I write in response to my friend Jack Crowe's column of March 16, 2011. Jack must not have had access to information I believe critical to deciding how to vote on the April 5 District 97 referendum. So [here's the] information and a few thoughts:
District 97 has not been cost conscious? It has been cutting its budget for the last nine years, including the following examples, to name but a few:
1) $1.8 million in 2003 staff reductions;
2) $1.4 million in 2004 reductions to staff, equipment and materials;
3) $719,000 in 2007 staff reductions and savings on materials and supplies; and
4) Saving $1.5 million in 2009 underspending on operating expenditures.
We should eliminate language, music and arts programs designed specifically to foster the development of elementary school children? There is no longer any debate about how critical early education is to a child's development. Period. Why would we want to retard our children's growth by reducing challenging classroom activities?
We should eliminate middle school sports and after school activities? Sports, in Oak Park? Really? Again, there is no doubt that, at a minimum, keeping middle school students engaged reduces the risk of their behaving in ways that, as parents, we really don't want.
We should eliminate CAST and BRAVO at Julian and Brooks? Experts have demonstrated a direct correlation between participation in the arts and improved classroom performance. I have been on the CAST parents' board since the late '90s. Yes, I'm biased in favor of the arts. I saw how CAST was the foundation for the artistic careers of each of my three children and how it provided so many useful skills to students who took other paths. The programs integrate what students learn in their core subjects, to say nothing of giving them self-esteem at awkward ages and teaching them necessary collaborative skills. And their non-CAST friends come to the productions in droves. I know the same to be true about BRAVO. As to finances, yes we've raised some money annually for the CAST program, but if we had to raise all the money to keep the program operating, it wouldn't exist.
If the referendum passes, I would have to pay roughly $450 a year in additional taxes. I buy a cup of coffee per day at $2 a cup. Over the course of let's say just 300 days per year, that's $600. So, I think I could figure out a way to pay the tax increase.
Realtors tell us there is a direct correlation between property values and school quality. Do we want to make our homes even less valuable in these difficult economic times by stripping our schools of their quality?
Sorry, Jack, I disagree. It's our children we're talking about here. We didn't bring them into the world only to short change them.