Letter to the Editor: Save our schools, vote ‘yes’ for District 65 referendum

I’m part of a diverse group of parents and grandparents; community, faith-based, business and educational leaders; and many other everyday Evanston residents supporting a grassroots effort to save our schools and protect our kids by voting “yes” for the District 65 referendum on election day.

Our committee and hundreds of volunteers have been knocking on thousands of doors, phone banking and talking to as many of our friends, family and neighbors as we possibly can to ensure that this passes. Our message comes down to what Bill Clinton once succinctly said: it’s about arithmetic.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve added 1,500 students to our district. It costs $20 million more annually to educate them, but only $3.5 million has been added to the property tax rolls, leading to a massive budget deficit.

While District 65 hasn’t asked for an operating referendum in 30 years, that streak must come to an end. After cutting $11 million out of its budget over the last several years, there are no more easy reductions to make. If this referendum fails, the district will be facing a $112 million budget deficit over the next eight years, which will mean incredibly dire consequences.

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. Our only option is to save ourselves. Political paralysis has overtaken Springfield and Washington. State support for our public schools is a fraction of what is constitutionally mandated, and the new administration wants to take steps that will stress and not strengthen our public schools.

A “yes” vote on April 4 will keep our schools the strong, incredibly special institutions they are by balancing the district’s budget 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, and investing in long overdue school capital projects.

The average District 65 property taxpayer will owe about $1.25 more a day.

As a Northwestern graduate, I know first-hand what an important role the University plays in our schools and in our community. For example, I have seen many Northwestern volunteers at Kingsley Elementary School where my daughter is in fourth grade. I think it is vital for the editorial board to make its voice heard because the future of our school system is at stake. I also think it’s important for Northwestern administrators, faculty and students to make their voices heard on April 4.

Whether you have kids in public elementary and middle schools right now or not, we cannot be the generation which 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.

There’s a famous phrase that says service is the rent we pay for living on this Earth. We can certainly serve our next generation well by voting “yes” on April 4. I am. I’m urging you to vote “yes,” too.

Andrew Ross
School of Communication ’90
Committee to Save Our Schools member