The arts, inspiring?#34;indeed requiring?#34;self discipline may be more “basic” to our nation’s survival than traditional credit courses.

?#34;Paul Harvey

I have been teaching in the River Forest public schools since 1974. The district is the consistent recipient of “Bright Red Apple” awards. Only the top 10 percent of Illinois school districts are honored with the SchoolSearch 2005 Bright Red Apple Award of excellence. And with its top rankings in the statewide standardized tests, River Forest District 90 is the envy of many suburban school districts. Parents, desirous of a community with close proximity to the city, move here because of the reputation of our schools?#34;a fact not lost on local real estate agents.

Success has its costs. With parents moving here specifically for access to our schools, the size of the student population has strained all of the district’s resources. There is not a spare inch of room that is not being used. Closets have been converted to learning areas.

If we were a business, we’d be turning quite a nice profit from all of our “customers.” But we’re a school district and with tax caps in place the revenue has not kept pace with the number of students being taught.

Asking a community to increase its taxes is always a painful exercise and one the board has tried to avoid. Our school board, in cooperation with the teachers, has been taking measures to control salaries and health costs in order to slow the need for any tax increase.

But we are clearly at a serious juncture. The cuts needed to balance the budget are almost unthinkable. Years of excellence in the performing arts, such as band and orchestra, could disappear overnight. Class sizes would swell. Could our students continue to be successful at OPRF or other top high schools?

Preserving, not enhancing, the school district is the essence of the decision now before the residents of River Forest.

David Wuersig
District 90 orchestra and jazz band director

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