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Readers Express Passionate Response to District 67 Referenda

Community debates two proposed referendums set for March 20 ballot.

As shown in a recent letter to the editor, two proposed Golf School District 67 referendums have sparked passionate responses from the community and readers. 

While voters will have the final say on March 20, we highlighted some readers who voiced their opinion on the matter in our comments section. 

Some who support the referenda said they are willing to pay more taxes in order to improve District 67 facilities and provide quality education for children:

Jeff G: It's important to talk through facts and not emotions or perceptions. I really don't like my taxes going up at all. I've been in MG for 14 years and my taxes have more than doubled. But you know what, costs for everything else has gone up as well, so this isn't out of line. The Golf 67 district has not increased the tax rate in 43 years, so I would not call that squandering. They have refinanced their bond issues many times over those years and now can't anymore. While I would prefer not to pay more for anything, I will pay an extra $500 per year to continue the great education for my two kids. If I didn't have kids, I would still support it. 

Other readers believe that lack of efficiency is the issue for the district: 

Adam Kohm: The current operating budget of the district is approximately 7,000,000. With the rate hike, it will be more like $8,200,000 - $8,400,000. With 587 kids in the district, that is $14,310 per child per year.

What is my point? That number tells me that this ship isn't near efficient. What am I basing this on? Well, let's say they shutter the doors of the district and give each parent that money. Every one of us could send our kids to Loyola Academy, and that includes books and fees. You could send your kids to one of the other nearby private schools for almost half as much. That just doesn't seem right and tells me that funds could be managed better.

An outsider's point-of-view on the debate:

Pat Craig: I don't have a dog in this hunt, so as an outsider I have the luxury of looking in without emotional involvement. What I am seeing here is a few of different things.

One is the emotional "We must pass this referendum or we will lose our wonderful schools", argument. One is the "I don't need any more taxes taken from me argument". Then there seems to be a group who were supporting the $30 million new library and are now arguing for this referendum. 

Finally, there seems to be a center core of reasonable folks who are weighing the pros and cons while trying to find a solution that works for all rather than making debating points or furthering political agendas. I hope, for the sake of all who live in district 67 that the reasonable folks prevail and that those who are emotionally invested would remember to be civil in their discourse.

If you'd like to get caught up on the issue before the polls open, an informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Golf Middle School, 6 p.m. 

Where do you stand on the issue?

