According to the article,
"The possible changes stem from the Illinois State Board of Education proposing to take $305 million from an account designated for special education services and giving that money to districts for general expenses. The change would mean more 'general' aid for public schools, but districts would still be expected to cover special education expenses." (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/news/ct-dhd-school-funding-reaction-tl-0128-20160125-story.html)
Superintendent White was interviewed for the article and stated that "the proposed loss of special education funding would have cost District 181 $368,311 in fiscal year 2016." (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/news/ct-dhd-school-funding-reaction-tl-0128-20160125-story.html)
He further stated:
"Taking money away definitely impacts our ability to provide resources in other areas... Special education is a federally mandated program that is not fully funded. If we are to lose over $368,000 in funding, that means that we will have to shift current funding to comply with federal law. Ultimately, this will have an impact on our ability to provide other services... Even though I understand the intent, this may have a negative impact on our ability to deliver current services to students in our district." (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/news/ct-dhd-school-funding-reaction-tl-0128-20160125-story.html)
The proposed State cuts for Special Education services is just one of several proposals currently being considered that could cost D181 millions of dollars each year. If proposed pension laws are passed, transferring funding responsibility to individual districts, or if property taxes are frozen, the district will be forced to spend down reserves or make cuts to programs since annual tax revenues will not be sufficient to fund existing services and salaries.
So we ask, is this REALLY the best time for D181 to be going to referendum to build a brand new middle school to the tune of $65 million? Do we really want our property taxes to go up to build ONE school, or perhaps would it be more responsible and better for all of D181's students to go to an Operational Referendum in the next two years should state funding cuts and freezes actually be implemented?
Our choice is on funding student programs and teacher salaries, not building a Taj Mahal school with an elevated running track, auditorium and $450,000 atrium skylight (to name but a few of the bells and whistles in the current proposal). With only 50 days to go before the referendum, the administration has still NOT made a recommendation to the BOE on how to fund the $65 million in bonds. Taxpayers still have no idea what the actual tax increase will be should the referendum pass, or over how many years they will share this additional tax burden. It is not fair to taxpayers, parents, students or teachers, to keep us all hanging without complete referendum information. But more important than that, it is not fair to any of these constituent groups to know that if we pass a $65 million referendum for ONE school in March, construction on this ONE building could be underway at the same time that services for ALL students are CUT, CUT, CUT. How many tax increases does the Administration and BOE really think this community will support? Wouldn't it be better for the Administration to bring these issues to the BOE to address at their next BOE meeting (on February 8, 2016) and be TRANSPARENT about the possible future negative impact that D181 may face? Shouldn't the full BOE openly discuss the possible negative impacts State proposals may have on D181 and make plans NOW to avoid having to cut programs or eliminate teachers?
The onus is on Dr. White to show whether or not he can be an effective and strong leader. It should not be enough for him to try and build one school and claim that as his legacy. Instead, his priority should be on ensuring that no services or programs are cut for ANY D181 student, especially when (and if) $65 million in taxpayer money is poured into ONE school that will only serve a small percentage of our students.