Group forms to support Oak Park schools referendum

Citizens look to make the case for financial support

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

A group of parents and community members have come together to actively support, and persuade voters to vote for, the referendum Oak Park Elementary School District 97 has put on the ballot in April.

Jassen Strokosch, co-chair of the Committee to Support Oak Park Schools, said his group of about a dozen members is working independently of the district or the school board. He's unaware of any group formed in opposition to the April 5 referendum. The committee has created its own website,, and will be passing out fliers and hosting "coffees" in residents' homes, among other activities, into the spring in support of the referendum.

The committee met Monday night for informational meeting and planning, at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. About 20 people showed up.

The district is seeking $48 million, which translates to about $37 per $1,000 paid in property taxes by homeowners. Along with the tax-rate hike, about a million dollars in cuts will also occur. But approximately $5.7 million would need to be shaved from the budget if the referendum fails, district officials said.

Strokosch credits the district for making reductions in the last decade — totaling more than $4 million — and credits the district for not seeking a rate hike in over 20 years.

"That doesn't happen by accident," he said. "That's an example of sound fiscal responsibility — 1989 was the last time they passed an operating referendum. That's a very long time. When you look at many of the districts we compare ourselves to, we are one of the few that hasn't gone for a referendum in the 2000s. Some of those schools have gone every 5-6 years; others have gone 8-10 years between referendums."

A referendum in 1999, he noted, was successfully run to build the two middle schools, but that was not tied financially to the district's operating expenses and revenues. The middle-school bonds will be paid off in 2018.

Since forming, pro-referendum committee members have already been fielding questions from people either on the fence or outright opposed to a tax increase. At Monday's meeting, the group, including new participants on the committee, discussed how to respond to such views.

One argument by opponents is that the village and other taxing bodies should help District 97 financially. That has already occurred over the last five years, they reply, through various intergovernmental agreements between the taxing bodies. Those agreements are specific and tightly worded and are not necessarily permanent.

Strokosch explained that Dist. 97 can't solve its structural deficit — which is heading into the red around 2013 — through such helpful but temporary agreements. As for cuts to teachers, the district, he added, can no longer avoid that scenario without a long-term solution.

"There's no silver bullet," he said. "You look at any one of these cases and the dollar amounts involved; yes, it's very helpful, but none of those things solve the financial state we're in right now."

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Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:39 PM

Ms. Carollina Song, I hope you don't plead ignorance to your statements here. I hope I get it right in 500 characters. You start by lowballing salaries, and then low-lowballing salaries of 13yr exp Master Ed salaries. Here is the question I am forced to ask. Was your intention to win at ANY cost?


Posted: February 26th, 2011 12:12 PM

It is encouraging that the majority of these posts are anti-referendum. As a long time resident I can assure you that the odds of passage are very high because pro-referendum individuals are very motivated, have media support (WJ, look at the title to this article), pretty yard signs, and they VOTE. A very small group can and will pass the referendum. "Referendum No For Oak Park" or its like need support if there is any hope to slow this train.

Suzanne LOVES Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:44 AM

To twinsonic65: All districts have to pass referendums from time to time. On a 10,000 tax bill you will pay $31.00 a month. That is for the common good, so we can avoid "bare bones" education without art and other arts. It isn't great timing, but there was no mismanagement. The overall state of the economy is poor, but we can pay some to keep our property values high and our kids educated in "thinking outside the box", and not just the ones that can afford private lessons.


Posted: February 25th, 2011 10:32 PM

Let's see: OVER 600 foreclosures here in Oak Park since 2008, Border's going chapter 11, Unemployment (U6 Numbers) is close to 14%, Underemployment is at 19% Inflation is hitting now, Gas is at $3.50 a gallon and climbing, Lots of people are upside down on their mortgages and being kicked out of their homes and the District requests more money from the taxpayer - Are you out of your Freaking Mind!?!?!

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 8:13 PM

@Just the Facts. So 65% live outside the Village. I'm not sure your causal logic is quite grounded in reality. They live outside because (a)VOP doesn't force them to live here and (b)the taxes are probably lower where they reside, but they can still collect a nice salary and annual unionized raise here. Hardly 'Just the Facts.'

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 7:50 PM

From a Board Report: About 35% of teachers and administrators live in Oak Park. This is a drastic change from 20 years ago when the numbers were reversed. The ever-increasing price of housing in OP has kept a lot of teachers from owning a home here.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 6:22 PM

Thanks Professor. Maybe you can help here. Seems D97 wants to go to the well, and ask us to dig deeper in our pockets. All we are asking is - will the metrics, accountability and evaluative progress rise - after this referendum - or is it just to pay off the unions?

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 6:17 PM

Can somebody please give me the % of teachers and administrators that work for OP97 that do and do not live within the Village limits?

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 5:46 PM

I'm a prof at a college outside of D97, and we are seeing less college-preparedness overall.OP schools are considered some of the best.I think OPers care about education and that this ref will pass.It's the first one in 20 years, and "the ask" was reduced after the state income tax increase was announced.It's hard to ask for money in this economy, but ed is a priority and needs support. As an educator, it's demoralizing to see the teacher bashing and inaccurate generalizations.Focus on facts.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 5:17 PM

Why do people keep quoting Arne Duncan like he was a researcher of note? His agenda is more charter schools. The Bill Gates research on educational degrees focuses on degrees that are not related to what the teacher teaches. M.A. degrees that focus on reading strategies, curriculum development, math and science ed., etc., do show increases in student achievement. Allowing extra pay for degrees out of a teaching area probably shouldn't have ever been allowed. Don't throw the baby out with the ...

