Examining potential District 97 cuts: Arts

'Part of the learning comes from actually doing'

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Wednesday Journal has been profiling some of the programs on the reduction list leading up to the vote. This week focuses on arts.

Sadie Coffman seems to have a laser-like focus as she holds a green marker in one hand and a tiny piece of wood in the other.

The 12-year-old is carefully scribbling on the tip of wood—she's done four or five tiny pieces already. And as she's doing this, she doesn't seem to be at all distracted by her teacher who's talking to other students—fellow after school arts club members—or the sounds of The Doors playing on a CD in the background. Coffman actually chose the song, Light My Fire, by the 1960s rock group, her teacher, Todd Leban said.

The seventh-grader is a pretty gifted artist, according to her art teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School. She and other club members on this afternoon are sculpting guitars out of blocks of wood. They're all roughly the same size and shape—a little over a foot long—but they are different types of guitars. Coffman's is a rock-style guitar she's painted silver. The little pieces of green-tipped wood are meant to represent the turning keys used to tighten and tune the strings.

The club meets four times throughout the school year in Leban's third-floor classroom.

Leban has taught at Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth Ave., for 9 years. His applied arts class is for seventh-graders but the arts club is open to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

His class has about 25 students, roughly the same amount kids for other art classes taught at Brooks. If the District 97 referendum fails on April 5, the district has announced plans to eliminate all art classes across the district for the fall term.

Kristiana Murray, who's taught art for six years in the district at both Brooks and Percy Julian Middle School, says she sees about 200 kids throughout the school year while teaching six classes. Another art teacher instructs at both middle schools, splitting time during the day. She and Leban, both tenured teachers in the district, are among four art instructors who have received reduction in force notices from the district. A total of 50 teachers across all subjects in the district have received pink slips.

If the referendum does fail, Murray said there's been talk of having one teacher in each middle school teaching art. Among the sections she teaches is art culture, where the students learn about and make art from different cultures. India was one of their projects this school year. Her fine arts class focuses on specific elements of art as well as the history of the subject.

Murray's students have made wood carvings and knitting, and have made decorative masks using a variety of items. On a desk are dozens of masks made by her students, many very elaborate. Across the hall is Leban's classroom, but it's not your typical woodshop class, he explains.

His students do use drills and saws for some of their projects.

"It's basically built out of sculptural and functional objects," Leban says of the class. "For a lot of the students that I have, it's one of the brightest spots of their day. Part of the learning comes from actually doing."

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Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:58 AM

Democracy: two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. This will hurt property owners in the community. The idealists won this round, but the pragmatists will win out eventually. They have to.

OP resident  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:44 AM

Thanks, Adele.

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:25 AM

@OP Resident_ Good point re ways this wasn't divisive. I think many people on both sides of the vote struggled with legitimate concerns of all.

OP resident  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:24 AM

Also, I think you will find agreement on both sides that the way we fund schools is unfair. Illinois is something like 48th in terms of funding, and so it all rolls down to individual communities, as the unfunded mandates keep rolling in. If you aren't happy about this (I'm not) I suggest you speak up and try to get this changed on the state leve.

Admission is the First Step from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:22 AM

@Daniel: We have no choice but to accept it, the tax bills are imminent. You're right it's not taxation without representation...but that doesn't mean we have to like the results. Given the tone of this whole referendum debate, it will take just a minute to heal. Heck, if the result had been the other way, the sour grapes would have been even more sour. Have you never complained about the actions of an elected official that you voted against?

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:21 AM

@Daniel_ I do accept the outcome of the democratic process. And I've seen sour grapes from both sides ( I've never been accused of being a Tea Bagger before!!) However, if the outcome was the reverse, I would be very uncomfortable attending a "victory" party knowing how important the yes vote was to many wishing to protect a rich curriculum for children.

OP resident  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:21 AM

@Adele, I don't think the referendum was a divisive issue. It brought a lot of people together and got us talking about how we value our schools and want to make them better. I do think Oakpark.com is a divisive place, though.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:14 AM

Adele, read the various threads on this topic. Of course, those who supported the referendum are happy about the result. But did you notice the abundance of nasty sour grapes by those who opposed it? Can't we just accept the result of a democratic process?


Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:12 AM

Let's have a party....I just made the rest of Oak Park pay for my kids' music lessons! See...I'm a good parent now!

