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What Do You Think of the D65 School Building Referendum?

Raising money to build a new school is one of three referendum questions on the March 20 ballot.

Evanston has three referendum questions on its March 20 ballot — one on the , one on , and one on electrical aggregation.

Those first two questions seem to have touched a nerve with residents, so we wanted to start a dialogue on the site for those who feel passionately about the issues and those who are still undecided.

Today we're exploring the school building question. Please vote in our poll below and then share your thoughts in the comment section. Yesterday

Here's the official wording of the ballot question:

Shall the Board of Education of Evanston/Skokie Community Consolidated School District Number 65, Cook County, Illinois, build and equip a school building, build and equip additions to existing school buildings, and improve the sites of and alter, repair and equip existing school buildings and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $48,200,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?

Residents are clearly divided on the question. drew 50 reader comments. And here you can read that columnist Christine Wolf gathered together.

What do you think?

Jeff March 17, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Mary I'll vote yes if you are willing to take a paycut as an employee of the school district.
Saulie March 17, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Construction firm big donor to pro-referendum group http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/bill-smith/2012-03-16/48478/construction-firm-big-donor-to-pro-referendum-group
Mary Brown March 17, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Jeff - I'm so glad you may vote YES! I, in fact, have taken a pay cut for several years now - but it is as a stay-at-home mom, ever since my child was born, so that I can personally support his development. Being involved in my child's school is a wonderful experience! I hope you realize that, with the neighborhood school this referendum proposes, other parents - whether they work outside the home or not - will have that same opportunity, (i.e., having a school in close proximity to one's home fosters parental involvement). If you haven't attended a public forum in our community, I encourage you to contact www.c4be.com to obtain a copy of their film, so you can see what other parents in our community have to say about the many possibilities this new school has to offer. Regarding your side comment about school employees - My experience in being involved at my child's school affirms my belief that our district has some of the very best teachers and administrators. In my opinion, there should be no question about their salaries and/or any ulterior motives - other than promoting quality education for all children in our community - for any school employee who may support this referendum.
Martha King March 17, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Oh, Jeff, I figured it out. You think she is the district 65 Mary Brown who works in finance I think? Nope, I can assure you that there is more than one Mary Brown and this one is a stay at home mom with a kid at my kid's school.
Russell March 17, 2012 at 10:04 PM
If we are really interested in student achievement in the 5th ward, we would think about birth to age 5 full day pre-K, and vigorous family supports for 5th Ward folks. Thinking that building a school to segregate low income students in a neighborhood school romanticizes the notion and impact of a neighborhood school. The Chicago kids I deal with everyday would love to go to a number of schools outside of their neighborhood and only go to the neighborhood school as a last result. ' Research shows geography does not make a good school. Quality instruction and effective leadership, and stable, involved families are the determiners of quality schools and student achievement. That is where our focus should be for 5th ward students. What the research tells us is to focus on these educational supports (see Sebring's recent work) and you will find the key to student achievement. Vote with Lorraine Morton. Vote for quality schools. Vote for integrated schools. Vote no.
millie March 18, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Well the company that is probably going to be involved in building 9IF IT HAPPENS) Has donated to those in favor.
Jared March 18, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I'd like to see Richard teach in a classroom for just one week. How about the special needs preschool classes? Where you have to make materials for each child - not use a prescribe curriculum. Where you have children with whom you can not communicate. Where behaviors of both child and parent make it impossible for the child to learn. Oh, right, and he'll be accountable for 100% success rate for a year's growth in that child's education, too. A teacher's salary compared to an attorney's? Are you kidding me? I'm pretty sure being paid $300 an hour is a little more outrageous than $175 a day. Oh, and before you get all ruffled thinking I'm one of those teachers saturating this dialog with my propaganda... I'm an attorney for a wellness corporation. Hmmm I wonder what would happen if everyone in the entire country made the same salary no matter what his position.
