Early Childhood Collaboration to be funded by Oak Park, District 97 and District 200


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Three Oak Park taxing bodies approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Collaboration for Early Childhood on April 24 to create a supportive care network of programs for young children in Oak Park and River Forest.

The village of Oak Park and school districts 200 and 97, last Wednesday, approved a contract for services with the Collaboration. Boards for each taxing body met in a special joint meeting, hosted at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

The votes for the IGA and contract were unanimous except for D200 board members Sharon Patchak-Layman and Dietra Millard, who voted against the two measures, both citing concerns with the language in the IGA and the contract.

The three bodies had already agreed to allocate funding for the initiative — the village of Oak Park committed last December and the two school districts this spring. OPRF is contributing about $216,000 in startup money. D97 has committed $248,000 and the village about $115,000.

Each taxing body will also allocate money to the initiative after the start-up year. The contract for services runs five years, beginning July 1.

The taxing bodies will make payments to the Collaboration on July 10 and Jan. 10 through 2018. The first payments this July and next January from OPRF, D97 and the village is roughly $108,000, $124,000 and $85,800 respectively for each payment period. The amount for each body steadily increases annually through 2018. At that time, OPRF's amount increases to roughly $223,600 and D97 rises to $256,500. The village of Oak Park will come in at roughly $177,600. A payment scheduled is outlined in both the contract and IGA.

A "governing board" will be set up to oversee the contract and agreement. That group will consist of two board members and one administrator from each taxing body. The group will meet at least four times a year and be subject to Illinois' Open Meeting Act. The governing board will also advise the Collaboration on its budget and services offered through the program, among other duties outlined in the contract.

Any of the parties can terminate its obligations under the contract for services "with or without cause," according to the IGA.

The Collaboration has been working with the taxing bodies for well over a year on its proposal. The nonprofit is looking to create a more integrated network of child care services across the two villages, as well as improve certain services already offered to families. This has been a goal of the Collaboration since its founding in 2002.

Last week's vote was accompanied by tears of joy from various board members, as well as members of the Collaboration who were present. In acknowledging the Collaboration, Village President David Pope was emotional in thanking Eric Gershenson, one of the Collaboration's founders. During his comments after the vote, Gershenson teared up as he talked about the group's long road to get to this point.

"On behalf of the Collaboration for Early Childhood and as a resident and former school board member, please accept our most heartfelt thank you," said the former D97 board member, fighting back tears.

As Gershenson spoke, several members of the various boards also wiped away a few tears.

The Collaboration has targeted 2015 as the launch date for its supportive care system. The idea, according to the nonprofit, is to streamline and combine the scattered services already provided to families into a more comprehensive, coordinated approach. More families who might normally fall through the cracks will receive services, the Collaboration maintains.

Several board members from each taxing body talked about the importance of funding early childhood services. They said the Collaboration's proposed initiative is supported by research highlighting the need to reach children at the earliest age.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2017 9:55 PM

This agreement costs Oak Park taxpayers almost $5,500,000 over the life of this agreement. The agreement expires at the end of 2018 and should not be renewed.

Ann Courter from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 29th, 2013 10:26 AM

Today's New York Times has a piece that explains why we should care that all children have similarly cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences. Kudos to the Village and the schools, and a broad group of public and private agencies and community volunteers, for working together to build a smart, cost-effective, coordinated system to achieve this. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/no-rich-child-left-behind/?ref=opinion

DRMR from Oak Park  

Posted: April 29th, 2013 9:07 AM

Is the legal opinion of the District 200 attorney available online in the board minutes,or does it have to be requested?If so,what is the procedure?


Posted: April 27th, 2013 9:02 PM

Collaboration ramps up its budget to $1.2 million in 2016, with a director salary that has a nice $10,000 bumpup next year, to $77,000, plus other staff. Not too shabby for the field of early childhood education. At least now it's public, but only after the successful PR campaign.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 27th, 2013 4:26 PM

I think it takes a community to raise a child. But let's just wait a minute, as part of this community I believe that parents have that primary responsibility. I have seen millions of dollars spent by this community for the sake of the children. I think it's time to rethink the past and start putting our money into things that will benefit the whole community and not just a small segment of it. We all matter.

Another mom  

Posted: April 27th, 2013 4:13 PM

Modest proposal.....my point isn't the validity of the program, but why the 2 other taxing bodies are not participating, if it is so wonderful. Also, 97's plea for money rings hollow now.


Posted: April 27th, 2013 3:34 PM

I think birth control is the real answer to this situation. Don't have children until you can afford to provide for them. I waited (and...gasp.. used birth control) until my partner and I were in a financial position to have children. We have shelled out our own $$ when it came time to educate. Let's fund Planned Parenthood. I'm not eager to fund anymore of Ms. Song's pet projects.