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:02 AM

Weird to see people celebrating this divisive issue; apparently not considering how this increase, and generally oppressive tax structure is burdensome and prohibitive to middle class. This "yes" vote is just one of many aggressively consumptive taxing bodies in OP; the cumulative which us "poor folk" can't afford. Will now pay 11.5K on currently valued 325K home (same value as 8 yrs ago). That is, until the next tax increase. So yes, eat, drink, and be merry as you celebrate.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:35 AM

Each Oak Park child is a snowflake, unique and delicate...

angie coffman from madison  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:54 PM

i am angie coffman and i will support my protester (and daughter), sadie coffman, every day also!! sadie, you inspire me to keep my old brush in my own hands! keep doing what you're doing and i'm sure those younger children will have art to change their futures too! i love you and could not be more proud! you're awesome and artistic and that is even more awesome!! ;) keep lighting that fire!

sadie coffman  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 9:50 PM

It makes me so sad that my future career could be thrown out like this. I want to be an artist, and i will protest every day to make sure I can do my art at my school. The art teachers here have changed my as well as my outlook. It scares me to find I have no say in my education. What I love. My art is my person, without my schools help the brush will fall from my hands and i will loose my inner artist as well as so many young children. Yes I am sadie coffman,and i will protest everyday.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 4:07 PM

Some houses are selling but at low prices. It is very hard to move without take a big financial hit once you have purchased an Oak Park home. So people who move here are truly stuck. The problems aren't necessarily a result of mediocre school performance. The high level of street crime, lack of amenities, proxmity to the declining West Side of Chicago depress property values. But you can't fix all that with higher taxes and our high property tax burden adds to the negative side of the ledger

Already Voted NO from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 3:33 PM

Sort of the same on our block with one home on the market almost 1 yr with even several reductions in the price. 2 more could not sell and are rented. Scary!


Posted: April 5th, 2011 3:06 PM

D97's $100K teacher salaries sure haven't done much to prop up property values on my block, where at least 3 bank-owned homes sit vacant in spite of short sale prices.

Already Voted NO from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 2:41 PM

@JennyWren Totally agree with your statement! I am afraid the taxes here are going to make us unaffordable for a lot of young families to move here.

JennyWren from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 2:21 PM

The "property value" and the "not supportive of schools" arguments are the least valid of any reasons to vote yes. Lots of other factors influence property values-remember the sub-prime mortgage business? And Oak Park supports its schools at a higher rate than other "nice" western suburbs. There are other solutions besides a tax increase for saving programs-and those should have been implemented before another tax increase.

yes for property values and moral values  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 1:53 PM

Any thought that a no vote is going to make your home more attractive for sale is plumb wrong. People generally come to suburbs for schools. If the community does not support its schools, then the buyers will be looking to a different suburb, that does have schools with good community support. My daughter is Sadie, in the article, and she obviously benefits from these programs, as many other kids do. You know- you get what you pay for.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 1:43 PM

I would also note that there is no sign on the former entrance door directing people down the block. But again, I usually early vote so I don't know how long this has been in effect. Five attendants in the voting room, three eating lunch, so I presume moving the flag closer to the sidewalk wouldn't have been a serious inconvenience.

Voted no  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 1:33 PM

Yeah-I'm afraid that means this thing is going to pass. Too bad-

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park   

Posted: April 5th, 2011 1:28 PM

Went to Beye polling place at noon and found only one other person voting. Low turnout day? Since I last voted at Beye they have changed the old entrance to the polling place to another entrance down the block. The flag is set way in, not visible down the street. Normally I wouldn't think much of it but a couple of people coming along as we were going to our car seemed confused and about to leave altogether. Lots of yard signs on the school lawn, several pro-ref, 1 not. Legal?

Turn Paper Ballot Over to Vote  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 12:41 PM

Turn the paper ballot over to vote on the D97 referendum. I just returned from voting, and the D97 referendum was the only item on the rear side of the paper ballot. I had a difficult time finding it, even while knowing it was on the ballot. All elections and other referenda are on the front side of the ballot, and hardly anyone is going to be aware of the D97 referendum being located on the rear side.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:44 PM

D97's operating exp per pupil has increased 60% in the last 10 yr while enrollment has only increased by 6%. When the good are rolling, money didn't seem to matter. Now those times are gone, tax payers money matters. A fiscally prudent board would have kept taxpayers interest in mind & saved for the rainy days. Instead D97 consistently spent yr after yr, landing it in the bottom 20% IL sch districts with problematic finances. Cut comp costs not music & art.

Another No Vote  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 8:11 PM

D97 has gotten yearly increases and has not maintained a balanced budget - and until they are able to work within those parameters they do not have my trust. Voting no.

