Here are some takeaways from the D97 Yes For Schools and Yes For Education presentation by the Committee to Support Oak Park Schools, held at Irving School last week:

Illinois has been without a budget for two years, putting tremendous strain on public education. While the state misses its payments to District 97 and school funds are capped, enrollment has increased up to 1,100 students since 2007. As a result, D97’s current cash fund balance is projected to be below 25% of its operating expenses this year. The state recommends fund balances of at least 25%.

In spite of this underfunding, the website niche.com ranks seven D97 schools in the top 100 of Illinois Elementary School Rankings. They are Holmes, Irving, Longfellow, Hatch, Mann, Julian, and Brooks. Niche gathers information from a number of public data sources, including the Department of Education and the U.S. Census.

If the referenda fail, the continued loss of state revenue and the resultant lowering of the cash fund balance to 15% will adversely affect the quality of D97 schools, causing increased class sizes, the cutting of full-time positions, and preventing much-needed improvements on aging buildings. Ultimately, D97 rankings will go down. Eventually, parents of D97 children may be faced with the prospect of paying private school tuition to compensate for a mediocre education.

In conclusion, paying $74 per $1000 in property taxes sounds like a solid investment to educate Oak Park children, especially since property taxes are deducted from federal income tax forms. Private school tuition is not. 

Vote Yes and Yes on the D97 referenda.

Stasia Jamell

Oak Park

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