|A Guest Essay by Eamon Kelly and Bridget Nelson|
We’re a diverse group of parents and grandparents, community, faith-based, business and educational leaders, and many other everyday Evanstonians supporting a grassroots effort to save our schools and protect our kids.
There’s a vital referendum on the April 4 ballot that we are voting “yes” on to provide our District 65 schools and kids with a fiscal lifeline. We have nowhere else to turn.
Springfield is a mess. Washington is no better. Our only option is to help ourselves.
Our District 65 schools are special. We have been a magnet for families who treasure our diversity, our inclusiveness, and our ability to prepare all of our children to thrive today, in high school and beyond.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve welcomed nearly 1,500 new students, which is a wonderful endorsement of everything our District 65 schools offer.
It costs $20 million annually to educate these nearly 1,500 children. Only $3.5 million has been added to the property tax rolls, leading to a massive budget deficit.
Property taxes pay for 75% of our education budget, and there are strict property tax caps that limit how much more money goes into our schools regardless of how much our home values increase.
And Illinois ranks dead last in state funding for public education.
Over the next eight years, we have a more than $112 million cumulative budget hole.
Nearly $11 million has already been cut from our budget over the last several years, while protecting our classrooms.
But we can’t cut our way out of this structural problem without jeopardizing our most precious resource: our kids.
Asking our property owners to pay more wasn’t a rash or easy decision, but the consequences would be incredibly dire if we don’t:
• Class sizes would explode to 30 plus, schools could close, kids could be shifted to other schools and multi-grade classrooms, curriculum and enrichment programming slashed, free full-day kindergarten eliminated and teachers laid off.
• The average homeowner would pay $1.25 more per day or $39 more per month.
• The passage of this referendum would keep our schools the strong, incredibly special institutions they are by balancing our budgets for the next eight years, bringing more innovation and technology to the classrooms, strengthening our core curriculum, continuing investments in enhancing equity and reducing the achievement gap, maintaining partnerships to increase overall impact and investing in long overdue school capital projects.
The choice is clear.
We continue nurturing and supporting our kids in small classes, or we create chaos with enormous class sizes that will be impossible to manage and learn in.
We continue giving our children the ability to reach their potential and achieve their dreams, or we leave them woefully unprepared in a world where a first-class education is the passport to success.
We continue strengthening our core curriculum across a variety of subjects, or we’re left with a bare bones curriculum that lacks vision and means our most vulnerable children would be left behind.
Whether you have kids in public elementary and middle schools right now or not, we cannot be the generation who lets our public schools fall apart. Our strong schools are the bedrock of our community, and one of the main reasons people buy homes and raise their families here.
This represents an investment in our kids, our community, and our homes.
Like so many of you, we are incredibly proud to call Evanston home. Proud to be part of such a diverse, engaged, and compassionate community. We know that our schools are at the very core of our treasured home, and we know that passing this referendum is critical to protecting our Evanston.
Please visit www.SaveEvanstonSchools.com to add your name to our growing supporters’ list and see how you can help.
Eamon Kelly and Bridget Nelson represent the Committee to Save Our Schools