would?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:28 PM

@chet21 - "Where's D97's monthly pro-formas? My questions are simple and relevant. Why no answers from "Yes" people?" If you really want that information, call D97 and ask. 524-3000

It's the economy  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:26 PM

From 2007 to 2010, District 97's salaries increased by 8.3% and Districts 97's benefits increased by 43%. Net salaries and benefits increased by 11.35% during this time period. From 2007 to 2010, the CPI, the benchmark inflation guide for the US economy, increased by 5%. It seems clear to me that District 97 salaries and benefits are increasing at an unsustainable rate for the worst economy in 70 years. Address this core problem instead of putting bandaids on it.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:25 PM

"Transforming education in Oak Park Is the goal." Really? We are going to re-invent the practices of millennia, which until recently accepted as self-evident, that when teaching K-thru-middle school students the ability to read, write & do basic math were precursors to critical thinking? I used to go to bars in my youth, and a staple of many blue-collar ones was a behind-the-bar-placard that said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." This op-ed qualifies.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:24 PM

@EJ, how about Elmhurst? Schaumburg? Glenview?

Good Facts  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:23 PM

From 2004 to 2010, the number of full-time teachers in District 97 has increased from 304 to 392 - a 29% increase. During that same time period, the number of students increased from 4,969 to 5,421 - only a 9% increase. Why was there more teachers hired than the rate of increase of students? Time to cut back.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:21 PM

I'm trying to understand how having more money equates to offering a better education...Is the answer to just keep throwing money at the problem? I'm thinking this a lack of vision, not a lack of finances that is the issue. Look what other school districts are implementing... http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:20 PM

@E.Jackson. Using Wilmette cuts about art and music to invalidate Noel's point? Isn't it just as likely that your personal bias blinds you to the likely rationale that Wilmette is following the national script of "scare tactics" to win referendums? You've never answered my question as to why D97 proposes $5M in cuts - when the $17M in savings is only $3M less than the past two years? Where's D97's monthly pro-formas? My questions are simple and relevant. Why no answers from "Yes" people?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:18 PM

You would think that with all the relentless cutting that there would be something to show for it? Other prudent districts started cutting back years ago, anticipating correctly that the good times in higher tax base will not last. They held the line on raises & benefit cost increases & did not resort to any refs to inc tax rates. They were able to manage their finances well within the annual CPI increases in the tax levy. They never got drunk on tax $$. D97 wants another drink!

Lisa Saxon Reed from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:15 PM

@ Jenn Alten- Stinginess? From the OP taxpayer? Who currently funds D97 at a rate of $13,500/student (top 1%) in the state? We are not stingy. We a re generous. We are tired of being told to "suck it up". The boom times are over. D97 needs to share the burden and re-think their cost structure. Voting NO is the only way to "facilitate" the change.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:12 PM

And since the "no" people have been making comparisons to Wilmette a lot lately, what is your response to its proposed cuts if its referendum fails http://www.wilmette39.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=894:referendum-fact-sheet&catid=535:referendum&Itemid=1152. Sound familiar? Guess they don't value art or music either.

Frustrated Tax Payer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:09 PM

Wed Journal-This makes no sense to me. Why will the school board control costs if we give them more money? You concede the arguments of the"no" side and yet endorse a tax increase on the over-burdened OP taxpayer. Amazing.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:08 PM

@EJ, you can do the everyday math. If spending $13K per pupil (I am sure we spend more on remedial and other ancillary programs) cannot bring parity in scores over some defined period of time, when there are sister schools in the inner city of Chicago that spends $4K less and consistently produces higher scoring kids, then I believe one can come to that defensible conclusion.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:07 PM

Hmmm...This reads more like a speech at pep rally than anything of real substance. It would be really nice if a newspaper would stick to the facts, and basic arithmetic. *sigh*

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:02 PM

@JenAlten, tell me how you can support an admin and a board that believes that the musical and the visual arts are not part of a core curriculum. If you lived in the last century, that may have been defensible. Incorporating information from neuroscience and also field based evidence, many school districts have changed their curriculum and integrated the musical and the visual arts so that any cut in these programs degrades the whole curriculum. It seems black mail works for the Yes folks.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:59 PM

Just so I am clear, Noel, you are saying that you don't believe District 97 can effectively educate minority students. Is that correct?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:56 PM

@EJ, I stated they lagged behind their peers. Through the course of 8 yrs in the D97 system, many of these minority kids, DO NOT CATCH up to their White & Asian peers. I am glad that you are happy with the current state of affairs that have been in existence for over a decade. I for one am not. Districts with good leadership & innovative leaders have done more with less & have shown that they can educate minority children so that they catch up and also surpass their W & A peers. Keep Cheering.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:53 PM

You also stated in a recent Oak Leaves' article (sorry Mr. Haley) that enrollment has decreased. Actually, it has increased by more than 700 students since the last referendum.

message for jennifer alten  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:52 PM

Did you ever stop to think that some people can't afford this increase to their property taxes? Maybe you don't know families in OP who have lost jobs and are barely getting by, but I do! Shame on you for kicking those who are already down on their luck. What good can come from saving a few bucks--how about feeding their families? What good can come from your self-righteousness?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:49 PM