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:56 PM

@Chet: thanks for clarifying, that helps. Too many numbers and acronyms flying around.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:42 PM

@Adele. I made a mistake. Your overall prop tax bill will increase by CPI (perhaps more, depending upon what VOP does), BUT the $270 sum will be divided between ALL of the taxing bodies - NOT just to D97! D97 increase will be "x" (D97 figure) multiplied by 1.027. Sorry.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:23 PM

@Adele #2. True, the ref increase for D97 will be $380. However, D97 will also be receiving the 2.7% "natural" increase from the CPI. Therefore, IF the ref passes, your bill will increase by $380 & $270 - $650. If it fails, D97 will still receive $270. D97 is in this predicament because they have consistently been spending much more than CPI for the past 10 years. Their 5-yr budget has them still doing this & so they'll require another ref in 6 years. A "no" says "spend within revenue."

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 6:59 PM

@Adele. The actual increase will be the $38/$1000 and so you can expect to pay $380 more (based on your $10,000 present bill) if the ref passes. The "rumors," though, are that someone in 1/10 communities also having ref's on 4/5 (including RB. I think that "arc light" mis-read something) will bring suit IF a ref passes and seek to overturn it due to Chapman & Cutler not providing clear language (as Ali ElSaffar notes in my 6:11 post) on the ballot. D97 caught the error, but relied on Chapman.

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 6:40 PM

@Chet: please help me understand. With the equalizer, is the cost of passing the referendum actually $126.04 per every $1000 in property tax? If so, my $10, 000 tax bill will increase by $1, 126.00?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 6:18 PM

Pt. 2. As also noted by ElSaffar (and me), D97 has ALWAYS correctly stated that property taxes would increase by $38/$1000. HOWEVER, the ballot also provides information on the ref AND since it didn't include the "equalizer," it wrongly states that the increase is approx just 1/3 of the actual amt. Therefore, many voters will read this and vote based on the under-reported figure. Chapman, etc wrote this language and should be responsible for clarification to prevent the "tainted" ballot.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 6:11 PM

Pt. 1. @EJ. Are you saying that you don't know what the controversy is about? Here's from Trib Local: ElSaffar said ignoring the equalizer produces a inaccurate estimate that goes against the spirit of the law. To illustrate the difference, ElSaffar said Oak Park's ballot question states the district's property taxes would increase $37.40 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, but he said that number should read $126.04 once the equalizer is considered. (Cont'd).

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 5:57 PM

Arc, you want to jump in on how you know the R-B referendum was defeated? Another fine example of the 'No" side making up things. I try to post respectful, honest facts and opinions but to make that up? Amazing.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:27 PM

Chet - why would the yes campaign demand that Chapman and Cutler mail out a clarification when the $38 per $1000 figure hasn't changed?


Posted: April 2nd, 2011 1:22 PM

ArcLight - Are you able to see into the future? The Riverside Brookfield referendum vote is on April 5, not a couple weeks ago. They haven't even voted yet! Talk about making stuff up and spreading falsehoods.


Posted: April 2nd, 2011 1:01 PM

@Arc Light-yeah but did the yes side and the district threaten cuts to the arts as OP is doing? I don't think you can compare the two. And it is clear to me that this ref is not really about the children but about making payroll and pension.

Arc Light  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 11:58 AM

Just to let everyone know, Riverside-Brookfield District 208 referendum was shot down by the voters a couple of weeks ago. Riverside have MORE money per capta then Oak Park - and they voted it down......this don't look good for THIS referendum....

Arc Light  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 11:52 AM

I have a different take: what right does a public sector worker have double the pay, pension, and medical benefits that the neighbors (private sector) don't have? And worse yet, forcing us as neighbors to pay by dishing out half-truths, coercing, and now threats of shutting down programs. One more time: If the Unions and teachers were for children, take a 15% pay cut and put it in school operations. We KNOW that will never happen.....

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:43 AM

@Tired from OP. I guess that we should be grateful that the YES campaign, so far, hasn't publicly accused the NO side (and why don't we have a "campaign" like them?!?) of being disciples of Laurie Dann or Brenda Spencer. Perhaps I shouldn't be giving them the idea as their next "talking point"?

