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District U-46 Board discusses ISAB positions


By Seth Hancock
  Last month, the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) opposed a hotly debated resolution that would have the lobbyist organization lobby for local control allowing local school districts to determine whether or not to allow armed staff for the protection of students.
  As previously reported, the IASB opposed that resolution 203-179 despite the IASB’s resolution committee’s support. Melissa Owens, School District U-46’s board representative at the IASB delegate assembly, said at a Nov. 19 U-46 board meeting that 26 school districts abstained on the vote.
  On the U-46 board Owens, John Devereux, Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith all opposed local control but board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward supported the resolution.
  While that resolution failed, the IASB’s delegate assembly approved one new resolution, a new belief statement, two amendments to existing belief statements and one reaffirmation of an existing position.
  Most had support of the U-46 board but one, the new resolution, did not. That resolution asked the IASB to lobby for the allowance of “districts to borrow or otherwise obtain money without referendum for the sole and specific purpose of purchasing and installing energy saving equipment relating to the utility usage.”
  The U-46 board unanimously opposed that resolution after Ward presented an argument against it.
  “I personally do not agree with borrowing without a referendum,” Ward said. “That would in effect allow other funds to be freed up for school districts to use for other purposes for which they would have had to have a referendum, and in my opinion that is not good governance.”
  Asked for further explanation by Noland, Ward said: “Funds are fungible which means if you receive funds for one thing, it frees up funds that you would have had to spend for that to use for something else.”
  “You’re allowed essentially to increase your budget by borrowing, and that means you’ve got more funds available to spend on other things for which you may have had to get a referendum,” Ward added.
  Responding to a question by Noland and Owens, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the resolution “would not benefit us” and “we did not go in depth on this particular one” and had “no rationale” either way.
  Costello said: “Why would you not want to put this into referendum if it saves the district money in the long term versus a short term borrowing situation, and that should be put in front of the electorate.”
  Kerr said: “I think if you make an argument that you’ll save money, your referendum will get passed.”
  The board ultimately approved of the remaining items, but one did not have the support of Costello and Ward. That item was an amended belief statement that added language to have the IASB lobby the state and federal governments for more taxpayer dollars for mental health services.
  “In my opinion, we’re already doing this,” Ward said. “Why do we need to tell the state and the federal government what to advocate and support for, and that’s going to increase costs and we’re already doing this.”
  Costello asked: “Has anyone looked into the cost of doing this? I mean, I know that’s not our jobs, but I’m just curious when IASB recommends something do they quantify the cost of it?”
  Sanders said U-46 has done no cost analysis and likely the IASB hasn’t either, but he said he likes “the notion of a comprehensive, coordinated and collaborative effort” among all governing bodies to redistribute taxpayer dollars to these services which he called “beneficial to taxpayers.”
  “There’s never enough mental health resources to go around,” Noland said. “The need is great. Even if it’s part of the community… it helps us.”
  Devereux and Owens claimed that the resolution was not asking for tax dollars to go to school districts for mental health services but rather to outside agencies and Smith said “that’s the way I read it.”
  Costello said: “But ultimately it is the taxpayers of this district that will support it.”
  A new belief statement seeking local control in “decisions of school safety drills, plans, and procedures,” a reaffirmation of an existing position on charter school funding and an amended belief statement adding language stressing the “importance of student voter registration” were all supported unanimously by the U-46 board.
  Ward said that while she supports voter registration but: “I just hope that they’re teaching in our civic classes that we don’t have a democracy. We have a representative republic.”
  The belief statement and resolution committee frequently described the American system of government as a democracy with no mention of it being a republic.

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