Interested Parent  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 5:12 PM

One thing that has certainly changed since 1990 is that special education requirements have increased tremendously, resulting in a great growth of SPED-related staff. All OT, PT, Psych, Social Workers, speech Path, etc. count toward this increase.The same with teaching assistants. Almost 95% of that number is for IEP-specified reasons for student needs. Finally, for student/staff ratios, all teachers in a building are counted, not just classroom teachers, making the numbers smaller than reality.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 5:07 PM

Pardon my ignorance. I haven't lived here that long. To what rankings are you referring for the schools? Are you speaking of "not making AYP?" Or the ChicagoLand "Top 50 Schools"? A clarification would be helpful for those of us kind of new to OP.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 4:49 PM

They state the same - more $$ poured into schools does not = better educated children. Facts sited: Arne Duncan stated that more money for teachers getting master's degrees (8 plus billion) did not = better educated children. 1990 35% less staff which = less money spent and our schools had a top ranking.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 4:27 PM

SDP, agree completely. Go back, though, and read the two comments from "the teacher." I think that those two, plus her rebuttal to me ("unemployed"), suggest a tinge of petulantism. I specifically addressed the advanced degrees because it is frequently used to justify status and large salaries. In truth, M.Ed is nothing to brag about-esp from certain schools. We live in an interesting historical period - which requires new thoughts and realities. For me, voting "no" is essential for change.

S.D. Plissken  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 4:12 PM

Dear W, I questioned which was it? "There are no studies anywhere that equate more money with better educated children" 8:55 am or "Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement" 3:10. You say two opposing things at two different times. I did not question your numbers. And pardon me for not thanking you for the numbers and where you found them. For both I am grateful.

S.D. Plissken  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 4:06 PM

Yes, Dear Chet 21. As I noted you must be prepared for "resulting public criticism". Reflecting back on your comments; it seems you did invite the backlash from the teacher, who while being a teacher is an adult, not a petulant child, and free to state their thoughts ---not unlike yourself. Think and speak kindly to one another, all, so that reason and right can over take vitriol and mayhem.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 4:03 PM

Same W. yes, not musing - facts. Musings are: A product of contemplation; a thought. "an elegant tapestry of quotation - My #'s last sited are facts and more pouring more $$ into schools does not equate better educated children. Pure and simple - are our schools ranked as highly as they once were? Are we pouring more money at them? No to the referendum.

S. D. Plissken  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:40 PM

Dear W, I find your rhetorical musings as contradictory and confusing as a more infamous and tongue twisted "W". Which is it? "There are no studies anywhere that equate more money with better educated children" 8:55 am or "Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement" 3:10. Both posts are form the same day, I think you are the same "w" but maybe there is more than one of you in the same person?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:30 PM

This thread is getting unwieldy, and as has been noted, it's tough to have a thoughtful conversation in 500 characters. I would encourage all interested members of the community to attend forums about the referendum. Scheduled forums are taking place at 2/17 at Beye; 3/9 at Mann; 3/15 at Irving; 3/24 at Holmes School, with others soon to be posted.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:20 PM

baggnight, sorry for my absence - I just returned from my therapist. Wow, did you EVER zing me and, yes, I'm fully chastened. I guess that I'll have to vote no just to pay for my therapy. SDPlissken - can you NOW understand my anonymity? I have kids and, unbelievably, "baggnight," is a teacher. I may be poor, dumb, deranged, HOWEVER....I'm NOT stupid I have two teenagers! I still think highly of almost every one of the teachers, etc that my kids have and have had. But ed spending is too much.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:10 PM

Cont.: .... to do more of what works and less of what doesn't. Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master's degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn't work.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:10 PM

Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement, state lawmakers and other officials have been reluctant to tackle this popular way for teachers to earn more money.That could soon change, as local school districts around the country grapple with shrinking budgets. Just this week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the economy has given the nation an opportunity to make dramatic improvements in the productivity of its education system &


Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:06 PM

Cont.: ...that includes out of district students in 2010 that were not accounted for in the 1990 number sited . 78% the teachers in D97 take advantage of the bonus paid teachers who obtain a master's degree or above. Please read what Arne Duncan thinks about this bonus and its impact on education. Every year, American schools pay more than $8.6 billion in bonuses to teachers with master's degrees, even though the idea that a higher degree makes a teacher more effective has been mostly debunked.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 3:02 PM

Fun facts-the # of teachers in district 97 has increased from 302 EFT(full time equivalent) in 1990 to 465 EFT for the current school year or by 55%( D97 Personnel and student Data Report 2010) In addition to the EFT, 101 teaching assistants are currently on staff -The student to class room staff ratio is 10 to 1. The student to full time D97 employees is 7.3 to 1 Enrollment during the same period has increased by only 15% (4797 in 1990 ,5506 in 2010)

E. Jackson  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 2:42 PM

Is there a better district we can use for a comparison?

E. Jackson  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 2:40 PM

Plus, the difference in the percentages for the ISAT subgroups are pretty significant between the two - 24.7 percent African American in D97 versus 1.2 percent for Hinsdale; 19.3 percent low income for D97 versus 2.3 for Hinsdale; and 15 percent IEP for D97 versus 11.2 for Hinsdale.

E. Jackson  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 2:31 PM

If we're basing things off the latest state report cards and budgets, not sure what math you're using, OP. Per the 2010 state report cards, D97 has 392 teachers and 5421 students while Hinsdale has 279 teachers and 4040 students. Average teacher salary for Hinsdale is $12,000 more. Ed fund for D97 this year is $57,104,231, while it is $45,415,213 for Hinsdale (smaller district). And, 92 percent of funding for Hinsdale comes from property taxes, while the percentage is 70.9 for D97.

OP tax payer/D97 parent (JRussell)  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 1:58 PM

Is my math off? D97 is budgeting to spent $78Million in 2010-2011 and educate about 5400 students. Isn't that $14k/ student? Hinsdale pays $12k/pupil. And makes a top 10 list where no D97 schools makes the top 100. (Most of the fifth graders I know do NOT know Spanish beyond Dora.) I think we do well, I know we must do better. "NO" may be the only way to force some big changes. I'm open to ideas that don't force less affluent families out of OP because 14k is the top they can pay!


Posted: February 14th, 2011 1:42 PM

> 17.4 students per teacher in Oak Park. None of my kids were in a class that had fewer than 22 kids in it. You must be including Specials teachers, reading specialists in here or...something? 22 kids isn't exactly Blackboard Jungle or anything, but if you think we have classes with 17-18 kids in them, you are wrong.

