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Letter to the Editor: District 67 Threatend By Drastic Cuts

Residents can protect district's fine reputation with their votes on March 20.

By Morton Grove resident and parent, Kristina Otte.

My husband and I moved to Morton Grove nearly seven years ago, about to become parents for the first time.  We were happy to find a nice house in a village with great amenities close to Chicago.  We did not truly understand then, as soon-to-be parents, that we were also moving into one of the most high-performing school districts in the area. 

Now, in 2012, Golf School District 67 is facing serious financial hardship.  While our students continue to perform at very high rates at both Hynes Elementary School and Golf Middle School (both in the top 35 in Cook County’s top 300), the current school fund balance is precipitously low.  Drastic cuts are about to be made to programs, to teachers and to our children’s quality of education, which will affect each and every one of us.

Our facilities, not updated since the 1960’s, have serious problems.  The heating and cooling systems repeatedly fail, forcing kindergarteners, for example, to wear their coats in class.  At the hand sinks, corroded plumbing results in brown, rusty water equaled only by the rain water leaking into classrooms at both buildings.

Like our buildings, our curriculum is also in danger of crumbling.  At the recent Board of Education meeting, it was announced that over a dozen teaching jobs will be reduced or eliminated.  Art and music programs are on the chopping block.  Full-day kindergarten will be permanently cut from 7.5 hours to 2.5 hours a day.  All student clubs and after-school athletics will disappear.  These are just a few items on the long list of cuts on the district’s website if action is not taken.    

As a parent I am truly saddened at this situation.  Golf 67 has not had a referendum since 1969.  That’s 43 years ago!  ALL other districts that feed into Niles North have had one, if not two, referenda since then (except tax-revenue-wealthy Old Orchard).  We have problems now.  We need to deal with these problems now.  Our teachers and children have outperformed other school districts despite an infrastructure that has been deteriorating for years- but ‘band-aid’ fixes are no longer a solution.  More than our fine reputation is at stake.  Regardless of whether one has children in school or not, our property values are affected by the quality of the schools.  Long term, our quality of life and therefore our very future, is at risk. 

The ballot on March 20th will ask those of us in District 67 two questions:  Will we support facilities improvements for our buildings and will we support the curriculum that we currently prize.  I ask my fellow District 67 residents to vote yes on both questions.  We can continue to provide our children with the quality of education that all children deserve by voting YES on March 20th.

Adam Kohm February 25, 2012 at 04:16 PM
People keep mentioned the "educational" excellence as part of this issue, but I discount that completely. I would not hesitate to accept the level of excellence that D70 provides, which is one justification of using them for my baseline comparison. My hope is that if the tax rate increase passes, it will be enough for them to make some changes and eventually get everything done. May not all happen at once, but it will eventually if they make some good decisions. I'd even be in favor of another rate increase if it is really necessary, but I think certain things can be cut....anything is better than a bond. I'm actually OK with some of the items that are destined to be cut via their grand plan if the bond referendum fails. If we don't have the money for these things, then we shouldn't have them if the district can't put a priority on them over other items. However, I believe that both items are destined to fail if I"m reading the pulse of the community accurately. I think that mis-worded poll gave some support to this impression. If this happens, I solely blame the district, as if this were all presented differently, it would have a better chance of passing.
Jeff G February 25, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Even more info...Doing some legwork on Parkview, I'd say they were maybe more lucky than good. From the old trib local articles, in March 2004 D70 did a 0.75% increase to generate $2.2 million per year. Triblocal estimates that would be about $220/year in tax increase for a $200,000 house. From my calcs and tax bills, that total change in taxes is slightly more than what the proposed two referendums are for Golf 67 now. That was a large increase in 2004 for D70 just for operating expenses. D67 is looking for a 0.58% increase which is limited by the new tax rate increase limit laws. D70 also had the advantage of selling property. In 1990, they sold Borg school to MCC for $1.83 million cash (worth ~$3 million today). They also sold Grove school before that but I couldn't find details. So they were spared a facilities referendum, and were able to use that cash in future years to do a renovation and addition. They did what the car dealership sale would have done for us...cash infusion and smaller operating referendum. Unfortunately, ours had legal issues around it and didn't work out (and I'm not even trying to go there, so don't start the bantering). So it's not the happy ending story, and it's very, very easy to say we should have made changes years ago, cut back then, gone for a referendum, etc. This is more about maintaining what we have.
Jeff G February 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I disagree back. The operating/tax referendum does not increase spending per kid. Say you are spending $1000 per month. Your income is $900 and you draw down savings by $100 each month. Eventually, your savings run out. You either need a higher paying job to maintain $1000 per month, or you keep the same job and cut spending back to $900. Same here. Spending the same or less. Yes. The facilities $$ do effectively increase spending per kid. Bonds/loans are never great, but if you don't have the cash to pay for things, you take a loan. You can argue that you need to make tough choices if you don't have the money. So will we be giving up the dessert and cable TV? I think we've done that already. Now you're starting to trim back on clothes and food.
Adam Kohm February 25, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I guess a difference in understanding among people is whether the only cuts are food and clothing. I don't considering a number of the proposed cuts either of the above. I also don't think certain activities require the current budget (like after school items) and I believe that there are other ways to achieve the same outcome with less spending. District needs to make some hard decisions. Approval of both measures gives them a pass from doing so. Some people believe that change will still occur if both measures are passed. I think that is a pipe-dream. If they have the funding to continue bad/wasteful spending, why stop? Motivated parents like some on this post can say "vote yes...and we'll make changes later", but I think that is a crock. I'm not going to kid myself and pretend that I have any influence over these matters. I can try, but I feel like the district is experiencing the same partisan disparity in ideals as is the rest of the country. I'm bowing out. I've made my decisions and I feel very confident in them. Others still on the fence can continue the debate. It's been fun! Thanks! A
Jeff G February 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Okay. We'll agree to disagree. I'm not doing this for the politics. I would like everyone to make a decision they are comfortable with based on the fact, and I've tried to bring facts into the discussion. I have seen plenty of commentary from many, but no solid facts on where the wasteful spending has been. Ultimately, that discussion may be opinion as well depending on your side. Can we make a difference? Yes. But it takes a lot of effort volunteering, helping with the PTA, attending school board meetings, participating in studies, running for school board, etc., everything that many people in the posts above want to push for, but no one has stepped forward with in the past. The status quo won't change if we don't speak up. We can help change Golf 67 district, not the whole school system. Voting NO will force many tough decisions, and have bad results. We've kicked this can down the road long enough, and can't avoid a referendum any longer. Thanks! I think I'm done too. J

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