Plenty of questions, but not many answers as a concerned community comes together to find out how they can prevent more cuts at their schools.
The West Carroll School District – and others from around the area – met with state legislators during a town hall meeting on Thursday, April 4th, 2013.
“It’s not the school board or a few people or the administrators or the teachers being upset about the situation, it’s the whole community,” says Julie Bickelhaupt, who organized tonight’s event at West Carroll Middle School.
Around 100 people showed up, including the meeting’s invited guests – State Representative Jim Sacia and State Senator Tim Bivins. State Senator Mike Jacobs and State Representative Mike Smiddy were also invited, but Bickelhaupt says they were unable to arrange their schedules to attend.
Bickelhaupt says the goal of the meeting was to find some solutions to the state’s fiscal problems.
“We all knew Illinois was in quite a bit of financial turmoil already,” Bickelhaupt explains. “I guess what I didn’t realize was how much they were cutting from our school districts.”
The West Carroll School District, which has about 1,200 students, has faced a $4 million loss over the last seven years. In those seven years, Supreintendent Craig Mathers says their staff has decreased from 260 to 190. Just last month, the school board cut 12 teachers.
“With this many local residents here tonight, how do you suggest they impact what’s going on down in Springfield?” Superintendent Mathers asked legislators tonight.
“You need to contact the legislators,” Senator Bivins responded. “Not only the ones that are in the super minority, but the ones that are in the super majority meaning they’re the ones who are making the financial decisions. Regretfully we are not. I wish we were.”
Community members who attended tonight’s event say they’re frustrated and discouraged with what’s going on in their school district and school districts across the state.
“We as a community need to figure out something — and the state representatives — to help all the schools,” said Wendy Popkin, who has lived in Savanna, Illinois her whole life.
“It is a very big problem statewide and I don’t know if there are any answers,” said Rita Mitchell from Thomson, Illinois.
Bickelhaupt says she wants to talk with other school districts in hopes they’ll follow her lead and organize their own events with their legislators.
“…to get other communities and other schools around us to realize this just isn’t a West Carroll problem, this is a problem for all the schools in Illinois and maybe if we all make an effort, somebody will hear us and help us out.”
Other school districts are facing similar problems. In Moline, the School District’s School Board voted last month to cut 24 full-time equivalent teaching positions. They’ll vote on Monday, April 8th, 2013 on even more reductions.