The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Board election results support U-46 status quo
By Seth Hancock
Voters in the April 2 election for the four open Board of Education seats in School District U-46 chose the status quo by electing the union-backed slate over the taxpayer-focused slate.
Incumbents Sue Kerr (7,134 votes) and John Devereux (6,665) retained their seats and newcomers Eva Porter (6,505) and Kate Thommes (6,481) took the other two spots. Devereux was appointed to a vacated seat last June.
Incumbent Jeanette Ward came in fifth with 5,310 votes while her fellow slate candidates of newcomers Daniel Hancock (4,683), Tina Rio (4,564) and Ina Silva-Sobolewski (3,640) followed. Current board member Phil Costello did not seek reelection.
Voter turnout continued to be low and was lower from recent elections. Kane County, which posted turnout percentages specifically for the U-46 race, showed an 11.96 percent turnout which was down from 15.28 percent in 2017 and 13.34 percent in 2015.
Via social media, Kerr thanked her supporters writing: “I am so grateful for the support I received in this election. Thank you to the voters who put their faith in me and honored me with another four years on the U-46 School Board. For those who did not vote for me, I assure you that I will listen to your concerns and represent you as well.”
Kerr also congratulated the losing candidates: “Running for a position like this is never easy and I admire anyone who steps up. I wish you the best in the future…. While Jeanette and I have not always agreed, I appreciate the transparency and the diversity of thought she brought to the board.”
During the campaign the slate of Hancock, Rio, Silva-Sobolewski and Ward expressed concerns with the continued trends of flat or declining academic results and spending and tax increases despite continued enrollment declines.
The slate of Devereux, Kerr, Porter and Thommes were not concerned with the trends and lauded the direction the district is currently going. Devereux said there’s “not a runaway property tax burden.”
U-46 hiked spending by $40.2 million to $559.1 million and added 54 new positions this year while enrollment dropped by 633 students and it expects to increase spending again next year while projecting another loss of 1,329 students. The district has lost 1,915 total students since 2014 but spending has increased by nearly $100 million, over $70 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
At the same time, academic scores have been flat or declined and have lagged behind the state average according to the state board of education’s annual report card.
Budget projections show enrollment could drop 13.1 percent but spending rise by 36.3 percent from 2012 to the 2021-2022 school year.
The district has continued to increase its tax levy by the maximum amount allowed under the law and also lobbied for the 32 percent increase in the state’s personal income tax rate and 33.3 percent increase in the corporate tax rate to pay for the new so-called “evidence-based” school funding formula. Illinois residents have the highest total tax burden in the nation according to an analysis by the financial website WalletHub, and the state’s debt is currently at $159.4 billion and rising according to usdebtclock.org.
Ward contacted the winning candidates on election night to congratulate them and spoke to a room of supporters thanking them and her family as well as the Lord Jesus Christ “for the opportunity to serve on this board for the past four years.”
“I’m grateful that Tina, Ina and Dan decided to run and put their lives on hold for six months to do this…. They were the best teammates ever,” Ward added.
Hancock and Rio also addressed the room thanking them for their support. Hancock said he spoke to many residents during the campaign who “were definitely upset with the school district and wanted to see some changes in it,” and “taxes were an issue with them.”
Ward said her slate knocked on over 5,000 doors and reached many others through mail and other media outlets.
“There is nothing that we could have done that we didn’t do, so I am grateful for all of you and we gave it our all,” Ward said. “These guys are tough to beat.”
Over her four-year term, Ward listed as accomplishments and elevation in the “dialogue about curriculum and diversity of thought” as well as on taxpayers as well as achieving more school choice, most notably with the district’s first charter school opening this year. She also noted there was increased transparency after a state law was unanimously approved clarifying local elected officials had a right to access previous closed session recordings, that law coming after the U-46 board majority violated Ward’s civil rights by denying her access to such recordings.
Asked if she plans to stay involved in U-46, Ward told The Examiner: “My children are in this school district and you bet I care what happens here. So yes, I plan on staying involved.”
Adding on social media, Ward wrote: “Going forward I will, as I have the last four years, continue to advocate for academic freedom and diversity of thought, parental choice, privacy and safety for all students, and respect for the taxpayer, as a citizen and parent of two precious daughters in U-46.”