S. D. Plissken  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 1:13 PM

Chet 21, I completely understand your anonymity: it is your right and you should exercise it as well your right to public comment and resulting public criticism. I cannot argue against you that taxes are high, as they are high, and that is a simply as I can state my thoughts. Alas, such is the cost of living here and I think everyone, new and old, had knowledge of that when deciding to live here. It was never a secret, that I know of.

Brian J. Slowiak from oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 12:57 PM

n response to the teacher baggnight from oak park and the statement that everyone is out to get teachers. i remember back to 1974 when there was a residency requirement for Oak Park police and fire fighters. The public paid teachers were silent as stones about moving into Oak Park. Double standard for public employees? you bet.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 12:42 PM

S.D., you are correct in your post. I MUST remain anonymous - think "Federalist Papers" -:)! I am, though, sincere in my praise of D97 - teachers AND principals. I also have numerous friends and family members who are/were teachers. Some, though, are not in touch with the reality of their privilege of "job for life," pay and benefits. JRussel is correct, but when some write "we have Masters Degrees!" and "no social security!" well, a clarification is warranted. Bottom line - taxes are 2 hi!

Baggnight from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 12:35 PM

Chet21... for as much as you are posting.. you must be one of the unemployed. I will enjoy my padded salary and 12 weeks of vacation thinking of you.

S. D. Plissken  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 12:13 PM

Hi praise indeed , Cet21! You seem to kiss in the front and KICK in the backside with the ""Masters Degrees"? C'mon, we all know that you get these questionable degrees to pad your pay on the salary schedule-and that you typically obtain them from schools which we/you wouldn't send our children to (i.e, Northeastern)." comment. I think it good(for you) that you shield your identity as many of the D97 teachers are your neighbors.

OP tax payer/D97 parent (JRussell)  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 12:12 PM

Our D97 teachers are almost universally exceptional. This is a financial discussion about resources and investment choices. It is reasonable to note that state employees incomes have grown at 4x the rate of inflation, about 60% in 15 years, but not to make it a personal attack on our teachers.

OP tax payer/D97 parent (JRussell)  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 11:57 AM

About the budget. D97s budgetd revenue in 02 was $50MM, 04 was $53MM, 08 was $62MM. Today it is $68Million. Always, D97 budgeted expenditures > revenue. When do we get to insist that taxing bodies can not spend above income? And demand a return (i.e. success) on investments? I am undecided on the ref, but know that taxpayers have consistently paid more, I am not sure that the District is consistently doing better. More revenue for less results is not a sustainable model.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 11:27 AM

In the meantime, I'd appreciate being told by Mr. Jascula why we're being told about the salary freeze, but not, per Trib Local, what was given in return regarding retirement benefits and programs? Are we not supposed to be told about the details/fine print? I'm wondering if the taxpayers are being strummed like suckers?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 11:21 AM

C'mon "Resident" and "baggnight" - I'm shouting from the mountains that I'm grateful for your efforts - but, sadly, OP/States are going BK trying to pay for the current ed model. "Society" can't "retire" like you at 57-with a $75K pension. 12 wks of vacation per year? "Masters Degrees"? C'mon, we all know that you get these questionable degrees to pad your pay on the salary schedule-and that you typically obtain them from schools which we/you wouldn't send our children to (i.e, Northeastern).

Resident from Oak Park   

Posted: February 14th, 2011 10:45 AM

The other thing people don't realize about the state defined BENEFIT pensions is that Illinois state employees don't get Social Security. I am also a state teacher. When I started, I had the option to choose a defined CONTRIBUTION plan, which is basically a 403b (like 401k). So when I read about the pensions, and all the hate toward teachers who get defined BENEFITS, it doesn't even refer to the retirement plan I have. Most people are just ignorant to the facts.

baggnight from oak park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 10:22 AM

I do have a 403b that I choose to add money to. But I have NO option to say to the state... don't take my money for pensions... I want to keep my money for my own investment opportunities. That is not an option. Additionally... Pensions.. why doesn't the "tax payers" complain about military, police, fire... they get pensions to... and it is on YOUR DIME.

baggnight from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 10:19 AM

As a teacher in Oak Park, I often wonder WHY everyone is always out to get us. I have two masters degrees and working on a third. We take our job seriously and we do NOT just work 8-3pm... many work well into the night grading papers and projects. Lately everyone seems to be after pensions of teachers...When I became a teacher, this is what was agreed to by me and the district/state. It is not my fault. If there was only a 401b option, I would have signed up for it.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 9:56 AM

700 OP Section Eight families are the elephant in the room. Why are we avoiding this discussion? Achievement gap, fatherless children, health problems etc.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 9:00 AM

@jassen- How many total teacher do we presently have? How many total students? How many total teachers did we have 20 years ago? How many total students did we have 20 years ago? I think you will find the answer to that question enlightening? Are we doing any better then we were 20 yrs ago? Are the outcomes different/better?


Posted: February 14th, 2011 8:55 AM

There are no studies anywhere that equate more money with better educated children. There are plenty of local private schools that produce well educated students at a fraction of what the public schools spend. The school board needs to offer more in terms of budget cutting. This is not an all or nothing proposition. No to the referendum.


Posted: February 14th, 2011 8:29 AM

Oak Park public schools spend $8,077 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $5,678. There are about 17.4 students per teacher in Oak Park. This was found at: Found it interesting that we are spending more then ave, getting less then ave. results and asking for more.....

