Concerned Oswego School District 308 residents are continuing to urge the Board of Education to place a property tax hike referendum on the ballot again in an effort to save district educational and extracurricular programs.
The district currently is implementing $1.4 million in additional budget cuts and fee hikes after the defeat of an operating fund referendum April 2. The Board sought passage of the referendum to offset a multimillion dollar deficit.
Included in the cuts for the 2019-20 school year will be a restructuring of the district’s special education program and the shifting of the district’s junior high school athletic program from a competitive interscholastic format to intramurals.
During Monday’s board meeting, district parent Kim Anderson, a pediatric occupational therapist who works in the early intervention program serving the district, said that she no longer can encourage parents to move to the district because of the concerns she has about the impact the district’s cuts will have on special needs students.
The pending changes to the district’s special education curriculum include shifting the responsibilities of the school’s special education coordinator to each school’s assistant principal.
“My families that I work with currently often ask me what district would I move to to best serve my child with special needs. I’m sad to say that out of District 202, 203, 204 – it pains me because I live in this district, I cannot recommend 308,” Anderson said. “Because it cannot provide the same level of service that the other districts deliver, especially with the referendum not passing.”
“The special education coordinator is the case coordinator and is essential during IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings to help foresee that a child gets proper placement and support needed to help yield the most beneficial program. This in turn helps the child excel in the least restrictive environment,” she said.
“Many of the assistant principals do not have the extensive education, training or knowledge needed to serve the special education program. Assistant principals already have so many responsibilities, and now they’re supposed to add special education, too?”
Anderson speculated that it would be difficult for assistant principals to maintain the increased workload and that teachers may become “burned out” because of a lack of classroom support and training – another effect of the budget cuts.
“These children and families already struggle daily, and need to be provided the best quality education that they deserve,” Anderson said. “People are moving out of our district to other highly competitive districts that currently do not suffer from a severe budget crisis and I can’t blame them.
“But the more people that move out, the less people that will move in. If we don’t make the changes now, this will be the death of our community.”
After a student and parent spoke before the board in favor of bringing back the referendum to save junior high interscholastic athletics, board member Toni Morgan thanked the night’s public speakers for attending.
“I know that people are encouraging us to put the referendum back on the ballot, but I’ve said this at every meeting, and I’ll probably say this at every meeting, is that your voice needs to be heard by people at the state of Illinois,” Morgan said. “They are the ones who fund our schools, and that is a way to fundraise without baking a lot of cookies. ... make sure that you are making yourselves heard.”