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:43 AM

@op parent: I'm actually doing both of those things already between typing...ahh, the wonders of mobile media! You're right, tho...I was assuming that you were real...and that was actually my mistake.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:38 AM

@op parent. I last posted at 9:44 and you quickly replied at 9:49. At 10:24 you again post. All of your posts, while including slams against NO people, refuse to acknowledge one simple truth - that the ref ballot is tainted. Do you consider this "faux," too? Why didn't the YES campaign immediately demand that Chapman & Cutler mail out a clarification? Certainly you knew that "but Ali said..." was pollyanish, right? But, no, even today you wrote it. "Whistling past the graveyard" strategy?

op parent  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:34 AM

maybe if you are bored you should turn on the tv or take a walk. Or, you know, talk to someone real.

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:30 AM

@op parent: Yeah, Noel Kuriakos must be asleep. I'm tired of his crazy yammering as well truth be told...but at least his messages change from moment to moment. The constant "it's for the children" and "for just a dollar a day" from the YES side sounds like a Sally Struthers commercial asking me to feed the children in Zimbabwe. Yawn.

op parent  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 10:24 AM

Tired, if you want to hear the No's constant drum-beat of misinformation and faux-outrage conspiracy theories, then it makes perfect sense why you are hanging out here. Carry on.

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:56 AM

@op parent: ...but the ballot language isn't. And the perception of many voters of what they are voting for (or against) isn't either. Please respond...I haven't heard those talking points in at least 4 days.

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:52 AM

@OP resident and op parent: If the correction actually mattered, I guess I wouldn't have minded it at all. But the fact that it's the Sun Times vs. the Trib (when the link was provided) makes little difference, does it? Chet21 is right...where was this righteous indignation and need to correct small errors of fact when the ballot language was shown to be in error? Oh, that's right....you were passing out buttons, memorizing your talking points, and blasting anyone who disagreed.

op parent  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:49 AM

Because the $38 figure is accurate.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:44 AM

@op parent. And it's better to have a misleading statement on the actual ballot? That doesn't bother you? Why hasn't D97 demanded that Chapman & Cutler send out a mailing to all OP registered voters and inform them of the extreme error on the ballot? Why haven't ANY "YES!" people expressed ANY concern on this? Why do they keep trotting out "but Ali said it's only $38/$1000" and understand that, gosh, many voters aren't reading the Wed Jrnl, etc? Why? Because "winning is everything" for them.

op parent  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 9:23 AM

yeah, heaven forbid anyone try to correct errors (a) in the morning and (b) days before election day. Better people should wallow in ignorance.

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 8:59 AM

Jeez, OP Resident, can you give it a rest? That's an "it's for the children", a correction, and two "it's just $38/1,000" talking points before 9am. Yawn.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:59 AM

Plus, the article makes no sense. It says $38 per $100,000? The argument is $38 per $1000 that you already pay in taxes. And I have seen a letter from the township assessor who agrees that the amount is $38/$1000. I think the reporter put in old quotes and didn't do her homework to find out the current info.

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:56 AM

@OP Resident: Oops, thank you!

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:55 AM

Cont..How are we to know and what are we to believe about the actual cost? $126 per $100K of market value is different than $36 per $1000 prpty tax. Salary schedules entitling ALL school personnel to automatically receive "step" increases for each year served plus 1-4% COL adjustmnt each year is what this ref is for. This ref is: raise tax to preserve automatic salary increases for all or cut classes for children.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:55 AM

Adele, your article is from the Sun-Times, not the Trib.

Adele from OP  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:48 AM

From today's Trib: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/4618608-417/referendum-questions-misstate-true-cost-of-passage-official-charges.html "ElSaffar, who is also the Oak Park Township assessor, trots that out as one of the miscalculations, noting the tax burden is more than triple that amount %u2014 $126.04 per $100,000 of market value"

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:41 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads, I don't find it "interesting" to take chances on our children's education. That's something on which I would rather not gamble.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:13 AM

I'm voting no on this referendum because I do not believe the proposed doomsday cuts are real and I believe the District will have little incentive for badly needed reforms as more money (much more money) pours in. We'll know soon if it passes.Then it might be interesting to watch the proposed cuts that are supposed to take place even if the ref passes. If the District suddenly "finds" the money to significantly reduce those "cuts," well, we've been had. It will be interesting to watch.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:10 AM

There is one secretary in each school building. Also, Noel, how do you know the district has 90 percent of email addresses? I love how you make up numbers. You have no idea how many email addresses the district has. You have some valid points but it's often easily to see you are just trying to make a point, whether your info is accurate or not.

Oak Park Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 5:59 AM

Let me get this straight. They are cutting one secretary. How many are their in the schools? How many administrative assistants are there? How many aids? Over staffed and the kids suffer. I live near Lincoln School and I see an addition going on. Is this for kids or more over payed staff. VOTE NO ON TUESDAY!!!!

