Funding, virtual charters, building alliances set as priorities for D300
By Emily McFaRlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org @emmillerwrites October 2, 2013 4:46PM
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:05AM
ALGONQUIN — The Community Unit School District 300 Board of Education recently approved five legislative priorities for the legislatively-active district to tackle this school year.
Those priorities include stressing the importance of school funding, state capital development board (CDB) funding and pension reform. They also include joining discussions about virtual charter school legislation and building alliances with other school districts.
Many of those priorities, like the funding and pension reform, are “repeaters” from last year, according to board member and school board legislative committee co-chair Kathleen Burley.
“You’re going to see a lot of the same ones every year until they’re fixed. There are certain things that are always going to be priorities,” Burley said.
Fair school funding and receiving full funding from the state of Illinois, for one, always will remain a priority when the district spends an average $2,000 less per student than other school districts in the state, she said.
For the first time in many years, the district has returned to the “foundation” level of general state aid, the state’s highest funding level, the district said. Without that funding, or with any changes to the current funding level, the district would have a deficit as it invests in more teachers to bring down class sizes.
Pension reform remains an issue as the district opposes any legislation that would shift employer contributions on the district and as the lack of reform hurts its bond rating, it said. So does state CDB funding, as the district has been waiting for reimbursement for capital projects since applying to the state in 2004.
New this year, after 18 area school districts unanimously rejected an application this spring for a virtual charter school from St. Charles-based Virtual Learning Solutions, is a priority on virtual charter school legislation.
Also this spring, state lawmakers approved a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools in Illinois. That was meant to give lawmakers and educators time to research and update the laws governing those schools, and District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy said at the time the district wanted to be part of those discussions.
At the very least, the district said, it needs to stay informed about those discussions.
The district also wants to prioritize building alliances with other school districts to better advocate for its legislative priorities, Burley said. That’s something the district has realized since it first became active lobbying against an extension to the economic development area around Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates.
That’s also when it created the board legislative committee.
That committee has, in turn, created a subcommittee to identify districts with similar legislative interests and determine activities and actions that can be taken together, the district said.
“We’ve been sort of like a catalyst for education,” Burley said.
“I’m sure we’re not the only district that has gone to legislators and pushed for reform. But in yeas past, educators educate. They don’t legislate, and they just take what’s given to them. We can’t do that anymore.”