Richard Schulte March 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Jared: "I'd like to see Richard teach in a classroom for just one week." Well, in fact, I have taught classes and prepared all of the materials for the classes. Really, just about anyone can do it. You certainly don't need a degree in education to teach a first grader how to read. In fact, my son's first grade teacher enlisted a 7th grader to teach my son to do it. Should every 7th grader be earning 6 figures with a pension? With respect to $300/hour fees made by attorneys, that is the attorney's billing rate, not the attorney's salary. The $300/hour goes to the company and helps pay business expenses. In Illinois, we have physical education teachers who make more than doctors. It's the same old sob story, teachers work so hard. No nurses work hard. Police officers and fire fighters are routinely in dangerous situations. There is no comparison between what nurses, police and fire do and what teachers do. Sorry, ain't buying your story.
mij March 18, 2012 at 05:02 PM
The Mount Prospect-based firm that manages construction on School District 65’s building projects is the largest contributor so far to Citizens for a Better Evanston, the citizens’ committee marketing the $48.2 million bond question. Campaign reports filed with the State Board of Elections show that NEPCO Inc. made a $2,500 contribution in February. Nicholas Papanicholas Jr. of NEPCO has been the construction manager for a host of District 65’s capital projects including recent and ongoing additions to Dewey, Willard and Lincoln schools.
Lisa G. March 18, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Sally, What's wrong with a site that explains the reasons to vote against the referendum? Have you see the C4BE site? Not a lot to "fair and balanced" there. (Not a lot of transparency either, since the largest donor so far is a contractor in Mt. Prospect who has done over $400,000 of work for D65 and has a track record of supporting school referendums to generate business for his firm. You need to read some other publications: http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/bill-smith/2012-03-16/48478/construction-firm-big-donor-to-pro-referendum-group
Lisa G. March 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Really, Mary? This is a about choice in school attendance? You mean we're building another magnet school? I thought we were building another neighborhood school. Are you suggesting that students from across Evanston will be able to attend? Won't that just result in more busing? But I thought this was all about having a school that kids could walk to. Why is there all this talk about "re-segregation"? Perhaps because a school that is 85% minority and 90% low-income sounds a lot like the demographics of the old Foster School that parents lobbied to dismantle in the 60s. The NAACP in Evanston seems to support a return to this model. This isn't true for the NAACP nationally: “Ending busing to integrate schools and dwindling funding for public schools is the newest form of re-segregation,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “All children of all backgrounds, of all races, colors and creeds deserve an accessible, high quality public education. School boards across this country are rolling the clock back to the time before Brown vs. The Board of Education and the NAACP will not continue to let this happen.” http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/201...s-end-resegregation -bloomington-among-local-districts-grappling-stu
lucas March 18, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Off-base tax estimates may cloud spring ballot proposals http://evanston.suntimes.com/news/9135733-418/off-base-tax-estimates-may-cloud-spring-referenda.html#.T2JBwe-HLAo.email
Jeff Wilson March 18, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Vote No. Expand existing infrastructure and utilize that to the same end. A responsible referendum would have only asked for only this. If you pass this, you can bet there will be another referendum to raise funds to pay the teachers. The C4BE group would have you believe that a no vote is both racist and anti-Evanston. This is simply not the case. If the same effort had been put into a realistic plan that has been put into this PR effort, we might have a shot at a better Evanston. Vote no.
K Cahill March 18, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Looks like C4BE put the call out for everyone to flood the boards today. Sorry, but Martha, "innocently" asking who could possibly benefit from the referendum except for the kids is disingenuous at best. Clearly, the contracting firm that funded your organization will, otherwise, why would a non-resident spend so much money when their kids won't benefit and their taxes won't rise? Interesting to note Mayor Morton opposes, as does Hecky Powell. As do thousands more who won't comment here. Hopefully we can refer to them on Wednesday as the "silent majority"- folks sick of higher taxes for less property values and less services. We can get existing school improvements without this new school. Vote NO.