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 2:24 AM

We live in the 21st century. Why didn't the admin just send out a survey about the cuts? The district has email addresses & phone #s for 90% of the 5500 students. For something important as this, one would think the prudent & transparent thing to do is ask all parents for their input. Why didn't they perform a zero based budget to see where the $$ are really going? Voting NO is vote of no confidence in this board and admin as to how they are conducting the affairs of D97. We deserve better

Noel Kuirakos  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 2:20 AM

Keep in mind that Sup Collins was asked for a list of cuts back in early 2010. In June 2010 she presented a list of cuts totaling about $3 mil. It did not include any cuts to music & the visual arts. If the board wanted more cuts from Sup Roberts, why didn't they ask for salary cuts, the obvious place to start. If everyone agrees that we should not cut the arts, how did it make it on the list? Were the cut-the-arts-crowd the only ones who showed up at these 'listening' sessions?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 2:09 AM

When is okay for a board to consistently overspend, have the state's financial watch dogs place it in the bottom 20% of the districts all while D97s tax levies increased by 50% over the last decade. It is not rocket science. Perhaps running unopposed has created a culture of complacency & unaccountability. Voting NO will change this.


Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:06 PM

Am I Jan Brady? Can anyone hear me? 200 out of 470 recvd an average of 7% raises each and every year over the last 4 years. Even in the best of times that was unheard of. Can anyone explain to us without misdirection or flim flam?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 7:36 PM

@OP Mom, I am grateful and I'm certainly neither a school board member nor attorney. Further, the link that you sent me was perfect - and reads simply. The phrase "no contest for a public office on the ballot in at least one precinct within the school district." The "public office" is, for instance, Congress, Presidency, etc. They are seeking to prevent semi-sham "low turnout" tax increase elections. Therefore, good news, no restriction for a D97 ref in March of 2012! A "NO" vote is safe.

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 7:21 PM

@chet cont'd. I think if you are holding out "we can vote again in 2012" as a game plan, the burden of proof is on you to show that is a valid option. (My game plan is, trust the board we elected - unopposed most years - to do the thankless, unpaid, important job we elected them to do.)

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 7:19 PM

@Chet - calm yourself. I'm not on the school board or affiliated in any way with the district. I was trying to be polite and do some googling to answer your question and confirm if my memory was right. Anyway, the relevant part of the quote was the part about referenda only being in years when there is a school board election. "where there is no contest for a public office on the ballot in at least one precinct within the school district." Maybe there is no board vacancy in 2012. (cont'd)


Posted: April 1st, 2011 6:12 PM

Judging by other like referendums in other communities unfortunately it is always the arts that are cut first. Referendum discussion in board minutes have been around since 2006. Why is it then that 200 out of 470 D97 cert staff have received an average of 7% yearly raises over the last 4 years. 7 percent a year. Doesn't that seem out of whack to you? In a time where they were cutting costs diligently over 10 years? And those are only the numbers I can verify truthfully.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 6:02 PM

@OP Mom - (cont'd) - school board members." Re-read your 5:44 post: "This provision effectively eliminates the Consolidated Primary (February of odd-numbered years)...." But 2012 is an EVEN-numbered year and the primary is in March. Seems obvious to me - D97 can go for ref in 2012. Do you (and your "source(s)") agree with my interpretation? This IS important!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:55 PM

@OP Mom. Thanks a lot. Here's what is quoted above your quote: A referendum may be held only on any of the four scheduled election days in each two-year election cycle These regular election dates are: In even-numbered years: %u2022 Third Tuesday in March %u2014 General Primary %u2022 First Tuesday after first Monday in November %u2014 General Election In odd-numbered years: %u2022 Last Tuesday in February %u2014 Consolidated Primary %u2022 First Tuesday in April %u2014 Consolidated Election, including the election of school (cont'd)

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:47 PM

@Curious: The Reduction List was approved by the Board on January 11, 2011. The recommended list of reductions was presented by Supt. Roberts on Dec 14, 2010 after the discussed "listening sessions" between D97 parents and staff and public comments made by BRAVO. Otherwise, the process for arriving at the list is not mentioned. Further, there is an open question on whether broader input (beyond D97 parents and staff) were solicited. So, some input was solicited...but are D97 parents happy?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:45 PM

@New to Oak Park. I agree and give honest thanks/gratitude to "those people who do run for unpaid office in towns....." What is occurring with this ref is that the rest of us prols are evaluating a tax increase and so NOW they have our attn. In the meantime, are you aware that the recent president of the teachers' union is on the school board right now? He is a good guy, but do you think that he can be truly objective in his actions even if he wants to?