This board gets it? It that why in the middle of this financial crisis, they agreed to pay $195,000K to a Sup who was making $155K in his previous job? & pay the Sup's contribution to the TRS & Teachers Health Ins Sec fund? & a bonus of 2.5% with TRS & THIS on the bonus? Pay full premium for his medical & dental? Pay for prof org dues? Pay for his exp for national travel? $600/mo car allowance? WITH NO MEASURABLE OR VERIFIABLE LEARNING OUTCOME METRICS? Really that is the Board we want to lead

Jennifer Alten from Oak Park   

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:49 PM

Thank you for supporting our schools and our children. I'm appalled at those who are so willing to throw our collective children in front of the bus simply to save a few bucks. Tell me, anti-referendum folks, how can any good come from your stinginess, both in spirit and in pocketbook? Tell me how these cuts will help arm our children with the skills they need to thrive -- and ultimately, have the tools to succeed to pay for your Social Security?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:48 PM

You probably also discount the information in the district's student achievement report that the percentage of special education and African American students passing both the reading and math sections of the ISAT test have steadily increased the past five years.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:45 PM

Funny that you mention Asian peers, Noel, since you have bemoaned the loss of "traditional" minority groups during recent forums, but completely ignore the fact that the Asian and Hispanic populations in Oak Park have actually increased.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:43 PM

Noel, perhaps you should have actually attended the board meeting tonight, which featured an impressive report about all that is being done to measure student achievement and progress. Isn't that what this is all about for you? Metrics. Don't worry, the video will be online soon.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:42 PM

We have abandoned the kids from our minority population for the last decade. They have consistently under performed their white & Asian peers. Wow, we should be proud of that fact & pat this Board on it's back? Really? Was't this board & its supporters who touted the last Sup while she chased pedagogical fads,lowered standards, increased spending without that much to show for in teaching effectiveness & learning outcomes?

epic lulz  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:41 PM

So the entirety of WJ's endorsement is based on what amounts to nothing more than a verbal agreement from the current Board to get it's act together? Let me know how that goes.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:37 PM

Thank you Wednesday Journal. Well said.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:37 PM

The Board gets it? Really? How can we have four schools failing to meet AYP while spending over $13,000 per pupil on a EAV of $322,000? How can so many teachers and admins honestly allow kids who can't make the grade to move on to the next grade and setup a situation for them to fail? How can some schools perform well above the district average while other perform well below? How can we tolerate educators that teach to the test for short term gains? Is that what OP tax payers deserve?

Taxed Enough from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:36 PM

"Transforming education in Oak Park is the goal" - don't we already have the best education? "How do we make our schools actively more accountable for innovation and success?" - why not just keep giving them 4% annual raises, that's been working. "How do we do it in a framework that is affordable in deeply challenging financial circumstances" - don't raise taxes. Time to write a serious article. Research the financials. Enough emotional "vision" garble that pull on taxpayers heartstrings.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:36 PM

As expected, the WJ does what it always does-it endorses a tax increase ref. Are they NOW concerned about OPRFHS and their mammoth tax increase? They weren't when they endorsed the D200 tax ref. The WJ believes in miracles - that the D97 Bd will NOW make the necessary changes to balance the budget - and ignores that the D97 5-yr budget shows that deficit spending begins again in 2016. Miracles?I sadly only believe that a failed ref will bring one -that D97 will acknowledge the fin'l pain in OP


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:31 PM

Thanks, Wednesday Journal.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:27 PM

Tough issues. Scary times. We need change in OP -- big change. But the place to start is not in our schools. I agree with the editorial. D97 has a heard the community's voice. Structural & organizational changes are needed and seem to be underway. Better and more communications from the district is critical. There are signs that they are listening and reaching out to us. So I will vote Yes. It is a bad time in our history to bludgeon the curriculum and a horrible time to abandon the kids.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:24 PM

While giving up a future potential benefit (pay inc) may seem valuable to some, it is not credible and thus has no value. Since 2008 when the rest of the country has descended into a recession the union negotiated compensation increases from this board. While our property values have declined, this Board has increased admin salaries. While test scores are showing diminishing returns, this Board wants to increase spending. While our minority students lag behind, this Board wants to high five.

Mattie from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:20 PM

Thank you Wednesday Journal!

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:20 PM

The current Admin and the Board are stuck in the 20th Century model of a school and they don't have the vision or the experience to create a 21st Century school system. They have not articulated in any measurable or verifiable way how a tax increase will solve the current fiscal situation. They have not offered tangible or credible evidence as to how our schools will improve with this tax increase. How will teaching effectiveness & learning outcomes improve from the current baseline?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:14 PM

'It has been a relentless process that has allowed the district to forestall a referendum for many years.' Really? The only reason it has forestalled a ref is because it was able to double its tax levy over 10 yrs from TIF carve outs & addition of new construction to the tax base. They have masked the fiscal mismanagement through this.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:12 PM

How can you ignore these facts? D97 has consistently spent more than its revenues for the last decade. The Ill Board of Ed has given the district subpar marks for its finances ftp://ftpfinance.isbe.state.il.us/AFRProfile/2010/06016097002.pdf

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