JM March 17, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Regarding the teachers union and their financial support of Kids 67, the teachers would be fools not to support these referenda. Think what you may, but I speak from experience here. Teachers and their unions are not the ugly monsters you make them out to be. Teachers care deeply about their profession, and will fight tooth and nail to do everything they can to protect their students and programs (both during and afterschool). Just from working in the township, I know many of these teachers, and their passion for what they do. You may say I’m biased because I am a teacher myself, but you don’t know the love for this job, the school, and students until you’ve met someone who has a passion for it. For your information, typical teachers unions (I can’t speak for this one) also vote to fund baby showers, donate to charities, and pay for things like forks and knives in the teachers’ lounge. Whatever is important to the members of the union, will get funded- political or otherwise.
JM March 17, 2012 at 03:33 AM
I have been a educator in the state of Illinois for 16 years, and have lived in the suburbs all my life. My experience in the last five years is that districts all over the state are hurting- not just ours. The state is providing less funding for vital programs, and the districts are made to pick up the slack. If we refuse to step up and assist our school district we are only hurting ourselves. If D67 cuts programs, tutoring (by professionals), and increases class sizes, then our schools will not be as high performing as they are right now. If our school is not as high performing, then our property values will go down. If our property values go down then (assuming you’d like to stay in your current home) our neighborhoods will also change. I didn’t even address the fact that the schools are falling apart! They have been limping along for years and are ready to turn into a safe, comfortable learning and teaching environment. YES and YES on Tuesday.
Jeff G March 17, 2012 at 03:34 AM
It is nice to see so much passion going into these debates. This is GREAT for Patch traffic! Unfortunately, even though I've asked, I haven't seen ANY proposals from the opposition. Remember that the district has provided it's plan for if the referendums pass, or if one of both fail. Just check out Golf67.net. Since those proposals aren't written, let me read into a few of the posts (starting with our SunTimes salaries of course). From Dan G, we have the "Fire everyone and get the cheap youngsters in" plan: Average starting salary for bachelors and masters candidates is $55k. So replacing every teacher with a fresh college grad would save about $1.3m per year. The district needs to cut $900k to get in balance with it's current funding, so it will have about $400k per year left over for capital improvements. Sticking to basics like heat and water, and eliminating the silly stuff like security, parking lots and tuckpointing, you need about $4.8m. So we'll get those improvements done over 12 years. This works. Now I just need some help on how to bust the union. Suggestions? From Grandpa, we have the "get rid of the most tenured teachers" plan. So let's replace all the teachers with 25+ years of experience with new grads. That savings amounts to $360k per year. Shoot, still need another $540k to cut. Okay, everyone else just gets a 20% salary cut. Should be easy to negotiate. Has anyone used the SunTimes link to view the other district's salaries?
Jeff G March 17, 2012 at 03:51 AM
So what do you propose to do to solve this country wide union issue? I'd like to know how to help! Please be specific. Voting no here won't change the union situation across the country. It won't break up the union here either. And the union isn't the cause of the districts financial issues. This conversation has drifted too far from the start.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Here are 9 proposals. Before I start, I want to make a few things clear. Clarification #1: I believe that these proposals should all be considered regardless of the outcome on the referenda. By increasing efficiency and decreasing costs, the outcome can only be positive for the district. Clarification #2: Some of these proposals involve passing costs onto individual families that benefit from specific programs, but it is highly unlikely than any one family’s realized cost would be higher than what will result from the proposed referenda. Clarification #3: There may be some families that may be specifically hard hit by these proposals. Special assistance considerations would need to be put in place. Clarification #4: None of this post is intended to be a Vote Yes or Vote No endorsement. Here are the proposals. PROPOSAL #1: Eliminate Business Consultant. PROPOSAL #2: Extend District Work Day by 1 Hour. I know the teachers will groan about this, but it is happening all across the country and at CPS. Our teachers do pretty well in regards to pay and teachers fair relatively just fine if you look at work hours/year. By extending the work day by 1 hour, you now have amble staff to run clubs, tutoring, etc. This would need to be a concession by the teachers union, but it can only benefit the kids. PROPOSAL #3: Extend Student Day When Necessary. We’ll get to this, most relevant in regards to PE requirement issue.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM
PROPOSAL #4: Create Cost Centers. Now that we have staff to do all of the various activities, we need to figure out how to cover any additional costs associated with them. Examples: A. Band - if your child is in after school band, district calculates total cost of program/number of students in program = charge for parents. B. Gym - same for this. There should be a fee for attending, but with staff covered, can’t think of anything (except busing, but we’ll get to that) C. More important activities (e.g., tutoring) shouldn’t have much expense associated with them, as we now have staff from Proposal #2. Regardless, each activity should be financially self-sustaining. Proposals #2 and #4 would significantly extend options for the students. We could offer many more clubs, etc. If parents don’t sign up for them, that will stand as a measure of their perceived importance to the families.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM
PROPOSAL #5: Transition Activities to Clubs/After School Activities. Depending on how the finances balance out, programs to be cut (like the Library/Media program, Art, Music, etc.) could be transitioned to after school activities and run as cost centers. Some families do not value these activities at all. Other families, like my family, would sign up for after school Art, Music, STEM, etc. While it may be ideal to mainstream these activities into the daily curriculum (but some families may disagree), the district already has cut music and art to half year programs. This proposal could extend them back to full year programs. PROPOSAL #6: Busing. This one is a little fuzzy and I don’t have all of the required financials to back up a specific proposal, however, any non-essential busing, such as that associated with after school activities should either function as combined or stand-alone cost centers.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 01:00 PM
PROPOSAL #7: Balance Budget + Charge for Anything Else Necessary. Let’s say for some crazy reason the district implements the six proposals above. This move in combination with teacher union contact negotiations should have very dramatic effects on the district budget. If there is room in budget for any remaining items to be cut/reduced (although the items above cover most of them), then a decision is made whether they should be funded or treated as their own cost centers. If families have to pay book fees (I think we might already), then it must be so. If full day Kindergarten must go, then it must be so. Our family has already been burned by the decision this year to cut 4 year old school to half day. Our main reason for enrolling our youngest in the pre-school program was for this full-day program and when it is our turn, it is cut. Same goes for kindergarten, but if it must be so, then it must be so. PROPOSAL #8: Consider Need for Capital Improvements. This is an extension of Proposal #7. When balancing the budget, there should be a VERY substantial line item dedicated to a capital improvement fund. This way, when a boiler needs replaced, the district has the money and doesn’t have to go to taxpayers.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 01:00 PM
PROPOSAL #9: Fix What You Can. Up until this point, I was working off of the Staff Reductions and Program Loss list. Now, I’m moving to the Safety/Health Facilities that would be funded by the Bond Referendum. Without going into too much detail (since the damn patch character limits makes this very annoying as it is), let’s just say i take issue with the necessity of many of these items. However, it is obvious that many items on this list are crucial/required. The district needs to fix what it can. Every item on this list needs a priority number and they should be addressed by increasing priority. If one of the two referenda pass, and all of the above proposals are implemented, the district should be able to start tackling these. Yes, we may have to tape things back to together for a few years, but things should be fixed as the district has the funds to do so. If both referenda fail, it will be difficult, but it may be still possible.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 01:00 PM
What have I missed? I think the big issue is that of the PE requirement. What options do we have? Here are a few points, best option may be combination of a few of them. PE Option #1: Follow the CPS model. We may have to extend the day for all students one or two days. Yes, CPS has a shorter day than D67 as it stands, so them extending their day is a different issue than D67, but there are lots of districts across the country that have longer days. PE Option #2: Build a new gym. If we have the money, then build a gym. However, we need the money. PE Option #3: Many, Many, Many days of the year gym could be outside. Especially this year! Yes, some days/weeks the weather is too cold, however, our children go outside for recess almost every day, so they can do gym out there also. The weekly schedule would have to arranged for makeups, as if you have a few days of storms, district would need to “catch up” on the PE requirement. However, seriously, what is the state going to do? Tell them to give the district money to implement their policy. I know, very childish, but I would take a very hard stand with them and find out from them what they expect the district to do if referenda fail.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 01:07 PM
PE Option #4: Maybe recess can be combined with gym. I know lunch is going on, but if outside recess is an option, that is at least another 2 class periods a week. None of these PE options are ideal, but they may patch the system until a more ideal option is affordable. Those are my 9 proposals. I spent 20 minutes thinking about this. Get people more intelligent than me involved and I’m sure you can generate 50 proposals. Not that the district would have me, but i will happily volunteer any time/thought/resources/ideas to make any of this work.
Adam Kohm March 17, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Sorry for the 27 posts, but one more thing as I think this is very important. All of these debates, proposals, referenda are based on some important assumptions about the state of funding over the next 10 years. However, I think that there is a bigger problem looming. The State of IL is absolutely broke and they are seriously considering passing some very significant costs of education back to the district, for example, pension funding. If they do this, it could add millions to the expenses of the district (as well as all districts around the state). There as been talk about merging districts. While we are just talking about it, it is a very serious consideration at the state level. While no district would freely merge with D67 in light of the current conditions, Gov Pat Quinn proposed last year to cut the number of IL districts from 869 to 300. I guess that didn't pass, but you know it will come up again. If it does, this will be all decided at a level above us. Not that we can do anything about this, but people should realize that the problems of D67 may be trumped by even bigger issues like pending funding or forced merger. As for now, D67 just needs to get everything in order and do the best that it can do. Maybe I'll run for D67 overlord. Just kidding, but if the job ever opens up, give me a call. (seriously people, i'm kidding).