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:44 PM

cont'd from previous - "This provision effectively eliminates the Consolidated Primary (February of odd-numbered years) as an option in many school districts." From page 2 at: http://www.iasb.com/pdf/referendum.pdf

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:43 PM

@chet. I am in no way an expert (I'm just referencing something I heard and filed away from memory) but the question about how often we can ask for referenda might (?) be addressed in this document - "(2) A proposition may not be placed on the ballot at any election where there is no contest for a public office on the ballot in at least one precinct within the school district." cont'd -

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:23 PM

@Curious. Were these the same Board meeting "listening sessions" that discussed "that D97 can't go back to referendum in 2012" - as you posted at 3:24? If so, then count me as skeptical as to the value and veracity of the conclusions. Remember, this is the same board that is requiring $5M in cuts (look at the heading of this article!)for a deficit of only $3M - while they have $17M in the bank. Let's vote NO and start again with some new "listening sessions." OP will benefit from the "do-over!"

New to Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:23 PM

As someone pretty new to Oak Park, I find it interesting from these discussion groups that NO voters pretty openly state that the elected School Board is either ignorant, a tool of the teachers' group, running a scam on the taxpayers, or just totally inept. I was starting to see this same attitude in my former town in the last few years, too. I applaud those people who do run for unpaid public office in towns because they certainly have to take a lot of heat from those who "know it all."


Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:17 PM

Listening sessions were held at each of the 10 schools and were advertised well in advance, both through the District and through the press. Unfortunately, attendance was uniformly low for most of the 10 meetings. If voters choose to stay uninvolved and then complain later... that seems to be the normal course of actions in this town.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:11 PM

Alan: Before you second guess, first pay. They had a "listening session," for pete's sake.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:11 PM

@Curious: I'm merely reflecting what seem to be the concerns of other parents who one would think would have been consulted. However, rather than assume, I will go ahead and check the minutes of each Board meeting for the past year. Let's see what I find...


Posted: April 1st, 2011 5:05 PM

Alan - Why do you assume these discussions weren't held? Have you attended any D97 Board meetings to hear the discussions? These were not easy choices and many people had input. It was reported that the final choices for cuts were the result of listening sessions held by the Supt. during the fall, meetings with the teachers, and numerous meetings with district leaders of all levels. Everything was on the table and something had to be cut. It does sound like you're 2nd guessing the Board.

David Cannon from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 4:41 PM

Surelly most children in the district are being deceived and used as pawns to promote an elaborate scam. Using emotional blackmail as a tool to extract from the already overburdened property tax owner, its really ugly. Be for real Oak Park kids will not be deprived of art class. What might be at stake is the entire community falling victim to some form of con artistry. Let's not forget that higher property taxes would also be passed on to our lowest income earners who rent.Some Sputnik moment

Already Voted No. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 4:33 PM

Plan on D97 asking for more after this. Work in the healthcare field, State of IL ins payments for Medical out over 1 yr and Dental 7 to 8 mths. Funding Ed in this State is not going to change till we get serious. Plan on paying to fund the pensions that were borrowed on. State of IL = Total Mess!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:40 PM

@Curious. Lemont School Dist #113A had a ref in Feb of 2010. It lost. They are having another one on Tuesday. How does this square with your comment at 3:24? D97 CAN go for a ref in 2012 after failing in 2011.


Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:24 PM

As was commented earlier, it was mentioned at a Board meeting that D97 can't go back to referendum in 2012. I believe that was with either a No or Yes vote. If true, a 2013 referendum means D97 couldn't meet the summer payroll before taxes come in later. That is why they had to act now. Should it have been done a year or two ago? Yes, but the economy was awful then, too, and state payments were just as iffy. And what is the 2013 vote is NO? You don't want to see that result!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:18 PM

@Curious. But WHY is D97 saying that they need $5M in cuts if the ref loses - when they'll have $17M in the bank and, status quo, won't even have a negative balance until 2013? This is 2011. I contend that their reason is that they are trying to manipulate the gullible and naive with over-blown numbers. It's either that or they don't understand numbers - and I can't believe that this is true. Again, honestly, why do you accept their $5M cuts? Would you also vote for a $50M ref - in this economy?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:13 PM

@Curious: Again, I'm not here second-guessing the Board's/Admin's list of cuts, but if parents were given a choice between increasing class size or cutting arts, perhaps the discussion would be different. Why weren't other options put on the table? I certainly don't know...but it seems like they should have been. I'm supportive of high quality schools that don't increase our already high taxes in OP...but how we get there, I believe, should be a community decision.


Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:09 PM

Yes, you would say that a 3-5% pay cut plus cutting more admin. would have done it, too. And that other CB have reduced their own pay. For all the rhetoric, not many examples on the web. Long Island took a cut, but their "deal" actually returns the pay later. Lots of examples of GOP governors asking for this... not many examples of actually CBs taking the pay cuts. Pay freezes - yes; cuts - not so much. Those that might are in FAR worse $$ shape than D97.


Posted: April 1st, 2011 3:06 PM

It frankly wouldn't matter what D97 put up for cuts, because someone else would question that choice. The art and inst. music cuts, while large, are only $1.5 M. of the total. Would it have been better to cut art by .5 and general/vocal music by .5? Same result but both programs would have been weakened. The bulk of the cuts actually come from lots of other positions that support learning in the schools, too. Not much else left to cut except to raise class size drastically. (cont.)


Posted: April 1st, 2011 2:55 PM

@OP mom voted yes/Jassen or E Jackson-I would like to hear your opinion about what Alan and Chet have asked. Why aren't the yes parents asking the bd to look at other cuts instead of the meme-if you vote no you don't care about the children? I am really surprised that this dialogue hasn't taken place before now.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 2:36 PM

Let's all remember that this list of cuts was put forth by the district and the board. No evil "Tea Party" or Noel Kuriakos invented this. Many of these items are not things that I'd wish to see cut from the schools, but I also don't see it as my role to question the board/admin. Now, if I were a D97 parent, I'd be asking tough questions. Is there another way to balance the budget? Probably. Perhaps parents should start asking those questions.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 2:01 PM

@OP Mom. Interesting, but my check of 2010 and 2011 referendums shows that Lemont lost in 2010 and is back again in 2011. I can only guess that the statute doesn't allow back-back refs IF you won the first one. Why is D97 having the ref this year? Why not last year? Wouldn't you find that "admirable"? Want the answer? It's because they wanted the lowest voter turnout and that's this year. Agree, though, with my Lemont example and that D97 can have 2012 ref if this fails?

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 1:36 PM

@Chet - I believe you mentioned in another post that you would vote for a referendum in 2012. Just want to point out that this came up in one of the meetings and I believe the response was that the district by law cannot go for a referendum again then. (I can't recall if it was 2 years, 4 years, but there was a limitation.) I think it's admirable that the district did not wait until they were unable to meet payroll - especially given last year's situation where the state stopped paying us.

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 1:33 PM

@OP Taxpayer. It's hard to find a consistent median home value online (they seem to range from 250k to 380k, depending where you look) but based on my own taxes and those numbers it seems like the median home owner here is paying about $10k a year in property taxes.

Nancy F from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:55 PM

Not everyone has a $10,000 tax bill. Mine is $25,000. Just because I have the money to pay more doesn't mean I am willing to re-enforce D97 overspending their budget. Financial resposibility, let us teach that to our children too! Vote NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:53 PM

@EJ. I can't argue with your caution, but, if the state is a problem, D97 is doomed in the future. Period. Anyway, what is your opinion of the Trib local article about NO negative balance until 2013 - and thus D97 has time, after a ref loss, to reform? Also, what is your opinion why the $5M in cuts is always stated by Yes campaign and D97 (proven with RIF's), when they have sufficient money? "Tax Anticipation" bonds are common and simple.

E. Jackson  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:45 PM

I have to confess, chet, that I don't know much about short-term bonds. Also, I am more than a little leery of promises made by the state to pay on time. Kudos to the district for having faith. I'm going to take a wait and see approach. Frankly, at this point, I would be ecstatic if the state moved from the bottom of the list when it comes to funding education.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:33 PM

@EJackson. I believe that it does include the timely state payments - because of the increase in the state income tax. It was made pretty clear by Quinn/Madigan/Cullerton that this was one of the main stated reasons for the tax increase. Also, are you familiar with "revenue anticipation bonds"? For a very low cost, IL school districts sell these sort of short-term bonds when anticipated revenue (ie, prop taxes) are delayed.

