I am writing in response to the many comments I have read in the local papers regarding the District 97 referendum. I am a teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School, and I grew up in Oak Park.
Many of these comments, particularly those of Jack Crowe, target teachers who are alleged to be collecting exorbitant salaries and pensions. Most of the teachers I work with in District 200 would be hard-pressed to afford a home in Oak Park or River Forest. The only reason I can afford to live here is because my husband used to work as a stockbroker and we saved during his years on the floor. Many of those bemoaning exorbitant teacher salaries earn significantly more than my colleagues or I earn.
Perhaps they, like the pundits on Fox News, believe that stockbrokers, CEOs, doctors, and lawyers work harder, are more educated, and therefore deserve higher pay than teachers. I asked my husband, who left the floor to become a teacher, which occupation was more difficult. Without a second thought, he replied that teaching was much more difficult. I asked him to consider that he does not teach, but only prepares in the summer. He replied that teaching was still more difficult
With respect to education levels, I will grant that some doctors and lawyers have more years of education than the average teacher. However, I would argue that some of the best teachers at Oak Park and River Forest are those with the highest education levels.
A "private school parent" complained in one comment that he pays one-third the amount that District 97 pays to educate a child for a year. As a former member of the board of education at a local Catholic school, I can attest that the tuition paid does not cover the entire cost of a child's education in many Catholic schools. The tithing of parishioners and the contribution of the archdiocese subsidize the remainder of the per-pupil cost. In addition, private schools can elect not to accept all students, and are not required to provide the full range of services — particularly in special education — that public schools are required to provide. When Jack Crowe talks about teacher/student ratios, I am certain the seemingly low ratios at Oak Park public schools are the result of the excellent work being done in the area of special education.
I also support the referendum because I don't want the district to cut positions in areas deemed "fluff" by some commentators on this newspaper's website. I have seen, at the high school level, how an innovative program including the arts, athletics, and "extracurricular" academics can motivate a student who may not otherwise see a reason to even attend school, much less strive for success. While I understand the call for parents to provide more financial support for such programs, I also know that not all families in our village have the means to contribute to these programs. It would be troubling if those students were excluded due to an inability to pay.