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The current recession, dwindling tax revenue, rising costs and Springfield’s $13 billion deficit, has placed District 65 on course to a fiscal crisis. On September 29, 2010 District 65 had projected a four year deficit at $8.4 million. On February 14, 2011, District 65 revised its deficit projections and it now stands at $30 million over the next four years, despite that the deficit projections include the maximum real estate tax increases as allowed under the tax cap. The pending District 65 financial crisis will undoubtedly affect the quality of the education in District 65 unless we get hold of the costs.
As a School Board member I would advocate for the mobilization of “citizen seminars” to harness the collective expertise of our community to generate some bold and fresh ideas to lower District 65’s costs and overhead. We spend nearly $15,000 per student which is more than adequate to provide a quality education for our children. Also any new District 65 budget should include a tax impact statement on how much the new budget will impact the individual tax payer. As a School Board member I will work to balance the budget by lowering costs to avoid raising property taxes.
The failure of Springfield to take on the pension and wages issues regarding Public Employee Unions has passed the buck down to the school boards and local city councils. No matter how much we reduce the cost side of the budget, 83% of the budget is comprised of wages and benefits. The ability to balance the budget hinges upon the School Board’s ability to hold the line against District 65 IEA’s demands for higher wages and benefits while reducing the administration’s overhead. I would advocate that the School Board should look to set up preliminary meeting with District 65 IEA to gauge the tenor of the negotiations. The School Board should also set up town hall meetings with the parents to discover what issues they want to have negotiated in the District 65 IEA contract.
Besides the budgetary concerns, I support the following issues:
• Consolidate District 65 and 202 not just for cost savings, but to have a continuity of programs, policy and assessment from K-12 grades.
• A new elementary school should be built in the 5th Ward. We need to provide these children with a neighborhood school that should be a KIPP like charter school.
• The McKay Scholarship, a voucher program that would allow parents the choice to place their special needs child in either a private or public school.
• If a new school is built in the 5th Ward, District 65 should seriously consider returning District 65 to a neighborhood school system.
The RoundTable invited each of the candidates for the District 65 School Board to submit a statement explaining in their own words why residents of the District should vote for them. Their personal statements, in reverse alphabetical order, are on this and the following page. For additional information concerning the candidates, check out the candidate profiles, the articles and the supporting letters in the Election Section of the RoundTable’s online paper at www.evanstonroundtable.com. A link to video interviews of the candidates is also available on the RoundTable’s on line site. Early voting is March 14-31. The election is on April 5.