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Saving Oak Park schools

I understand the frustration of Oak Park taxpayers who are being asked to again raise their own taxes for the benefit of our schools. We have to do something about Oak Park's affordability. But there are right and wrong ways to tackle our high taxes. I wanted to share our family's story of why you should vote Yes on April 4 for District 97's referenda.

I moved to Oak Park 10 years ago for the exact same reasons everyone else does. The values, the diversity, the quality of life were all desirable. I've gotten involved and am a volunteer member of the Transportation Commission. We regularly socialize with neighbors. When my son was born in 2010, the excellent schools looked appealing as well. We wanted to stay here to raise a family. When he was younger and had a speech delay, he aged into the school district's Early Childhood program (at the time it was at Holmes) and we started meeting some of the families and teachers we're friends with to this day. He also spent a year at Longfellow in the late Dee Dee Farmer's PKP program where his sister has now spent 2 years and is fully ready to join her brother at Lincoln next year. My son will be a 2nd grader next year who is doing well academically and socially and looks forward to his well-rounded weekly routine.

But all of that success is in the hands of Oak Park voters on April 4. Whether we're able to stay in Oak Park very much depends upon the quality of the schools. If the referenda fail, reductions for the 2017-2018 school year include: 

  • Eliminate 12 teaching positions     
  • Eliminate 20 teaching assistant positions      
  • Eliminate 13 administrative assistant positions  
  • Eliminate eight administrative positions  
  • Eliminate three teaching positions and three teaching assistant positions in early childhood (dependent on the availability of state funding)  
  • Eliminate six custodial and maintenance positions 
  • Eliminate two additional non-instructional positions
  • Eliminate 10 media aides  
That's only the beginning, however, and our family would very likely have to give up Oak Park if the hammer really falls during the 2018-19 school year. Those cuts would be devastating and drastically lower the quality of education in the district. The $7.4 million in reductions include:

  • Eliminate all 15 positions in the general music program for the elementary schools 
  • Eliminate all nine positions in the elementary art program    
  • Eliminate all 11 positions in the elementary school foreign language program (FLES) 
  • Eliminate all 10 teacher librarian positions      
  • Eliminate all eight language arts specialist positions in the elementary schools   
  • Eliminate all three positions in the elementary band program 
  • Eliminate all four positions in the elementary instrumental music program
  • Eliminate the two positions in the elementary orchestra program
  • Eliminate all five student support specialist positions  
  • Eliminate two additional non-instructional positions    
  • Eliminate the two International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator positions     

In short, District 97 would become an unbalanced school system where students have inadequate access to the arts, music, librarians, Spanish, and more. Our family is lucky though and has the mobility to leave Oak Park if we have to. Not every family can do that and there is a real danger of children being caught in an underfunded elementary/middle school district without a full range of classes and 30 children per teacher.

Voting YES in April protects our children, your home value, and the educational system in Oak Park. 

Above is a chart that depicts the various referenda failure scenarios - i.e., operating question passes, but capital question fails; capital question passes, but operating questions fails; or both questions fail.