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 8:14 AM

During the real estate boom, D97 became complacent, resulting in a series of poor fiscal decisions. In 2003, D97 supported the downtown TIF extension until 2018. In 2008, D97 approved an overly-generous teacher's 5-yr. contract. In 2010, D97 acquiesced to the village re. their TIF disbursement shortfall. Rather than remedying their complacency with more property taxes, D97 should advocate TIF decommissioning, renegotiating teacher's contract, and hold the village accountable in TIF distribution.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 6:26 AM

I haven't read all the articles, and I'm not on top of everything that's been going on with this. (Shame on me!) From what little I understand, over the years money was supposed to get to the schools which never made it. All the developing that was supposed to send more money to schools. Taxes are high enough already. My concern is that we could agree to another tax increase and still not see the benefits in our schools. These matters never seem as straightforward as they should be.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 14th, 2011 6:11 AM

@Alan- Are you a parent? I am. What I offer at home turns out to be more like support. Children (at least mine) do a much better job of retaining what is taught in the classroom than what is introduced at home. There's something about the communal nature of the classroom setting that encourages them to learn more and do better. Let's not undermine the importance of professional educators in our community. While you have a point, the pros are often better suited for the "dirty work".

Alan D. Lord from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 11:46 PM

Hola, Ahalan, Bon Jour; where are you district 97 parents? You are allowed to teach your children too, or is that frowned upon in O.P. It is not up to dist 97 to do all of the dirty work. Oh, I forgot most of the 97 parents are too busy to put forth any effort. Make the teachers do all the work and then complain our kids are behind. Parents have a major role in a child's education. Oops did I make a traditional statement? The thought police will definitly find me.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 10:58 PM

Just a general comment,I'd like to know how much time the District staff is devoting behind the scenes to this?I'm aware that Jassen and his team are meeting and greeting OPers 2 get the message out,but on Friday afternoon I see below Mr Jasculca representing OP97 was posting.Are they scared that they are going to lose their jobs?I don't see how they can be impartial on a forum like this.If they are unfairly interfering,do we need 2 talk to attorneys to get this Referendum off the Ballot?

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 10:27 PM

@Chet21 -- Don't be silly, I have two school-aged kids so I'm certainly not "anti-children". I want them to have the best education possible. My point is that I could be convinced that D97 needs the money if what they were asking for wasn't so random and superfluous. IPads and Smart Boards? Outdoor classrooms? Come on! (I think you and I agree based on your last post)...

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 10:02 PM

@Jassen.I Have been reading the website.Basically I'll explain the 'plan'so others on here don't have to read it-More Technology in the classroom, and the rest is maintain the Status Quo,of Teacher spending commitments to 2015(?)We are borrowing to standstill,as this bond will be spent with the next operating cycles,but the debt will remain for much longer.What if the economy,and the Property Values don't recover?Another Referendum?I'm not sure you understand the Finance of this.Scary times.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 9:48 PM

Jassen and Ref Cmte: I understand why 3rd grade parents are worried-you have no depth of experience. Let me help: my kids ( many peers) are done with D97 and are now top students at OPRF and University - and much of that is due to D97. Did they have "Smart Boards?" No. Did they use M-C Dept? Nope. Spanish immersion? Nope - and don't make me laugh about that! But thriving post-97? YES!!! So, relax - and try to understand that super-high prop taxes are killing the OP community. Reduce expenses!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 9:38 PM

"No" - do you mean that millions spent on "new playgrounds" won't help?!? Are you anti-children? I repeat, my kids have received a wonderful ed from D97-most of their teachers were great. But society AND OP simply can't afford the ed model any more. Look at our prop taxes. It's not just OP, but everywhere - in all states. There's a reason why 250 apply for teaching positions-great pay & benefits for 9 mos of work. The bubble is bursting-along with the values of our homes. Prop taxes are toxic.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 8:52 PM

Okay, Jassen, I've spent some time learning about this "plan"...and now I'm furious! If you or anyone else believes that extended technology, more foreign language, updated classrooms, and new playgrounds will fix OP schools, and make them competitive in the state, you've lost your minds. It won't hurt, I'm sure, but it doesn't even start to get at the real issues. You want funding for "nice to haves"! Well, not on back...


Posted: February 13th, 2011 8:45 PM

@jasen FUNDING is Fault? Why is it, in Gov entities - all anyone talks about is Funding - never on Expenses - until it is time to talk about Funding. Most taxpayers understand about Caps - and that is a good thing. What is Bad is SPENDING more than you have. It this does occur - than show the Taxpayers the results - oops, there are not any to share. There is the problem. Maybe the truth will help save this referendum. Lets hope so.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 8:29 PM

@Jassen Strokosch -- thanks for the information on the proposed improvements. Now, as soon as I see some actual accountability built into the plan we can have a real discussion. Oh, and how many iPads do you think we need to make the faculty more "tech savvy"? And can I get my taxes refunded if the schools' ranking continue to slide despite additional taxes? Nice rhetoric....still unconvinced.


Posted: February 13th, 2011 6:40 PM

I disagree with Jassen Strokosch.


Posted: February 13th, 2011 5:03 PM

There are actually facts about improvements given in several of the documents and presentations provided by the District. One area is language fluency, with a goal of all students being proficient in a 2nd language by 9th grade. Also, improving technology access for all students. The old Macs are almost dead! Also, improving playgrounds and green space. Finally, more rigorous curricula like IB, advanced math, writing and research, etc. This isn't money to stay "as is."

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 5:01 PM

@David and others - I would never expect to convince any of you to vote yes on the referendum from these comments. If you really want to hear more about what the district has done, plans moving forward and to ask those tough questions, there are many public forums scheduled between now and April 5th. The next one is on Thursday at Beye school at 7PM. Please attend and I will be happy to talk with any of you in person.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 4:59 PM

@No on the REFERENDUM - I totally agree that "just more money" is not the solution either. But I disagree that their aren't improvements tied to the referendum. This has been discussed a great deal. I would encourage you to watch the superintendents presentation at Irving back in November which can be found here:

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 4:53 PM

@David - Great questions an tough to answer here but funding any school district without referendums is almost impossible in Illinois. To way oversimplify the issue, you have a cap on revenues but not on expenses. Districts have to be more efficient and find cuts but sooner or later they need new revenue. The plus side of this is that unlike many taxing bodies, our elected Board is forced to go to the voters and give them a choice. Democracy in action.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 4:28 PM

1st post 4 me on here.Great Discussion.I agree with No Referendum. @Jassen - Thank u being civic minded & starting ur group.But we can't just raise taxes and hope that this fixes the underlying issues.We are not an underfunded District by any means.There seems to be no plan by the District,less letting a few staff go and collecting the bond proceeds to get them through 2 the next spending review with the Oak Park Teachers Association.I am waiting to see anything to convince me to vote Yes.Thanks

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 2:50 PM

@Jassen Strokosch - Thanks for your comment, I appreciate intelligent and civil discussion. But framed as it is now, the referendum has no relation to any actual improvements for District 97. Just more money. So, how can anyone serious about improving the district support it? Please help me understand how this isn't just throwing money at a problem and hoping for the best...

