Equity and taxpayer respect

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The school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School is urgently focusing on two critical needs. Keeping those needs aligned and not allowing them to be seen as in conflict will be the central charge of this board and its administration in the months and years ahead. 

Growing equity for students, while respecting the limits of taxpayers to pony up more in property taxes, are each central to the mission of this school and the two villages it serves.

We go back to the extremely provocative session the school district held last year on the subject of equity and the speaker's clear declaration that the necessary path to racial equity at OPRF would come through "the redistribution of resources." Money previously spent to support the status quo at the high school had to be redirected to boost outcomes for students long overlooked.

When you look at the rising costs of faculty and staff at this school in recent years, it seems clear there has been less redistribution and more adding on. In villages where property tax saturation is very real, the path to equity cannot be financed solely or primarily through the property tax bills of residents.

We need hard choices. There is going to be pain within 201 N. Scoville to accomplish these twin goals of equity for students and respect for taxpayers. The complex discussion at a March board meeting where three board members opposed added spending without commensurate cuts is a worthy start. 

A final note. By this point in April, we know the school board and the Faculty Senate union are deep into contract negotiations. Another indicator of the seriousness of this board and of its faculty to foster genuine change will be in the pay raises granted, the elimination of obsolete but expensive steps and lanes, and a sharing of health care costs that gives at least a nod to the real world.

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