Parents worried about budget form group
With $28.6 million sliced from School District 51’s budget since 2009 and another $3 million to $10 million likely to be removed next school year, a group of local parents decided to research and champion the best ways to approach the next round of local budget cuts in 2012–13.
About 10 parents with students in District 51 formed the core board in early November and more than 200 parents, former teachers and current educators have joined the group, dubbed Save Our Students. Members discuss the effects of budget cuts and ideas for saving money on the group’s web site, SOS51.org, and its Facebook page.
The board meets regularly in person. Small groups formed to research and discuss issues ranging from four-day school weeks to bus-route efficiency plan to meet in person occasionally.
Board member Amy Agapito said the group mission is to offer the school board budget advice in February after they have had time to thoroughly study different cost-saving possibilities and which areas should be the last on the chopping block.
“I want my kid to be able to go to public school, but I want it to be a quality education,” Agapito said, adding the group “didn’t want to make any assumptions about how the district is using its budget. We don’t want people who are just simply argumentative for argument’s sake.”
Save Our Schools board member Rob Pierce said he sees the value in the district forming its own citizen budget-advisory group this month, but he wanted to operate independently so the group could “draw its own conclusions using research we have found.” The attorney and father of three said he is worried about what further cuts will do. He has seen staff leave his office because they wanted to move to a school district with more money.
Pierce wants to avoid school closures and increased class sizes. He said the group has spoken with district leaders and learned many of its ideas already have been researched.
“It looks like things are running pretty lean. So far, we’re not finding any obvious layers of fat to cut,” he said.
District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said the district long has received calls, emails and ideas for budget solutions. He said thoughts from Save Our Schools and others are appreciated.
“We’re very open to that,” he said.
Agapito and Pierce said district officials have been open to the group’s mission so far and hope to receive a warm reception from the School Board.
“Ultimately, it’s the decision of these five people. We hope they’re interested in hearing our recommendations. We’ll see,” Pierce said.