Referendum No from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 10:09 AM

Follow us on Twitter!/ReferendumNo

Referendum No from Oak Park  

Posted: February 13th, 2011 9:02 AM

@ Enuf, NO on REFERENDUM, Chet21, RD KPost OPTaxpayer, CTT and Join this Facebook Group -

Paramedic Steve  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 5:14 PM

@ Enuf is Enuf: somebody called the wahmbulance?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 4:59 PM

@Curious: From 1999 to 2009, my property tax increased 144% for D200, 401% for the Park District, and 106% for the Village of Oak Park. I live in a typical OP house compared to the median OP property value of $388,800 (U.S. Census, 2005-09 ACS), so these increases appear to be the norm. D97 claims a structural budget deficit, but OP households w/ a median income of $72,435 (U.S. Census, 2005-09 ACS) paying over $10,000/year in total property taxes have a more severe structural budget deficit.

Hans from River Forest  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 3:06 PM

Please vote yes on this referendum. Without more funding Oak Park's school are in danger of becoming relegated to Forest Park status. And OMFG have you ever been to Forest Park? It's HORRIBLE. District 97 schools don't even have swimming pools, it is absurd. I really worry about our children's future.


Posted: February 12th, 2011 12:49 PM

@ Enuf - Since we haven't lived here long enough to do this tax bill comparison... What is the OPRF tax increase over the same period? Park District? Thanks.


Posted: February 12th, 2011 12:35 PM

More Money does NOT equate to Improved Results in the Classroom. WHY not? Well, more money on top of deep routed problems, only make the problems even more deep routed. If more money would begin to solve the Problems - low reading skills and GAP even in 3rd grade for many - people would dig deeper. Also, D97 continues to want to blame OPRF for the Achievment GAP - yet it is the one that allows these issues to fester for years, until they are attending HS. Yes, OPRF is at fault as Well

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 11:24 AM

I suggest everyone to review their property tax bills to gauge D97 allotment relative to total property taxes, CPI, and income. For example, during 1999-2009, our total property tax has increased 107% and D97 property tax has increased 77%. During the same time period, the CPI (BLM, Chicago area) has increased only 25%, and mean household income (U.S. Census, Oak Park) increased only 22%. While our home's EAV has increased significantly, it is an asset that can't be used to pay property taxes.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 10:01 AM

@No on REFERENDUM - Sorry you feel that way about the referendum. Glad to see we can agree on one thing, it is good to keep this about improving D97 and delivering results. On that point we can agree.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 12th, 2011 6:02 AM

It's nice to know about "ten years of cutting costs", but the fact is that we in Oak Park pay among the highest taxes in the state for our schools and they are still just mediocre. Funny...the referendum COULD be about how this will make District 97 one of the top 5 school districts in the state (which would REALLY raise our property values), but it sounds like its mostly about grabbing more money, not delivering results. That's just sad and wrong.

Referendum NO for Oak Park, IL from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 9:24 PM

@Terry Dean Please write an article about the NO Group.

Referendum NO for Oak Park, IL from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 9:11 PM

Referendum NO for Oak Park, IL

Carollina Song  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 8:01 PM

One final comment for now: it's easy to express opinions but very difficult to have a substantive conversation in 500 characters or less. Good thing I'm not on Twitter, where you only have 140 characters!

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 7:56 PM

@chet21-To be clear, I was referring to the means (aka avgs) of two dif. sets of #s (salary & experience), not the median (the number in the middle of a series of #s) as you did. As shown in your link, salaries range from $42K-$97K depending on educational level and yrs of experience. For example, at Holmes we have renowned teachers w/decades of experience. We also have entire grade level teaching teams comprised mostly of teachers w/ 1-3 yrs exp. who are doing great things in the classrm.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:48 PM

Mr. Jascula, I couldn't access one link (ref-faq), but the one link and their cuts sounded stupendous. 30 certified staff were cut?!? No way. My kids were at the schools then and, yes, the union did combine 4/5 grades and fired a couple of teachers to pay for their raise, but all slots were refilled 2 years later. Need specifics on this, but otherwise I was just reading "govt accounting" - where a "cut" still equals an increase. Vote NO and then we'll get serious with a review of the number.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:35 PM

Ms. Song, where did you get your salary info from? Here's the current step table: D97 teacher with Masters, 13 years, is at $66,500 - not $52,000. I believe that EVERY D97 teacher after 5 years is at $52,000 . THIS is why I'm so scathingly skeptical of Robert's propaganda piece of 38 pages - people either don't understand numbers or deliberately deceive. When the ref fails - I'll be there to perform the due diligence.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:31 PM

@Westchester.Can you give me the % of teachers and administrators that work within the Village limits?Why did you leave in 2004 - where the taxes too high for you?Maybe you can buy a foreclosure/short sale from a current resident who is trying to sell after being buried under the high taxes? I'm sure all the Yes guys are loving Westchester posting on here... This is too easy! DOOMED!!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:28 PM

Alright, just read the link from D97. Need to know basis of numbers. REALLY wish to know about the cuts. NO specifics. None. I'm guessing that an asst admin was let go, but that's hardly been missed. It just reflects previous fat. When the ref fails, I'll step forward and assist in putting together the REAL numbers and facts. I repeat, I DO think highly of what the teachers did for my kids.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:22 PM

The information about the decade of cost savings can be accessed by visiting and can also be found on I apologize for having to leave this site for now, but I need to get home to my wife. Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you have additional questions.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:20 PM