grandpa March 17, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Think globally, act locally, (to borrow a phrase from some of my younger activist friends). I probably can't do anything personally to affect peace in the middle east, but I can have some impact what happens in my own back yard. Vote NO on both referendums.
grandpa March 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Adam You are my new hero. I like the way you think and I would certainly vote for you if you ran for the school board, (or most likely for any other public office you would consider. I am afraid that your unconventional thinking will be attacked by some, but as for me, a very heartfelt and public; "Well Done!"
Dan Goldberg March 17, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Everyone probably agrees on one point here, that it’s a lively debate. Some are calling for detailed proposals and I hope more are forthcoming from the people (terrific job Adam, thank you) and especially from the district administration and board members too. Perhaps it’s a given, but from my perspective the first step in solving any problem is to first admit there is one and what that problem truly is. Next, seeking a long-term resolution that is acceptable with buy-in from all parties involved is important for success. The fix will only be accomplished by doing proper and unbiased due diligence which needs to separate fact from emotion. Finally, all involved need to think a little more about the needs of others who will be paying the bill in conjunction with the absolute need to provide quality education for the students. So, that’s my philosophical point by point proposal-hoping to read others like Adam’s that think outside the box so we don’t have to rely on the “we -or our neighbors- have always done it that way” philosophy or worse, "just throw more money at it". March 20 won’t be the end of discussion (which I hope will continue to focus on issues and not disparage the people provide input) but is just be the next step towards a solution. Consider voting NO so more ideas can be formulated that we will truly find the best solutions for all involved.
Donald India March 17, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Good job Adam and JM. It is NOT easy to work within The Patch text editing. Unless the statues recently chaged, buses are funded thru a separately financed Transportation Fund. It has always been WELL funded. This fund regularly generated interest income which routinely is moved to the Ed fund by the board. Adam the next SD67 board election is April 2013. You would have to file with the district to place your name on the ballot in December of this year. Most school funding referenda fail the first time before an acceptable (usually a lower $ amount) referendum is passed by the voters. A new gym has been discussed since 1991. Proposing a new gym at Hynes is new. Sharing the Hynes gym with the cafeteria has been the way of life since Hynes was built. It worked for Judy B during her 30+ years as gym teacher with MORE students. Do not understand this facilities need. Especially since a full size gym would better serve the Muddle School. Typing on iPhone so I apologize for typing errors. I do encourage everyone to vote - YES or NO - so the district knows the true feeling of the voters.
JM March 18, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Just curious- how long have you lived in D67? Thanks!
Jeff G March 18, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Please visit the Golf67.net to get informed on the gym requirement. It was discussed in the chalkboard and community meetings. Current base case with no change is to double up classes in gym, so about 50 kids in each gym class, some mixed grades. District was checking with state for ramifications of ignoring the requirement.
Adam Kohm March 18, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Jeff, sorry I wasn't clear. I propose to go ahead with the 900k+ in cuts (hopefully more), but then use the proposals above to eliminate all of the proposed program cuts. Also, I think Jeff questioned the day extension part. I mean to add an hour/day at current pay. Teachers are salaried, not hourly. So, the reason I said the teachers would groan and the it would have to be a concession is that they would need to work another hour a day. However, when you add up the hours/year, it's still a good gig. If this is the only way to save all of the programs, I'm sure they will agree.
Adam Kohm March 18, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Jeff is correct. In order to meet state mandates, we need either: 1. More kids per class 2. Or the ability to fit in more PE classes/week (hence the idea of adding an hour/day or using outside recess whenever possible). CPS is going to increase the school day length to meeting this requirement.
Jeff G March 18, 2012 at 03:02 AM
my first reply got deleted with the multiple site crashes this evening... Thanks Adam. Great ideas. Assuming no referendums and a balanced budget, the district was looking at $900k in cuts. Most of your proposals were part of that already (biz consultant was not rehired last year, going to half day kindergarten, etc.), so there won't be additional savings. Extending the school day could gain you the staff hours, but I don't see it cutting any more dollars. The after school activities were not accounting for much. Going towards a large fee per student, could generate some cash, but there's a significant portion of low income families that get lunch now subsidies now, and won't afford the fees. It's been discussed. I don't know that you can charge fees for state mandated classes like gym. Given staff for STEM, art, music, I don't see it being practical to keep those staff assuming that students will sign up with them for extra activities, especially given the likely $500+ per head fee you'd likely have to charge. So even with your extra proposals, you'd still hit about the $900k cuts. The district has been band aiding the facilities already for years, that's not new. The base capital items have been roughly prioritized already with the top base items being $4+ million. So if $900k cuts gets you in balance, you need a lot more to get after the facilities in less than a decade. That was my point in the "fire everyone" plan. Zero raises gets you $100k.