OakPark_taxpayer from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:25 PM

Is $10,000 somehow an average tax bill in this town? Is the $38 per $1000 figure even accurate? The Tribune said it wasn't, we should expect it to be much higher. When I bought my house in 1995 the tax bill was a seemly enormous $7500 a year. It is now $24000 a year. So taxes went up 220% while the actual value of the house went up by only 25%. At what point does the madness stop?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:22 PM

@ J Leban. No one on the YES side or the District has explained why ART was put on the chopping block. Art is part of the core curriculum in 21st century schools, just as math & science. Why is D97 cutting it? Why haven't teachers & parents voting YES questioned this? Why haven't they asked the board to cut salaries across the board to fund these programs? Why is it that higher taxes in the midst of the worst recession the only option? Voting NO will force the board to do its job.

E. Jackson  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:18 PM

Using the example of a person with a $10,000 tax bill and the $38 per $1000 figure, how do you get a $700 to $1000 increase?

E. Jackson  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:15 PM

Chet - I honestly can't remember at this point if we have had this conversation or not, but do the district's projections assume it will get all the money promised by the state?

OakPark_taxpayer from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:15 PM

Let's not pretend that a YES vote means taxes are going up by a tiny amount. That is where the $1000 extra comes from. The average home owner in OP is going to see $700 to $1000 increases from a YES vote. Their taxes were going to go up anyway for District 97 even without the referendum. For many people in larger homes it could be a lot more. These aren't random numbers, this is the reality of this tax increase. Nothing dishonest about these numbers

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:06 PM

@SeattleE & Bobby Miller. Nothing personal, but are you guys just posting emotionally and either ignoring or incapable of understanding the point of my last post at 10:39? D97 does NOT have to "cut" ART - but they've chosen to "RIF" tons of people because they want to scare people in to voting yes. In 2013 they'll have, per their budget projections, a negative balance. This is 2011!?! Why are you (and others) accepting the emotional argument and ignoring the actual numbers? EJ, where are you?

Nancy F. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 12:06 PM

More light, The $1000 extra applies to me. It is extra money D97 is asking from me; when you can't (or refuse to) follow your budget you need more money to balance your sheet. My apologies for not saying more money or something fancy as a referendum instead of extra $. Vote NO. Hold D97 accountable.

Frustrated! from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:52 AM

What scares me is that I do not know what this referendum if passed is going to raise my taxes! State multiplier will go up, that is a given with the current financial, pension crisis. And, who is next in line for more money?! Triton, Cook Cty, State? I need to budget my money, voting NO!

More Light Less Heat  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:43 AM

@ Nancy F: Who is asking specifically for $1000 "extra"? I truly sympathize with people who are struggling financially. (I am one of them!) However, throwing out random figures does nothing to enhance honest debate on this issue.

Bobby Miller from Elmhurst  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:39 AM

Art is an important part of education that all children should experience. Art was certainly important for myself growing up and I would want my children to have a chance to experience it as well. Mr. Leban is a prime example of a teacher trying to awaken and heighten the aesthetic curiosity in every student. Save him and others like him by voting YES.

Nancy F. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:16 AM

Voting NO. I think D97 is full of it and are scaring all the lilly livered limousine liberals in Oak Park. When does it end people? Not everyone can afford an "extra" $1000; some people have budgets and follow them (except D97) Learn how to say no and don't feel guilty about it. Vote NO!

SeattleE from Seattle  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:01 AM

I wish dearly that I was still in the area and could vote. I wish more folks knew and understood the vital importance of arts in a student curriculum. It impacts and enhances math, science, history, civics, and even reading. And if it wasn't for my arts schooling while in Chicagoland school system, I would not have gotten as far as I am today - in BUSINESS! Arts teaches creativity and how to tackle problems from less than traditional routes.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:39 AM

@Jennifer Leban. D97 doesn't have to cut much of anything. Per Trib Local, they don't have a budget deficit (of $1.2M) until 2013. Here: http://triblocal.com/oak-park-river-forest/2011/03/31/local-school-leaders-defend-obscene-balances/ Read the last few paragraphs. D97 can therefore lose this ref, reform, and, if necessary, have my support for a April, 2012 ref. You won't have to "tell someone I know about....how ART will be cut" any more. Instead, ask why D97 is painting armageddon in 2011?

Jennifer Leban  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:19 AM

I'm Todd Leban's wife, and I'm also an art teacher (in Elmhurst). Every time I tell someone I know about the Oak Park Referendum and how ART will be cut, they react with the same disbelief, "Oak Park? Cutting Art? No Way!" ...but sadly, it's true. The town known for its strong support of the arts will be cutting art for your children if you do not vote YES. Good schools = higher property values. Simple as that.

Was on the fence, now a definite NO!  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 6:51 PM

Thanks for breaking this down for me. I can vote NO now with a great deal of certainty that this is clearly the most educated vote. Thank you for detailing it.

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