OK, so District 200 is suing the Village of Oak Park board for more than $3 million? [OPRF vs. Village of Oak Park, News, March 3]

In the middle of a deep recession and already holding an increasingly bloated surplus while the village and District 97 are facing critical deficits? This is the last straw. Over the next two elections, we need to unseat every sitting member of this board who dares to stand for re-election. It is time to say, “Enough is enough.”

District 200 has burdened the taxpayers with unnecessarily inflated property tax increases, even as homes foreclose and storefronts are left vacant across our community. It has shunned its sister districts and other bodies, which have sought to collaborate. While the tax grab is technically legal, have these elected officials no sense of civic responsibility?

It has racked up surplus reserves in excess of $80 million, at taxpayer expense, effectively thumbing its nose at District 97, which has slashed budgets, let go teachers and staff and cut programs. Rather than help to defray the crisis, District 200 has responded with disinterest at best, greed at worst. While it technically has no obligation to assist District 97, are they so blind as to not realize where their students come from? Have they no civic awareness?

When the village contacted the districts to discuss the disbursement of TIF funds, District 200 seems to have ignored the invitation. Instead, it decided to sue to squeeze every last penny at the expense of the rest of the community. While vacant buildings and empty storefronts demonstrate that the village is hardly a picture of fiscal responsibility or sound decision making, it remains a fact that the village faces budget shortfalls during this recession.

Have the District 200 board members no concern for the economic state of the community, or for the people who face cuts in necessary services?

This board consistently has shown indifference to the welfare of the broader community, to the stability of the other schools and to principles of good governance. We need a board that understands it does not exist in a vacuum. It is time for a change.

We need to elect a slate of candidates who will follow basic principles of community and responsibility. They must recognize that the future of the high school is intertwined with that of the elementary schools and the wider community. They must be committed to working with all governing bodies to achieve fiscal stability. They must commit to reduce spending commensurate with that of the other boards, and work with the other taxing entities to ensure that budget needs are met with minimal additional burden on property owners.

Above all, we need to elect a board that will re-examine its past destructive actions and consider new solutions. Everything should be on the table, including serious examination of whether the school districts can be reorganized to achieve greater coordination and savings.

For the sake of our community and our children, it is time to clean up the District 200 board, and the first step is to clean it out.

• Joel Ostrow is an Oak Park parent of two children and, as a political science professor at Benedictine University, an expert on governance and budgeting. He has worked with other parents in 2007 and 2008 to ensure resolution of District 97’s financial crisis.

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