Due to the fiscal mismanagement by the state, public school districts throughout Illinois are being forced to make difficult decisions regarding how to keep themselves funded. Reserves are all but depleted. District 97 is no different. Though the district has made budget cuts throughout the past 10 years, its fund balances will be severely depleted by 2013.
On April 5, District 97 will be asking voters to support a referendum that will generate much-needed funding for our schools in the form of an increase of $38 for every $1,000 on property tax bills. If the referendum doesn't pass, the programs that will be eliminated at the start of the 2011-12 school year will be numerous. They include elementary art and Spanish, fourth and fifth grade instrumental music, CAST and BRAVO drama programs, plus all sports and other after school programs at the middle schools. The number of resource teachers in the Gifted, Talented, and Differentiation program and the media specialists will be cut in half. There will also be reductions of positions held by middle school assistant principals, central office administrators, teaching assistants, and secretaries. In short, the cuts, totaling approximately $4.5 million, will be staggering.
The Oak Park Teachers' Association (OPTA) and several other employee groups agreed to a wage freeze for the 2011-12 school year. These actions will save the district more than $1 million dollars next year and additional dollars going forward. However, even with these savings, the district will still be facing a structural deficit that will have a profound impact on the educational experience being offered to students.
We are asking you to help maintain the excellence of Oak Park's public school system by voting for this referendum on April 5 and encouraging your friends and neighbors to vote for it as well. Your support on this important issue will determine the future of education for the children of this community.
Susan Tresselt, Jennifer Nelson, Allison Ibarra, Stacie Klein, Linda Koplin, Paul Packer, Mary Alheim, Lynne Beauprez, Faith Cole, Stella Turi and Arnetta Thompson
Oak Park Teachers Association