Because the salary freeze represents a change in the district's collective bargaining agreement with the teachers, there must be a memorandum of understanding to that effect added to the agreement. The memorandum must be approved by the board, which is scheduled to take place at a board meeting later this month or early in March.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:12 PM

Mr. Jascula, thanks for the link info. Next question? What is Trib Local referring to when they write "the teachers asked for in return...."? If this is a "done deal," why isn't it "done" yet? Ms. Song, what "cuts" are you referring to? Every year for 10 years? Then we should have a budget surplus right now! Please provide link to the "10 years of cuts." Thanks.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:04 PM

As for your other question, I am prohibited from advocating for or against the referendum as a district employee. The only thing I am allowed to do in my role as a district employee is to provide information as I have done on this site. You can access the list of dos and don'ts for employees by visiting However, all district employees do have the right under the law to advocate for or against the referendum as private citizens on non-compensated time.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 5:58 PM

Referendum Doomed - I am actually posting in my official capacity as the communications coordinator for District 97. I lived in Oak Park from 1998 to 2004, currently live in Westchester, and have been considering a possible return to Oak Park the past year or so. There are currently 177 certified staff members and 13 administrators living in Oak Park. Please feel free to contact me directly ( if you have additional questions or post them here and I will respond when I can.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 5:55 PM

@Jasculca. Does your 'D97' mean you work as a teacher for the schools? Are you participating on either side of a referendum during compensated work time? Aren't there rules against this?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 5:28 PM

Mr. Strokosch ... I'm not requesting meaningful discussion, simply monetary numbers. I am directing the 1st question to you & D97 as other taxing bodies are not seeking a referendum ... you are. The 2nd question is asked because it seems disingenuous for D97 to complain about State of Illinois funding while at the same time getting more General State Aid due to property tax revenue diverted from D97 to TIFs. As for the 3rd question, simply post the IGA and D97 calculations and let the public decide.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 5:19 PM

Double digit health care costs and no signs of slowing. Google teacher health costs and you'll find this is a nationwide problem. The solution is have all D97 (and 200 too!) staff pay 25 to 30% of their health premiums. OP currently picks up 100% of employee single premium. To insure families they employee picks up a share. Zero single coverage cost is so attractive that we probably have close to 100% enrollment even in dual income families with other insurance options.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 5:13 PM

@RD-The fact is that D97 has cut its budget every single year for the last ten years. I don't see how you get from that easily verifiable fact to the quote from one of your previous comments regarding D97's "free-spending days that we are trying to clean up in 2011". People can in good faith differ about the need to pass the referendum, but lets work from the same set of facts.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:55 PM

JASCULCA - where do you live/pay tax? You have from Oak Park - District 97. Sneaky. Teacher from the western 'burbs? I would like to know the statistic that shows the number of (a) teachers and (b) administrators that ACTUALLY live in OP and pay taxes here, especially the strategic management.I don't see that anywhere online, and I cynically don't think I ever will.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:49 PM

@chet21-Bottom line is that teachers, as well as admins, took a pay freeze (rate & step), and it still doesn't eliminate the need for a referendum. Is it your assertion that D97 teachers are overpaid? 72% of D97 teachers have a masters deg. They avg 13 yrs of experience, for which they earn an avg salary of $52000. That puts their salary at the 50th percentile of their peers in comparable school districts. Considering how important the job is, I want D97 to attract & retain good teachers.


Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:43 PM

Some of the repeated comments on this board remind of Ronnie Woo-Woo who shouts the same thing over and over at Cubs games. We get it... you hate the MC dept., elem. Spanish, Central Office folks, teachers having raises, etc. It's obvious nothing will change your mind. We get it!

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:41 PM

DJ - I never said that foreign languages were a 'waste.'And if the MC Dept isn't a 'waste' and I am indeed portraying subjective conjecture as fact, then why is is being rolled out by the Administration as one of the departments to be cut in it's entirety if they fail the referendum?Because it isn't needed,never was and is a relic of the free-spending days that we are trying to clean up in 2011...

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:04 PM

Additional information about the referendum can be accessed by visiting

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:01 PM

These reductions, totaling nearly $1.3 million, include restructuring the summer school program and Multicultural Department, reductions of district office administrative positions and an administrative pay freeze for the 2011-2012 school year.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 3:58 PM

Actually, chet21, pages 16 through 31 of features information about Dr. Roberts' vision for the district if the referendum passes. In addition, features information about reductions, including those that will be made regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 3:50 PM

Carollina, thanks. Ask the ref cmte to obtain the info that you are seeking. It was nirvana for D97 as they took every penny that they could (while saying "tax caps are coming!") after a reassessment. Our prop taxes skyrocketed. CPI HAS been low - raises step, though, were much greater - esp compared to the rest of us. Another reason for a freeze. The SOLE reason for the ref is status quo PLUS raises. Gosh, they can't even get rid of the M-C dept!?! Ref wins - they'll expand that?

OP tax payer/D97 parent  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 3:48 PM

Chris, you do a great job. I hope you are right. But to point out his "work in the area of diversity" in a district that report in as 94% non-Hispanic white, and 7% eligible for free/reduced lunch program seems a bit of distraction technique. I appreciate the Blue Ribbons, certainly may salve the burn of CCE AND the High School failing to make AYP. His financial acumen resulted in 53 teachers being laid off just before he high tailed it out of town, in advance our the D97 job.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 2:14 PM

That track record included the district being recognized for excellence in financial reporting and energy conservation, and several of its schools earning either national or state-wide Blue Ribbon status in conjunction with the Blue Ribbon Schools Program. He was also acknowledged for his work in the area of diversity at the local and county levels.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 2:11 PM

The Board of Education's exhaustive search for a new superintendent included a site visit to Dr. Roberts' former district. The board members met with an extensive cross section of people in Clarkston (teachers, board members, parents, etc.) who were complimentary of his work and track record for success, and highly recommended him for the position here in Oak Park.

