Editorial: The Daily Northwestern encourages ‘yes’ vote on District 65 referendum

The Daily Northwestern Editorial Board

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The Daily Northwestern Editorial Board urges voters not just to participate in the local elections Tuesday, but particularly to vote “yes” on the District 65 referendum and authorize increased property taxes in support of public schools.

If the referendum passes, property taxes will rise by about 0.49 percent — or about $450 annually for the average Evanston property owner — to eliminate projected deficits in the current District 65 budget. If it doesn’t, District 65 will be faced with the prospect of making cuts in funding for schools, academic programs and classroom innovation.

Community members have voiced significant support for the referendum. Last week, The Daily published a letter to the editor from Northwestern alumnus Andrew Ross, who wrote that “as a Northwestern graduate, I know first-hand what an important role the University plays in our schools and in our community.” As NU students, we can have an impact on how this election shapes the future of Evanston schools.

We do acknowledge the potential drawbacks. With the city’s property taxes already high, some Evanston residents are concerned the tax increase could drive out low-income or minority residents. Any tax increase is a financial burden, and a successful referendum could pose diversity issues for Evanston. Though this is surely not a black-and-white issue, we believe it is urgent to maintain funding for our schools and provide low-income and minority students access to education. It is also important to keep in mind that the district is discussing potential tax relief for low-income families, should the referendum pass.

NU admitted a higher number of local students to the class of 2020 than in the past, partly due to an increase in financial aid to both public and private high school graduates in Evanston and Chicago. Local students are a significant part of the NU community, and deficits like the $112 million budget gap facing District 65 schools in the next eight years would be a huge step backward in nurturing students to reach their full potential and receive the highest quality education possible.

More than 40 percent of District 65 students come from low-income families. In addition, the district includes various programs for students learning English as a second language, with more than 10 percent of its students being English learners. Despite common perceptions of Evanston as a wealthy, white utopia, schools right around us are facing budget cuts that would be devastating to already disadvantaged students. Just as we continue to advocate for diversity and inclusivity within the NU community, it is equally urgent for us to vote in support of the same values locally.

NU students can vote in Evanston regardless of their permanent address, and they can register to do so at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, the University’s Center for Civic Engagement or online through NUVotes.org.

By voting “yes” on the District 65 referendum Tuesday, we can use our votes for the betterment of our schools. A “yes” vote is a vote against increased class sizes, teacher layoffs and budget cuts for extracurricular programs. We encourage you to cast a vote that will guarantee stability and opportunity for students in the Evanston community.

This piece represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board of The Daily Northwestern. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members or Editorial Board members of The Daily Northwestern.