School board elections important
By Barb Dent
School Board elections important
With a highly contested mayoral race and 14 aldermanic races, its important for the public to not overlook the school board elections. We are at the crossroads for the school district. Many educational, legal and financial issues are at the forefront of this campaign.
Next Monday, Feb. 5, R.E.A.CH. will host the first forum for the school board candidates for Sub-districts D, E, and F. It will be at the IBEW Building on Mill Road (behind Applebees, 6845 East State St.) beginning at 7 p.m. All school board candidates have been invited to participate in this community forum. This provides an opportunity for the entire community to come and ask questions of the candidates.
R.E.A.CH. has created a four-page survey to be completed by each candidate, focusing on many of the critical issues of the district. The candidates responses will be compiled and handed out at the forum. The community will be able to compare and challenge the candidates answers.
Its also important for the community to understand what has happened to the district over the last 10 years since the People Who Care lawsuit began. The voters need to compare what happened educationally, legally and financially under the different leadership of the school board.
Educational issues include dropout and truancy rates. What do the candidates propose to help reduce them? What are their ideas to help raise student achievement? Do they want to see weighted grades given for honors and advanced placement classes?
Financially, there is much misinformation on attorneys fees. As the chart below indicates, attorneys fees were substantial during 1993-97. The current board has decreased attorneys fees significantly. The districts tax rate, especially the tort tax, increased considerably during 1993-97 but decreased considerably from 1997-2000. The 1993-97 leaders of the board created a deficit through overspending, which has been left to the current board to diminish.
School board Majority 93-97
Linda Griffin, Judy Picus, Ed Sharp, Carol Bell, Jim Wigner and Jean Frana.
Attorneys Fees 93-97
Tax Rates 93-97
Increased from $5.30 to $6.57
Tort Tax Rate 93-97
Increased from $.70 to a $1.74. Deficit increased from ZERO to $21.4 million
School Board Majority 97-01
Patti Delugas, Ted Biondo, David Strommer, Bill Neblock, and Stephanie Caltagerone.
Attorneys Fees 97-01
$3.4 million as of 6/01/00.
Tax Rates 97-01
Decreased from $6.57 to 5.99.; Supreme Court decision dropped rate to $4.96.
Tort Tax Rate 97-01
Decreased from $1.74 to 0; Decreased from $21.4 million $13.1 million as of 7/01/00.
Other financial issues are what cuts would they make, do they support a referendum, and would they ask the magistrate for a Jenkins tax which would begin more litigation? Would they agree to the administrations suggestions, which would place the burden of the cuts on the students and teachers, or do they want to see the board continue to cut administrators?
Legally, the district could achieve local control by 2006 or sooner. This has been accomplished by the district because of their compliance with the court order. One of the key issues of this campaign will be what student assignment program do the candidates wish to see implemented once court control over student assignment is relinquished. Receiving waivers from the master is another important issue. While we are under court control, what, if any, waivers do the candidates wish to negotiate from the master? When the board led by Linda Griffin and Judy Picus recommended Controlled Choice, there were many concerns about flight. Our kindergarten enrollment is now below the 1989 enrollment.
Please attend the school board forums and find out about the candidates. The future of this school district is vital to the health of our city.
Barb Dent is the president of R.E.A.CH. (Rockford Educating All Children).