Lincolnshire school board questions states priorities
James Kollross, a third-grader at Half Day School, casts his vote Nov. 5 during Half Day's mock presidential election. The Illinois Association of School Boards recently voted to ask the state to make public education Illinois' number-one priority, but so
Updated: December 6, 2012 3:10PM
LINCOLNSHIRE — Crumbling roads vs. crumbling classrooms. Veterans’ needs vs. children’s needs. Public health vs. public education.
Choose a side: schools, or something else?
At its November assembly, the Illinois Association of School Boards unanimously reaffirmed a proposal it has brought to the state’s General Assembly every year since 1973: make public education Springfield’s number-one priority, and fund it as such. But, days before the IASB’s 40th straight vote, one local school board pointed out that, especially in this economic climate, the time may not be right to ask legislators to pick a side.
During its November meeting, the School Board of Lincolnshire-Prairie View Elementary District 103 concluded that Illinois should not set any one need as its prime concern. As Board President Gary Gordon noted, attempting to declare even a need as innocuous as public education as the state’s main focus leaves too many other crucial needs behind.
“To say that this is the number-one responsibility of the state,” Gordon said, pausing for a moment. “What about mental health? What about infrastructure?”
Although some local legislators declined to comment on state priorities, Carol Sente, state representative in the 59th District, said that she could pick a side, at least for the immediate future.
“There is one looming issue, pension reform, that is such a high priority that not fixing this one issue will overwhelm the entire state budget to the degree that it will draw funds away from education or any other functional priority,” she said.
David Harris, the 53rd District’s state representative, said there were too many crucial needs for the state to single one out.
“Public schools are a huge priority, I can say that without hesitation,” he said. “Is it the number-one priority? At that point, you get into a food fight.”
Most other neighboring school districts declined to comment about the idea of legislators setting their funding above other needs the state is supposed to meet. Stevenson High School spokesman Jim Conrey said his district rarely picked sides in legislative matters.
“Historically, we have not taken public stances on proposals made by any legislative body, unit of government, or lobbying organization,” he said, “and I have received no indication that we’re going to break precedent here.”
The IASB’s proposal was part of its consent agenda, re-affirmed along with several other ongoing resolutions. James Russell, spokesman for the Association, said their intent was to give a clear direction to a state being yanked in many directions.
“If that fundamental belief holds true, it could affect a lot of positions,” Russell said. We think it’s fundamental.”
It is not a bill in the General Assembly’s lame-duck session — and if it were, it would likely have a tough time gathering support.