lucas March 18, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Landloards will also benifit fron the tax increases. Raise rents and make properties more profitable.
Lisa G. March 18, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Yes, concentrating minority and low-income kids in one school makes sense. Just ask Stephen Colbert: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/371414/january-18-2011/the-word---disintegration
John Brinkmann March 18, 2012 at 10:29 PM
I recall a time as a little kid growing up in Evanston of being frustrated with inheriting my older brother's bikes---all the while being he'd usually gotten a new one...My folks gently explained to me that two new bike's just wasn't in the budget, and I'd have to make do for the time being...Okay, the point is obvious and some might say comparing an economic lesson about a little kid dealing with the realities of life doesn't hold water compared to what supporters of the plan believe is a necessity for the betterment of Evanston's children---But come end of day the facts still overwhelmingly show the city plus already overburdened tax payers can't afford a new school...To further illustrate this point please keep in mind as a city were basically at the point of bankruptcy to maintain the eighteen D-65 school's we already have---and to put matters into crystal clear focus, please refer to D-65's own "Five Year Strategic Plan" finalized less than than 2 1/2 years ago---at no point does this document make any reference to the addition of a new school, and quoting directly from plan---"Forecast, budget and utilize the District’s fiscal resources in an effective and efficient manner to ensure the long-term fiscal stability of the District."...Bottom line--a new school is so far removed from achieving fiscal stability as one could ever imagine...Lets stay on track and any available funds should go to the fine schools we already have---Vote No
Judith Treadway March 19, 2012 at 02:43 AM
When additions were made to Dewey (twice), Dawes, Willard and Lincoln, the entire community of Evanston was not asked. The cost exceeded $20 million dollars which "chipped away" at the annual $25 million annual bonds in competition with other high priority repairs in the schools over the last 3 years. It has not addressed the overall projection of increased students in elementary and middle school in the next 5 years. Those same schools will need more improvements and other schools have not had theirs addressed. Let's address a community without a neighborhood school for over 40 years. Is it because their race/ethnic population and income level does not allow them the political power to demand what some of the above schools had to "influence" their school improvements. We were all made aware of the influence of the North end schools when they "raised the roof" when talk of re-districting and "cap and transfer" meant that their students would have to be involuntarily bused due to overcrowing! Evanston touts its 'diversity", yet it cannot understand the injustice of involuntarily busing over 700 children out of their community. It is time to redress a well-intentioned act that physically integrated schools and destroyed a thriving neighborhood with high parent involvement. For the future of these and all students in Evanston, to vote Yes is a "legacy" vote of Evanston and its values and commitment to all of its citizens.
Mary Brown March 19, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Lisa - The new school being proposed is not a magnet school. It is a "choice" school. Under the current proposal, children who are currently bussed will have the choice to attend the school they currently do, or to attend this new neighborhood school. If, in fact, there are openings at this new school, others will have the opportunity to request a "permissive transfer" into this school. As you may already know, neighborhood schools currently exist throughout our district, but there is no neighborhood school in one region of our city. Here, the children are bussed to at least four different schools throughout the district. The initial intent of bussing, in years past, was for a very good purpose; in fact, I believe it was a very important decision for our community at that time. At one in point in time, bussing policy here in Evanston was more of a two-way street; over time, it has evolved into a practice that is mostly just going one way (out of the 5th ward neighborhood). I hope you can see that there is something inherently unfair about this practice in our present day - one direction, ongoing, without choice, and no neighborhood school. I believe it's time to move forward to correct this inequity. The local branch of the NAACP agrees.
Russell March 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Judith, how come 5th ward parents are not heard from on this? In the survey of 5th Ward residents, the vast majority were content with their schools. Is this really about them or a vision of what justice should be? Fyi, my neigbhorhood school (Miller) closed when I was in 3rd grade and I was bused to Dewey. Looking back, I think this change helped me because it brought me into more diverse community, and I did not consider the "forced" busing an act of oppression.