OP tax payer/D97 parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 1:31 PM

I wish I could feel more confident in Dr. Roberts stewardship, but his history is not promising. When the MI senate announced retirement incentives to reduce education bloat, it took Al 2 weeks to send his board an e-mail, grab $40k incentive buy-out and his full pension and jump into $195k/year post here. Clarkston message boards are not short of folks who believe he mismananged their schools and funds, then turned his double dipping,system gaming to the next patsies to tax

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 1:21 PM

Here's what I do know about the burden on OP taxpayers: the fed. govt supplies 7% of annual D97 budget (should be >14%); the state of IL is one of the worst in the US for funding education, supplying 23% of the annual budget (as opposed to the 50% mentioned in the state constitution). OP doesn't have a big industrial or commercial tax base. All of this leaves residential home owners to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden for adequately funding education.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 1:15 PM

@chet21-CPI has been extremely low in recent yrs:1-2%. CPI was .2% (yes, point two percent) in the last year or so, meaning revenue was basically flat. Healthcare costs alone have often had double-digit increases. I've only lived in OP for 15 yrs, so I can't speak w/any certainty as to surpluses 20 yrs ago.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 12:48 PM

Carollina, D97 revenue, per tax caps, increases EVERY YEAR (per CPI) - but D97 expenses have been outpacing this increase. Revenue, therefore, has NOT been cut. Also, stop with the "D97 hasn't had a tax increase ref in 20 yrs stuff!" Why? Because they didn't need it - they gouged us every property tax reassessment prior to tax caps taking place. They had a HUGE SURPLUS. Have you noticed, OP taxes are VERY high? Ask your ref cmte to review this matter, please.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 12:39 PM

@ CTT-As a matter of fact, the D97 middle schools are NOT on the academic watch list. (Are you confusing D97 with a different local school dist.?) Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Supt. Roberts has spoken powerfully about a vision of excellence for D97, including more rigor at the middle school level. I hope he is given the chance to succeed. I fail to see where cutting $$ for the schools is a viable roadmap for continued improvement.

CTT from OP  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 12:14 PM

The $50 million middle schools are on the sttae watch list for incompetency. Where I come from, success leads to pay increases, not failures. Let the teachers dliver the educational product and then they can come to their employer (the taxpayer) for a pay raise. That's all the referendum is about, pay and benefits for the teachers.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 12:08 PM

D97 has not gone for an operating funds referendum in 20 yrs. So that percentage increase should be spread out over that 20 yrs, not one year. I would venture to guess that your house's value has increased in value by more than 11.5% over that 20 yr span, even with the recent drop in housing prices. Tax caps create structural deficits that often cause local school dists. to go for referendum every 5-6 yrs. D97 has avoided that by cutting its budget every year for the past 10 yrs. from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 10:18 AM

Reality check. Last year OP97 accounted for 32.07% of my prop tax bill. If $37 per $1000 is the correct figure(?)for the increase, then effectively OP97 is looking for an 11.54% increase on their tax district line item. That's crazy talk. I will accept the first cashier's check made out for the proportionate value of my home to my tax bill (my current taxes have doubled in 10 years, I don't think my home value has).

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 10:00 AM

@Enuf is Enuf - As I think you would agree, any meaningful discussion of the TIF in 500 characters or less isn't possible. The short answer is most of these question should be directed at other taxing bodies, not the referendum committee or D97. The one that is within D97's control, #3, I will have to disagree with you on your assumption. The District received funds this fiscal year that are in line with, not contrary to, the 2003 agreement.

Enuf is Enuf  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 8:19 AM

Mr.Strokosch ... please respond to my previously posted questions; 1) Since 1983, how much D97 property tax revenue has been diverted to TIF districts, and how much more until 2018? 2) How much increased General State Aid has D97 received due to the diversion of taxes to TIFs that were intended for impoverished school districts? 3) Why did D97 approve a lower distribution of TIF funds from the village last year, contrary to the terms of the 2003 Intergovernmental Agreement, w/o analysis?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 8:04 AM

Yes, D97 HAS cut some of its "fat" the past few years - but nothing else. And 2 months ago they told us that they'd EXPAND/ADD programs once they win the ref. Spanish? Agree to disagree - but I'll make clear that I'd rather see more time spent on Math and English than Spanish. AYP shows the kids need that - not Spanish. Still want it? Pay for after school program with money you'll save after ref fails - rather than want everyone else to pay for it. This works in RF - why not OP?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 7:18 AM

@KPost - thanks for the question. In reading that Q&A again, it isn't very clear. I will rewrite that sentence so it is a bit more clear. Thanks again for the question.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 7:12 AM

@OPRF - "No one has cut any expenses" This is simply not true. Not only have there been many cuts in the past, the referendum requires the Administration continue to find additional cuts moving forward. If you want a long list, feel free to come and ask a question on the site and I can do so with more than the 500 characters allowed here.


Posted: February 11th, 2011 6:43 AM

@Chet is Correct. This freeze was not really a give back. The Union Traded something for the Freeze. We Taxpayers need to DEMAND that this be revealed. What was it - RETIREMENT Benifits? This is why the referendum push continues. No ONE has cut Any Expenses - and they are hoping the Taxpayers of OP miss this. Meanwhile - where is the Accountability and Questions on this? If the School Board for once was HONEST - just maybe they could get some support. But BOLD CUTS need to be made Now!


Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:31 AM

Chet21, you have repeatedly argued that because the RF schools do well without Spanish, Spanish must be of no educational value. As I and others on theses threads have pointed out, it is a logical fallacy to conclude from the premise that students do well without Spanish, that Spanish cannot help them do better, or that it cannot help struggling students in particular, or that it has no intrinsic value.