Modest Proposal  

Posted: April 27th, 2013 2:35 PM

Who do these greedy preschoolers think they are?! And the teachers...they're just part of the Early Childhood Education machine in it for the profit! How I hate my hard-earned tax dollars going to these little beasts...they need to educate themselves. We should eat them while they're young and tender. Think of the money we'll save!


Posted: April 27th, 2013 1:54 PM

I agree with the moms and others here who are saddened by the waste of money. And $250,000 is just startup money for year one. They want much more money in subsequent years. At my kids' preschool, low income kids' tuition was already paid for by other grants. This is duplicative in that regard. Ms. Song, will the collaboration have a paid staff?

Another mother  

Posted: April 27th, 2013 6:54 AM

2 things. 1- if this is so absolutely fabulous for our kids, where is the $ from the village of river forest and their school district? 2- 2 years ago, or maybe 3, district 97 was claiming poverty. 97 made dire predictions about teacher and program cuts. A referendum (with tax hikes) was shoved down our throats with scare tactics. Fast forward a few years, and now 97 has an extra quarter million dollars to spare?

Oak park mom and concerned taxpayer from Op  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 10:09 PM

Enough is enough. We already have free pre- school through pkp which many middle/ higher income families take advantage of since there are often open spaces. We need to draw the line at some pont on where our tax dollars should go. The collaboration already provided professional development services and screenings and has found ways to pay for these services in the past. I doubt this new funding provides an roi, but rather an overlap of services and wasted $ which in theory sounds good.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 7:51 PM

cont. Not for this at all. I think state and federal as well as local aid is more than sufficient. I am getting kind of tired of supporting everyone else's kids. It's really not my responsibility, but that of the parents. I don't mind helping to a degree, but I do mind it when someone else decides where my money is going. I have seen no studies to date that show this program will do what it says in terms of older children. Seems to me that OP is a guinea pig to see what will happen.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 7:46 PM

Ist - I wish people would not use abbreviations that they assume everyone knows, at least whoever uses it first should spell it out. 2nd - Still not comfortable with the whole Collab. idea. Are we still funding Headstart. even though a failure? Now we are funding the Collab, will we be funding both? The Collab. is suppose to fund residents of OP and RF, yet more than a quarter of the kids involved will not be residents of either. One of the goals of Collab. is free state paid pre-school.

DRMR from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 6:17 PM

Jeff-District 200 pays bus,food service and special Ed costs ONLY for district 200 students.I don't want my district 200 money spent on students not enrolled at OPRF.Again,I ask,is this even legal?Where is the written opinion of the high school attorney.


Posted: April 26th, 2013 6:00 PM

Head Start was a noble Great Society program, funded for decades, but it didn't have an impact. Now Oak Park will show how it should be done?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 4:28 PM

Please note that the contract for services with the Collaboration encompasses a great deal more than Head Start. The research on Head Start is nuanced. Some other perspectives here: http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/01/16/media-cherry-pick-facts-to-falsely-label-head-s/192284 and here: http://www.highscope.org/content.asp?contentid=260


Posted: April 26th, 2013 4:04 PM

And fresh research that shows Head Start pre-school program failure .... http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/recordDetails.jsp?ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED539264&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&_pageLabel=RecordDetails&accno=ED540208&_nfls=false

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:53 PM

Our local jurisdictions helped create the Collaboration a decade ago in order to take advantage of state funding which was expected to become available. As we now know, the state budget picture is dire. If our local jurisdictions didn't step in, generations of children wouldn't receive services, services which save taxpayer $$ later. We have substantial needs, but we don't have the concentration of poverty that makes the prospect of full funding from federal, state or philanthropic $$ feasible.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:45 PM

It's important to note that our local jurisdictions founded the Collab. as a public/private partnership, a 501(c)3 non-profit, in order to be able to leverage private resources. Even w/public funding, the Collaboration will still need to raise private $$ to make its budgets. The issue of legality (of jurisdictions like D200 funding a contract for early childhood services) was explored in great detail by legal counsel. They would not have voted to approve if they did not have clarity on the issue

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:31 PM

Support for families w/children birth-age 3 is crucial; recent research shows that "achievement gaps" are measurable at 18 mos & statistically significant by age three. The jurisdictions' contract with the Collaboration also calls for 3) professional development for childcare providers; 4) coordination of state-funded Preschool for All, making sure that eligible families take advantage of available resources; 5) data collection-without robust data collection there cannot be accountability

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:25 PM

Research shows that the ROI on quality early childhood programs far exceeds the ROI on schooling in later years. The contract for services with the Collaboration calls for- 1) development of a system for comprehensive developmental screening to catch delays and insure early intervention; 2) parent information and support including a home visiting program for families with children birth-age three (available to all, with more intensive supports for "at-risk" families).

