At the Oct. 22 Joint District 65/District 202 Committee meeting, administrators and School Board members from both Districts discussed what they could do to address four potential legislative issues in Springfield, almost any one of which could steamroll a district’s budget for several years: a property-tax freeze without an income-tax hike; a cash-flow problem at the State level that would keep school districts from receiving their allocations; a new education-funding formula and a shift of part of the burden of teacher pensions from the State to local school districts.
“There’s the map of what’s ahead of us – a lot of uncertainty,” said District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren. “Given that, what role should we be playing as individual Districts and as collaborators with other Districts?”
District 202 Board member Gretchen Livingston, who sits on the board of ED-RED, the suburban education advocacy gorup, said that board “had a discussion about the Vision 2020 proposal. Vision 2020 is the result of a visioning process initiated by the Illinois Association of School Administrators in partnership with the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, the Illinois Association of School Boards , the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools “to unite the education community and to develop a long-range blueprint for improving public education in Illinois,” according to its website.
Ms. Livingston said Vision 2020 “sounds great but it’s been a sticking point in many districts. For that reason the ED-RED Board has rejected signing onto Vision 2020.” She added that ED-RED is “thinking about establishing a set of principles they can support. … Related to that, the board would draft what it thinks the funding scheme should be like.”
District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum asked, “Has the education portion of the State Budget been appropriated?”
District 202 Chief Financial Officer William Stafford said funding has been cut off for some social service agencies and Oakton Community College. “From a cash-flow point of view, [certain] revenues are not coming in, so at some point [the funds] are going to be so low [the State] won’t pay us – probably in March,” he added.
District 65 Board member Candance Chow suggested that Districts 65 and 202 ask certain other districts to join them – “large districts with considerable inequities.” She suggested Arlington Heights, where about 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“We should start small-ish and identify some of the districts,” said Dr. Goren.
“This can grow very quickly and become a powerful group very quickly,” said District 202 Board member Mark Metz.
“We should start with our own grass-roots advocacy,” said Mr. Baum.
“I agree with that,” said District 65 Board President Tracy Quattrocki, “[but] it would be nice to know if other districts are interested.
Dr. Goren said he will “take the lead and will talk with [District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon] in terms of starting small.
Mr. Stafford said he and District 65 Chief Financial Officer Dr. Mary Brown would prepare a document enumerating the costs to the two School Districts of the State’s potential education initiatives.