Posted: February 11th, 2011 4:20 AM

No, Jassen is not saying that increasing taxes increases property value. He is saying that one of the most important factors in affectng property values is the quality of the neighborhood schools. When folks like you and Chet21 say that multiculturalism and foreign languages are "waste," you are not stating fact, you are reflecting your own subjective bias. You are free to have that bias, but that's all it is.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 3:22 AM

"As for your home value, keeping our schools adequately funded is a great way to protect that value." I'm feel that you are looking at this too simplistically, so let's deal with facts. Tax revenues have decreased because real estate fair values have dropped 30-40% in Oak Park, so are you really arguing that INCREASING taxes to pay for the years of OP97 waste (Multicultural dept...) will halt or reverse this decline in 'value?' Jassen=Dreamland.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 10:52 PM

Teacher freeze? Trib Local from Feb3 quoted Supt Roberts that "he could not discuss what the teachers asked for...but mentioned retirement track issues," etc. What does this mean? Trading a "freeze" for something? Are we being misled? In the meantime, have Ref Cmte set up online donation box for those people wishing to give in lieu of tax increase. If ref means $350 increase - just donate that sum - every year. Add that to cuts and D97 will be a model for other districts!!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 10:31 PM

Scare tactics of $6M cuts - when the deficit is 1/4 - 1/3 that amount (and we have that and more in savings) is infantile. Yes, continuing the status quo (with Irvng redo more) will eventually lead to BK for D97, but that's why I want a new look at numbers - reflecting 2-yr freeze and non-essential cuts. Prop taxes in OP are super-high & D97 personnel, who I applaud, are well compensated. I'm just happy to not be hearing "it's for the children." Line out the door for faculty positions today.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 10:26 PM

Jassen, thanks for your comments. Freeze? My first request was to return to 2008/09 salary table. Having a 2-yr freeze and then moving forward (on pay) is close enough for me. Yes, we are NOW at the median, but this reflects a different era - the status quo of automatic (and generous) raises for school employees is over - it's the new reality. 2-yr freeze plus other cuts (Spanish at K-5 % M-C Dept) leave us where for the district?

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 7:32 PM

I don't get that. From ReferendumYes site "The median salary for District 97 teachers who earned a bachelor's degree ($42,272) or a master's degree ($47,344), and are not currently working toward earning an additional degree, is in the mean among peer districts that include...." what number of teachers are in that stat? From the taxpayer org site there were 463 teachers/aides/Special ed teachers and only 50 made less than the stated 47,344.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 7:19 PM

@Larry - "All I hear is we're going to cut programs for the kids. Boo-Hoo." I am sorry thats all you have heard. Many of the suggestions you make after that remark have already been done. Teachers take a pay freeze? Done. Cut back on admin? Done and pay freezes thrown in. As for your other comments, D97 shouldn't be held accountable for the choices that other taxing bodies have made. As for your home value, keeping our schools adequately funded is a great way to protect that value.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 7:08 PM

@Mary Ellen - Because you don't elaborate on your claim, I don't know why you believe the schools are mediocre. One measure of not being mediocre is that D97 has repeatedly won the Bright Red Apple Award. This award looks at a wide range of criteria and is given to those who excel across the state. In 2010, D97 was one of only 83 districts to receive the award. Is D97 the best? Probably not. Is there room to improve? Absolutely and our current administration has been saying that loudest of all.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 6:46 PM

@chet21, Thanks for sharing you opinion. I won't try and convince you that teachers aren't overpaid. Judging whether a profession if being compensated properly is pretty subjective and you made it clear where you stand. I do think it is worth noting that Oak Park teachers, relative to other peer districts, are in the mean in terms of compensation. While continued salary freezes sound great, at some point down the road we will need to stay competitive to attract good teachers

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 5:46 PM

My reasons for opposing this increase in the property tax remain the same. Property taxes here are astronomical--among the highest in the state. The quality of the elementary schools is mediocre and both middle schools are failing. Once the new monies start rolling in, there will be no incentive to improve the quality of the schools or to do a better job of negotiating with contractors and employee unions. In fact, the opposite is likely. More spending, mediocre results, at a higher price.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 5:18 PM

District 97 teacher - thanks for taking the 1-yr freeze - I'm asking for 2 years, though. Seems reasonable. You pay no social security and qualify for a full pension at least 3-4x greater than social security at age 57. Not bad for paying only 10% of salary. Provide details on health payment and coverage. Last I knew, D97 pays 20% of premium. This translates to $25,000 per year (20% of $5,000)?!? I honestly think that you guys do a very good job, but your pay, benefits and hours are very great.

District 97 teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 4:02 PM

This comment is to clear up any misinformation. The teachers union already voted to take a pay freeze for next year. We have always contributed to our retirement - it's 10% of my pay each year. I also pay over $5000 a year for insurance for me and my husband. I know that things are hard for lots of families now. I think it's great that people can share comments on this website but at least try to be accurate.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 3:52 PM

Next? How can RF schools win so many academic awards - and not have Spanish in its elementary schools? Simple - they don't need it. Neither does OP. Eliminate that, eliminate multi-cultural dept and do another salary freeze (as Rahm put it, "teachers aren't underpaid") and THEN see how things are. This ref is to continue the status quo gravy train AND more. Stop this madness and have pity for OP business owners and un/underemployed residents.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 3:48 PM

Let's begin by putting to rest the significance of the last ref being in 1989. Why haven't they gone to a ref since then? Simple, they gouged us PRIOR to tax caps being put in place. OP prop values were skyrocketing and D97 loaded up like pigs. They then combined this massive surplus with massive retirements to defer a ref for so long. Does ANY ONE think that OP taxpayers pay too little?

Larry Skiver from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2011 2:58 PM

Lets get real. My taxes are already high enough. All I hear is we're going to cut programs for the kids. Boo-Hoo. How about the Teachers take a pay freeze. Contribute to their retirement fund. What do they pay for medical ins. Cut back on admin. assistants. Start cutting at the top and then we'll see about a tax increase. Remember Gov. Quinn just raised my taxes. All Oak Park wants to raise raise raise my taxes. The value of my home went down but my taxes did not. Why is that? Stop the madness.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 9th, 2011 7:51 AM

The Committee to Support Oak Park Schools needs to respond to the following questions; 1) Since 1983, how much D97 property tax revenue has been diverted to TIF districts, and how much more until 2018? 2) How much increased General State Aid has D97 received due to the diversion of taxes to TIFs that were intended for impoverished school districts? 3) Why did D97 approve a lower distribution of TIF funds from the village last year, contrary to the terms of the 2003 Intergovernmental Agreement?

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