Over the next couple of months the Board will meet regularly and discuss budget adjustments to ensure we do not run a deficit next fiscal year. As it stands District 220 could run a substantial, $2.8 million, deficit due to an estimated lack of state reimbursable transportation dollars and the increased cost of our teacher’s contract.
The Board has begun the process of reviewing staff positions, courses, extra curricular activity stipends and additional costs that may be cut to create a balanced budget. This process is a difficult one for every Board member. We all support the rewarding programs and quality teachers employed here in District 220. Preventing drastic deficits which can lead to serious financial problems is the goal of this Board.
One area of disagreement is whether we should have asked the Barrington Education Association (our local teacher’s union) to open their previously negotiated contract. Last year, when the board decided to reduce staff, I asked our teacher’s union leaders to open the contract to try and mitigate the number of jobs lost. Since staff pay is the single largest expenditure for our district, it is the largest area of the budget that offers the opportunity to be reduced. If our teacher’s union accepted the call to open their contract and sit with the board to re-negotiate a lower annual increase or a freeze for the coming year, it could save staff positions and programatic funding.
Illinois state school code laws require that the only way to open an already negotiated contract with teachers is for the teacher’s union to vote to open the contract. School Board’s do not have the control to change contractual agreements without union say so. As one Board Member, I again challenge the leaders of the BEA and the members of our district’s teachers union to put to a vote opening the contract to save the jobs of colleagues and maintain some of the programs that might end up on the chopping block this Spring.
If we work together, right away, we can keep District 220 moving forward without the drastic cuts some districts have been forced to make due to increased contracts and state overspending.
One of my favorite Presidents of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, once said that “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”.
I cherish the peace and goodwill you have shown me this year. Representing your values, receiving your support and maintaining your trust continues to be a tremendous honor. I look forward to the rewarding work of governing with our community schools, students, families and taxpayers in mind in the coming year.
Thank you again for the gift of your support and confidence!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
At our most recent School Board meeting, I made the lone vote against accepting a federal grant to fund the start of a five year elementary school Mandarin Chinese language program.
While I believe students should have the unique opportunity to learn a world language in our schools, especially one as important as Chinese, I could not support this program at this time for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, the question of how we might fund this program after the five year grant expires was never fully answered. In my opinion this 5 year program will be successful, leading students, staff and families to want it to continue long after the grant expires. If this is the case, I believe we will expand the budget to make it happen. Expanding the budget in this area will result in either condensing it elsewhere or asking for more operating revenue (taxes) to pay for it.
Second, this program will force us to let some staff go in order to hire Chinese language immersion teachers. This bothers me during a troubling time for teachers seeking new employment. Additionally, supporters of the grant acknowledged that this decision could require the need for 3 to 5 more teachers, an out of pocket cost for the district near the end of the grant.
Third, reimbursable transportation dollars from the state have been slashed from funding that covered close to 90% of all bussing costs to just 22%. The implementation of this program will require additional transportation. It looks as if the School District will have no option but to shift this cost onto families enrolled in the program.
Fourth, we already offer Chinese at our middle schools and high school. Our students have the opportunity to learn this important language. I believe the creation of this immersion program will potentially require the district develop, implement and fund an additional Chinese program, one for the select middle school language students who participated in this elementary immersion program. This will require added financial allocation.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in budgeting wisely and funding projects and programs with dollars we can be sure of. At any moment we could lose this rare grant (we are the only school district in Illinois to receive it). I hope this won’t happen, but we live in troubling times with a substantial federal spending problem to rectify. Who’s to say?
I would much rather begin a process of funding a program such as this outright, with our own control and budgeted dollars. It would make more sense to find the monies necessary in our existing budget for this program today or in the years ahead.
Accepting a short term federal downpayment for a probable long term District 220 program doesn’t seem fiscally responsible.
Yesterday, the School Board adopted a policy protecting students and staff members. The policy bans teachers, coaches and district employees from connecting with District 220 students online via social networks regarding non-school related topics. I supported this unique District 220 policy during it’s draft stage and through early iterations at Policy Committee. Later, the School Board unanimously approved this groundbreaking policy.
Many of you know that I’m a strong supporter of social media and it’s value as an educational tool. I understand that sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, MySpace, LinkedIn and others, offer new ways of communicating that broaden perspectives, spread knowledge and increase understanding.
As a Board Member, I believe just as strongly that we should create safety measures and appropriate boundaries to protect students and staff members, thus maintaining the student-teacher relationship. That is why this policy is so vital. The new social media policy provides for our students and staff members to continue having a wonderful learning experience about school, clubs and sports.
I hope other districts in the area reflect on this policy and how it will be implemented in the weeks ahead. Perhaps others can replicate our work and create the appropriate boundaries necessary for life online.
On Election Day the voters of Illinois spoke at the polls. While several of the candidates I supported and campaigned for won, an important office-seeker failed to gain the support of a majority of Illinoisans. In the race for Governor, Democrat Pat Quinn won and Republican Bill Brady lost.
Reflecting on the campaign, I’ve concluded that local policymakers, special interest groups and evidently a majority of voters, believed the only way out of Illinois’ budget, financial and economic challenges was with higher taxes. Governor Quinn was the candidate championing massive tax increases.
The campaign for Governor was full of scare tactics and issues meant to distract. Governor Quinn claimed that unless income taxes were increased across the board, education and other programs in Illinois would bare the brunt of drastic cuts. He made the case that teachers throughout the state would lose their jobs, class sizes in most school districts would increase, some schools would be forced to close, special education funding might be squashed and transportation reimbursements could be eliminated. These types of scare tactics, employed by political bosses and union leaders, resulted in moms & dads, teachers & students motivated by fear to vote.
Governor Quinn neglected (whether accidentally or intentionally) to address the real reason why education and so many other vital programs are in jeopardy in Illinois; the Governor forgot to mention why our state budget is out of control; and he failed to acknowledge the reason why our bond rating continues to slip; Illinois is broke! Our state’s financial imbalance has been a result of overspending and over promising regarding retirement benefits for public employees.
District 220 and other neighboring school district have become reliant on state reimbursements and financial aid, but unless our state leaders address Illinois’ bankrupt pension obligations, the Governor’s proposed increases in tax dollars will be funding public sector retirees instead of the classroom programs and social services voters were most concerned about.
I believe our friends and neighbors are worried about surviving in this turbulent economy. We want the best schools and the best services for children and adults. Perhaps Governor Quinn did a better job of explaining his desire to protect the way of life we’ve become accustomed to in Illinois, but until he can adjust the ever increasing cost of public employee retirees, our education and social services will actually suffer.
It’s time for hard but necessary choices and serious pension adjustments.