Send a clear message with D97 vote

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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It's a scary time to be the parent of children in District 97. For many of us, we look at the $14 million in cuts to our schools and wonder what we're going to do. If the April 4 referenda do not pass, our students face the loss of favorite teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a lower quality education. Our family is wondering if we'll need to move away from Oak Park to give our kids an excellent school. 

The taxpayers of our community are reaching the breaking point when it comes to taxes. Asking for $74 per $1000 of tax bill is just too much for some residents. There's no denying that we need to work harder for Oak Park to become more affordable. But devastating the very programs and curricula that make D97 attractive is not the way to do it. The proposed cuts would undermine our children, your home value, and the educational system in Oak Park. 

We have a core value of wanting good public schools and I have faith that voters will make the correct decision by voting Yes on April 4. Even if that is an understandably difficult, expensive choice, our community steps up when the lives of young people are on the line. Send a clear message that we refuse to let our schools deteriorate. 

Oak Park believes in students having the arts, music, foreign language, librarians, modern classrooms ready for science and technology, and accessibility to all learners. 

Voters, thank you in advance for doing the right thing.

Kyle Eichenberger 

Oak Park 

Reader Comments

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Mary Pikul  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 9:28 PM

Here's another very doable cut - the schools really do not need a full-time librarian in each school. Trying to be tactful here -- Ordering books, labeling - with enough time to stand around - these should be half-time positions - shared between schools.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 9:18 PM

I did not like the "marketing" fact sheet the District put out and how the district is representing this. All doomsday. Scare tactics. If it was so dire, how is it we are just learning about this now? From their own website, they state they saw an increase in enrollment for years now. Knowing this, poor decisions were made - unnecessary purchases. And I really resent that they threaten to take away our children's arts programs. Frankly, what gives them the right to say that is the first to go? First, cut out who and what we do not need for the children. Because we do need the Arts. After all the schools are FOR the kids not for the adults. Cut administrative positions. Cut clerical hours. Cut hours on aides. Cut money toward things like field trips - if the District covers a portion. Parents or grants could pay for those. We do not need more than 1 Curriculum director. Eliminate 1 custodian per school or even 2. (Yes that is doable.) Reduce allotment toward use of supplies - laminating paper, copies, even garbage bags). Stop investing in stupid things like Fast ForWord and whole classrooms of new furniture when it is still functional. One District board member said replacing furniture was a safety matter. Do any of you parents reading this recall your kids getting hurt from their furniture? Even if one is broken, replace that one - not all of it. Do teachers get spending money? Reduce it. PTOs can help. Finally, I am low income but I do not rent. I own. Lots of families in single family homes just getting by. High taxes, high maintenance old OP homes. District 97 you need to help US out! Not the other way around. We pay you a lot as it is. Your role is to help us give our children an education - without driving us out, or to the point of poor maintained homes, having less quality of life because we have less money to spend to go out to eat and do things in Oak Park. So vote NO and Cut out what the children do not need. (That is less selfish.)

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 5:28 PM

"Needs" v. "wants" is a much easier discussion to have coming from a position of privilege in life. I continue to believe that Oak Park is a community that values arts, music, libraries, foreign language, accessibility, and air conditioning, regardless of a person's socioeconomic status or physical ability.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 4:45 PM

@ Ms Badillo. Welcome to OP. I hope you remain after your children are through with the education - it's definitely cheaper than paying for private education in Chicago. However, this 10% net increase is a lot and D97 is promising to do this again in around 5 years. Therefore, I don't blame you if you depart. You should also know that D97 has enough surplus money that zippo cuts will be necessary if this referendum fails. Point? Vote No in 2017, have a new board and citizens' group review things (do we really need the large PK3 & PK 4 program? Where will these kids go? After its implementation, will D97 determine that we need a brand new school because of the overall increase?) and then return with a much more sensible overall plan in 2018. I repeat, D97 has sufficient savings for this type of process. Let's do this right - it's too important to rush it.

Isabelle Badillo  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 1:53 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with the passage of both D97 referenda. While no one wants a property tax increase, we are left with no other alternative in a state in a budget crisis. I, my husband, and two children left Chicago for Oak Park because of it's excellent public school system. We accepted the heavy tax burden because we knew we were paying for quality public education. My son loves his art and music classes and library. Their cuts will be detrimental to the students as will the increase in class sizes above average if the referenda do not pass. They are just as important to contributing to well-rounded children as core classes are. We will do what we have to to ensure quality public education for our children and the children of Oak Park because this is obviously not the state's priority. So we wilI continue to make it our's. Nothing is more important than a child's education. I will vote YES and YES for both referenda and urge all who value education to do the same.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 2:31 PM

Well Ben for a D97 shill you achieved "mensch" (look it up - if you're not from NYC you might not be familiar) status, in my eyes, with your post.

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 9:40 AM

D97 shill here. On the admin building, I would just reiterate that the old building was not ADA-compliant. So while a new building may not have been a "need" for able-bodied people, accessibility was and is very important to many. And the district likely would have been lambasted (by many of the same folks) for sinking more than $3M into repairing/upgrading a building that would likely have needed to have been razed in the next five years. (Anyone remember the debate over high school parking garage?) The issue of "wants v. needs" is raised repeatedly in this discussion. Worth remembering that not everyone's circumstances in life are the same. BTW, I realize this same argument can be extended to asking people to pay higher taxes. For that reason, I fully respect those choosing to vote no because they simply cannot afford it or for other legitimate reasons.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 9:29 AM

@Maureen -- it can be sugar coated any way they want, when the government assesses your property higher the total amount you get taxed ends up increasing by some amount, and a chunk of that new higher amount is going to D97 now anyway. We watched taxes on a house go up from $7400 to $29000 one referendum and new assessment at a time before bailing on that. People hit a point where the lies about the arts programs going away fall on deaf ears.

James Hall  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 9:25 AM

I think Kyle should step up and pay my property taxes. It's for the children. No price is too high for Oak Park!

Kline Maureen  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 9:14 AM

@Tom MacMillan - just an FYI, the reassessment of property has NOTHING to do with the D97 levy. The levy is a dollar amount that D97 feels it needs to meet its budget. It doesn't matter what your house is worth, the taxing bodies need what they need to cover their expenses. Your property's value determines what portion of that need you have to provide. The tax rate that shows up on our second installment tax bills doesn't really mean much in terms of how much tax we owe. Taxes go up because taxing bodies increase their budgets which increases the amount they ask us for (the levy - a dollar amount) - not because assessments go up.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 11:08 PM

Oh but Barbara Joan, as the shills for D97 will tell you, the Ad building doesn't count, since all that money came out of a TIF - sort of like it came from Mars.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 10:49 PM

So now its being called a "cut" when you don't get the excessive tax increase you ask for? All the property in town was just assessed higher already without the referendum. D97 is going to be just fine. We need to vote NO.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 6:01 PM

"The taxpayers of our community are reaching the breaking point when it comes to taxes.'..already reached broke! Vote NO! Hope everyone loves the new $10 MILLION Administration Building that isn't needed_.

Stephen Kelly  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 5:32 PM

D97 should go after the high school instead of the tax payers. They have an extra 100 million set aside for a rainy day. They can also afford to pay several of their athletic (gym) teachers over 175k. Look it up - its publicly available information. Oak park needs childless families, too, if we want to continue to have an excellent education system.

Hazel Miller  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 3:50 PM

If this referendum doesn't pass I hope they sell all of those useless, distracting, addictive pieces of junk iPads. Parents, your kids are so distracted by these things it is a wonder they learn anything.

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