Adam Kohm March 18, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Gotcha. I guess what I'm saying is that if both referenda fail, go ahead and make all of the proposed cuts to save the money. Then, use my proposals to add back the programs. Staff would need to basically work extra hour, cost centers created, and programs from normal day moved to that extra hour/cost centers. Add back the programs without increasing cost to district. If certain things can't be added back and there is a very good reason for it, then it would just have to be so. Don't get me wrong...this is not ideal. But we have no money, so I think this idea is better than just cutting. Actually, I think all of this should be done no matter what. Make all of those cuts, implement proposals like that above, and also try to increase funds. Yes, district needs more money, but I think if measures were taken like that above, district would need to ask tax payers for less. If referenda fail, they are not going to have a choice.
Jeff G March 18, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Okay, but what are you adding back? Sports, band, chorus, etc. ? You're asking for another concession from teachers now with no guarantees they'll take it with the contract up a year out. Not sure it's even legal, but even if it does work, you're at a break even budget at best. To go after facilities, you need to make more cuts that will start to break into classroom size. Bottom line, the school goes on without the referenda and will have to adjust no matter what. Making these cuts and more, and having teachers work an extra hour per day will not maintain the status quo. These cuts will still bite into curriculum. Even with your cost centers, you're still break even, and you won't get everything back. Your concept is private school. If the referenda fail, we will not have a choice on the cuts. We do have a choice now though. I choose to vote yes.
Adam Kohm March 18, 2012 at 05:08 AM
LIke I said previously, I've vested on the order of minutes into this, but even with this trivial effort, i think it presents proposals that are much better options than that laid out by the district. I understand the scare tactics and that the goal is to pass the referenda, so it would be counter-productive for the district to present potential ways to save programs like that above. However, in the event the referenda do indeed fail, you'll definitely hear my voice amplified 1000% when I hear that programs are being cut that could be saved by options like those laid out above. Right now it is all just stupid political positioning. Vote Yes signs and Vote No signs. I don't take any of that seriously. However, if they fail, that's when it gets real and all of this petty bickering needs to be shelved and good decisions will be needed, not excuses why things aren't good enough. Frankly, I have no desire to maintain the status quo and I think to aim to maintain the status quo is very short-sighted of the district. I think big changes are needed. We'll just see what happens.
Jeff G March 18, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Having participated in some of the sessions, the goal is not the status quo, but to maintain the same level education provided to the students. The proposed cuts were not scare tactics, but a base plan showing the level of financial change needed if the referendum don't pass. That plan will need a tremendous amount of work when put into action, especially with the other potential funding losses from the state. I just don't want any of us to oversimplify the extreme depth of this problem. Pass or fail, I agree that new alternatives and direction are needed for the district. The board is already on notice given the amount of community activism this has brought from both sides. See you at the next school board meeting Adam!
Donald India March 18, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Could be legal. I believe the Federal Labor Laws allow an employer to IMPACT BARGAIN working conditions except for salaries by approaching the union with a proposal. IF the proposal is rejected, the employer can implement the working conditions changes until the next union bargaining agreement negotiations.
Donald India March 18, 2012 at 04:50 PM
A full size gym would better serve the Middle School. Maybe the Park District would be interested in a cooperative development of a gym/community activity center to be built on part of Cardinal Park behind Golf Middle School. If the referenda fail, it could create needed interest and votes from the MG/Niles senior and NON-parent community. The school district would get priority and even exclusive use for day-time and student events with the community using the facility in the evenings and weekends AND throughout the summer.
Jeff G March 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Sorry Don, I was jumping around a bit. I should have said...I'm not sure it's even legal to start charging kids individually for particular classes in public school, but even if it does work, you're at a break even budget at best. The ACLU already has filed a class action suit against California schools for this same issue. Yes, union contracts can be renegotiated mid stream as long as both sides agree. The district and teachers have done that once in the contract already.
Concerned March 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Looks like the voters have spoken - Time for bold ideas!
Donald India March 21, 2012 at 09:54 PM
See the new blog: http://niles.patch.com/articles/golf-school-district-67-election?ncid=following_comment

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