Jeff March 19, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Lets take the busing/segregation/resegragation/black/white/hispanic and put those arguments on the side for a minute. Does anyone think it is wise for our city to borrow almost $50 million when the school district itself is already expecting a $3.3 million dollar annual deficit for 2012 which is projected to grow to 8.69 million for 2015? Where does the funding come from? Our state's finances are in shambles and has already indicated that funding from the state level will decrease in the coming years. Therefore, we should expect hefty tax increases regardless of the votes outcome. How can we support a $46 million dollar project when we are already faced with enormous financial obstacles? Where is the money going to come from? We don't have it... This is NOT fiscally responsible project at this time. If we really need to build a new school, we need to cut $50 million from other programs/items/services from the budget. YES voters, can you please come up with another means of funding the school without adding to our growing deficit?
Lonnie wilson March 19, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Im not sure 5tward parents are against the referendum, I am sure 2 highly connected black leaders who dont have kids in the system are, Hecky Powell, and Mrs Morton hope the are not who we are polling!! Mosy who I have spoken with want a new school!!
Lisa G. March 19, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Judith, I'm glad those politically powerless individuals were able to buy some clout with funds provided by a private contractor who's already on the D65 payroll.
Jeff March 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Just because the city spent money that it didn't have in the past doesn't mean we should continue down the same fiscally irresponsible road now and into the future.
Saulie March 19, 2012 at 05:16 PM
District 65 cuts are coming. Contact District 65 CFO, Mary Brown, and she'll confirm that the administration is proposing a reduction of 46 positions in the district. Mary Brown Chief Financial Officer District 65 859-8041 brownm@district65.net
lucas March 19, 2012 at 07:24 PM
This won’t come as a shock to many an Evanston homeowner, but property tax collections from the city of Evanston and the school districts rose faster than inflation during the past decade. More than twice as fast, as it turns out. The combined tax billings from the city of Evanston, Evanston-Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 were up 48 percent between 2000 and 2010. Coincidentally, the Evanston increase was precisely in line with the 48 percent growth of all 552 local governments in Cook County, according to an analysis by the Heartland Institute using tax data from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office. The city of Evanston posted the highest rate of increase among the three entities, which collectively account for 86 percent of the Evanston tax bill. The city’s claims rose from $32 million to $50 million. Property tax collections for District 65 rose from $61 million to $89 million, a 47 percent increase, while District 202’s tax collections were up from $43 million to $61 million, a 43 percent increase
lucas March 19, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas believes the explanation for rising property tax bills lies in the enormous growth of government debt.
Mary Brown March 20, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Russell - How come you aren't listening? Maybe I missed you at school board meetings open for public comment or the public forum at Fleetwood-Jourdain just last week. The way I see it, DIstrict 65 has quality schools - being content with the educational curriculum at our schools just isn't the same thing as having access and choice in attending a neighborhood school. I personally believe there's something to be said for the latter, but there are both philosophical, as well as practical, reasons why our current bussing practices aren't working for some families right now. If you listen, you'll hear what those reasons are.
Jordan Graham March 20, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Hello all, Regardless of what happens with the D65 referendum, Evanston Patch will run a story tomorrow night or Wednesday morning covering the results, and we will be looking for citizen feedback (from both referendum advocates and opponents). Any Evanston resident willing to participate in an interview tomorrow night after the results are in, please send me an email at jordan.s.graham@gmail.com and include your real name, telephone number and profession. I am currently filling in as interim editor of Evanston Patch for Emily Stone. Thanks in advance for your help!
RJ March 23, 2012 at 09:44 PM
John, Let me improve your analogy and still if you're still in agreement. Your brother gets a new bike and sadly, it's not in the budget for you to as well. However your brother also gets a new scooter (Willard additions), skateboard (Dewey additions) and moped (the $10 million addition at Lincoln when the extra kids could have been redistricted to Oakton FOR FREE) and you're still settling for the hand me down bikes.

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