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:18 PM

I'm the Board Chair of the Collaboration for Early Childhood. We meet at Village Hall and our meetings are open to the public. Investment in early childhood is not by itself a magic bullet. That said, research shows that the ROI of high-quality early childhood investment is anywhere from $7-$17 per dollar spent. Detail can be found here: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/new-research-early-education-as-economic-investme.aspx

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:08 PM

I read the article but a critical component is missing - data. ROI is expressed in numbers not words.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 3:00 PM

In response to questions about ROI, please see this WJ article regarding the talk by Dr. James Heckman at Unity Temple: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-20-2012/Early-education-investment-linked-to-stronger-economy,-society/

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 1:54 PM

Shelly - I don't know what the ROI is. I would be disappointed if I found out that the boards did not have data showing a positive ROI estimate before voting.

Good news, bad news  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 1:37 PM

OP's taxes drive middle income families away. OPers with time and money to promote well meaning charitable projects should spend private funds not tax dollars. It is plain silly to suggest this program will save money long term and hypocritical to make the claim from no base of experience. The kids we met at one of these pre-schools are now in middle school but don't do their homework and don't get good grades despite the school's ample remedial opportunities. Now what do you propose?


Posted: April 26th, 2013 12:56 PM

Mr Murtagh, What will be the ROI?

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 12:44 PM

In response to DRMR, it should be noted that the Collaboration is a 501(c)(3) organization and not a separate taxing district. They are being paid to perform services intended to ultimately benefit the other taxing bodies, the same as bus companies, food service companies and providers of special education are paid.

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 12:09 PM

The evidence is that these early childhood programs for children from lower-income households need to continue through high school. They do work but their benefits wear out after they are discontinued. The disadvantages of being lower-income do not disappear. It's no surprise that the research has found these programs really need to continue through the high school years.

Preschool parent  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:42 AM

DRMR, don't forget D200 will save money longterm because dollars spent in early childhood are more cost-effective than trying to help older students. Totally valid considering taxpayer desire for taxing bodies to work together to save money. This is a win for everybody...taxpayers, the schools, families, and most of all the children.

DRMR from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:24 AM

As I have stated in previous comments,the overwhelming evidence is that there is NO lasting value to these programs.Students enter kindergarten better-prepared,but by third grade all benefits have disappeared.I'd also like to see the District 200 lawyer's legal opinion on spending one taxing district's funds for programs in another taxing district.We have separate taxing districts,elections and referendums to avoid transferring of funds to areas outside the taxing district's jurisdiction.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:24 AM

Good News, Bad News. The education initiative will not increase nor decrease taxes. Tax relief has to come from understanding the factors of financial growth in the community. The factors are not all about brick and mortar. A quality pre-school education program will attract young families to Oak Park which will help the tax base by increasing home values.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:18 AM

I agree 100% with Marty Noll. The idea and collaboration is a landmark event for OP.

Eric Davis from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:17 AM

OP 624 et. al.; If you read the actual contract with the Collaboration, which is posted online, there are multiple categories of specific metrics and other requirements that are spelled out in the document the 3 boards signed. This is a smart investment; in strict economic terms we can either support better outcomes and services for pre-K kids now or pay 10 times as much for remedials when those kids get to the high school. This is about being smart as a community and saving tax money.

Concerned Citizen from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:11 AM

Does this mean that the school districts are going to offer preschool in the near future? What else?

Marty Noll from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 11:01 AM

Teary-eyed comments aside, the Collaboration is committed to producing a quality pre-school experience for OP kids. Extensive data proves that investment early in a child's development produces multiple economic and behavioral benefits. The IGA has an opt- out clause if benchmarks are not to a funder's liking. This is a long-term investment that willl be put in place and monitored by savvy folks. And, it's the first endeavor among the big three taxing bodies in a very long time. More needed.

Good news, bad news  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 9:53 AM

Good for preschoolers, bad for struggling homeowners draining retirement and college funds to pay the runaway taxes.

OP Exec  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 6:22 AM

@ #624 - Your points are well taken and I would add execution and follow thru are critical.

OP Resident #624  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 9:51 PM

I usually agree with you, John, but I've seen zero substance in the publicly communicated planning around this initiative. I'd like to see a more specific and concrete business plan before our tax dollars are committed. "Hoping for the best" doesn't have a great track record in recent years in Oak Park. Bleeding heart liberals and their dollars are soon parted.

Preschool parent  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 9:24 PM

A big thank you to all the members of the various boards and others who continue to work hard to make this happen! Well done, all of you.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 8:19 PM

Money well spent. Great to see taxing bodies jointly solving enhancing education in OP/

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