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District U-46 approves ACE funding increase
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved, via a 6-1 vote, board member Jeanette Ward voting no, an increase in funding to the Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE) at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.
ACE, which is comprised of government and business entities within U-46, was formed by former Superintendent Jose Torres in 2012.
Approved was $51,000 to ACE, up from $25,000 last year. Last year, ACE originally asked for $25,000 a year for three years but the board decided on only a one-year commitment citing a lack of transparency from the organization.
Prior to this contribution, U-46 had donated $70,000 since 2013 while another $656,927 has come from other sources including other taxing bodies. ACE’s budget for 2018-19 is $196,000 with 72.6 percent ($142,385) going towards salaries, primarily to Nancy Coleman, ACE’s executive director.
“This spending is double what was asked for last year, and last year it was asked for three years,” Ward said in explaining her vote. “So if we had approved it for three years at that time… we wouldn’t be being asked for the $51,000 this time.”
Ward noted that 10 percent of ACE’s budget comes from municipalities and 3 percent from publicly funded institutions of higher education. From a memo, Coleman wrote that Elgin, Hanover Park and Hoffman Estates have all contributed this year and there’s a “grant request outstanding to the Village of Bartlett.”
On ACE’s website, it lists business and community partners which include other taxing bodies, like libraries. From private donations, ACE did receive a three-year grant from the Grand Victoria Casino in 2015-16 totaling $150,000 according to Coleman’s memo.
“The original intent, of my understanding, of ACE was supposed to be funded by donations,” Ward said. “If 10 percent is also funded by municipalities that’s taxpayer dollars in addition to the $51,000 being asked for from U-46.”
Ward added: “I would like to see ACE go back to its original intention which was to be funded by donations and not by tax dollars. It seems to me as a way to expand our operations.”
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders has previously stated “this is all paid for through fundraising.”
When the $51,000 request was first presented to the board on Dec. 3, 2018, board member Melissa Owens said last year the board “recommended that ACE have a robust annual report and financials available. I do not see these in the proposal, nor do I see them on their website.”
Coleman responded in a memo with a progress report and operating plan approved by ACE’s board which is “scheduled to review progress against the plan at its January 22, 2019 meeting. Highlights of Alignment’s progress will be featured in a community report to be distributed by February.”