West Chicago Elementary School District #33  
Dr. Ed Leman, Superintendent Board of Education
312 E. Forest Avenue West Chicago, IL 60185 Dave Barclay, President
www.wegoed33.k12.il.us Katrine Maguire Secretary
(630) 293-6000      Fax (630) 293-6088 Sharon L. Jones
Contact: Becky Koltz School/Community Relations Specialist Deborah D. Ramsey
    (630) 293-6000 ext. 201 Robert Lemon
    koltzb@wegoed33.k12.il.us   Chris Scheck
Date: February 10, 2005   Joseph Lach

Questions and Answers From
District #33 Special Board of Education Meeting

January 27, 2005

1. We were told the Illinois Lottery was going to fund education. What happened?

The Lottery was originally billed as a way to provide additional monies for education. While it is true that Lottery profits are deposited in the Common School Fund, it merely replaces the money allocated to schools; it is not in addition to it.

2. Why do we provide free lunches to children? Can we cut this service back to save money?

District #33 is fully reimbursed for the cost of lunches for children who qualify for this federal program. This program does not cost the District any money to operate.

3. Does District #33 have an agreement with the Park District for use of the District's facilities?

District #33 has an intergovernmental agreement with the West Chicago Park District, and receives services such as grounds keeping in exchange for facility use. We have avoided charging rent for our facilities as most of these programs serve District #33 students. We are currently determining an hourly cost of operating our facilities and will bring this information to the Board.

4. What is the District's 5-year plan for No Child Left Behind to meet student test score

Every school has a School Improvement Plan (SIP) that is continuously updated with new student achievement data. The SIP plans include long range staff development, curriculum updates, changes in instructional practices, checkpoints to measure improvements, increasing effective use of technology, expanding effective programs, and reducing less effective programs to name a few. All schools are currently rewriting their improvement plans onto a standardized template recently provided by the State. Additionally, District #33 is writing a District Improvement Plan (DIP), and is reworking its five-year strategic plan.

5. What about the Bilingual Program? Can we save money there?

Bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) are required by federal law. The District must provide instruction to students in their native language while they learn English. Due to the existence of the bilingual program, District #33 receives more than half a million dollars a year in additional funding from state and federal sources. If bilingual program funds were cut, the District would need to educate these Spanish-speaking children in general education classrooms with English speaking students, without extensive language support and without the additional funds.  The expectation for the teacher would be to attempt to teach 40% of the students who are Spanish speaking,
and still provide an excellent education to the English-speaking students as well.

6. Has District #33 considered a four-day school week to save money?

The District has looked at the possibility of going to a four-day school week. The purpose of a shortened week is normally to reduce transportation, custodial, utility, and/or food service costs. In our case it would require re-negotiating the teacher’s contract. Also, we share bus service with Community High School. If we separated, due to a mismatched schedule, our transportation costs would be considerably higher. The high school would not match our new schedule because it would interfere with their after-school sports and clubs. It was determined that this was not an option for us.

7. Do we have to provide bus transportation to students?

Legally, District #33 is required to provide transportation to students who live more than 1.5 miles from school, or who have to cross hazardous streets to get to school. We receive reimbursement from the State for approximately 80% of this cost.

8. What is being done from a District perspective to alleviate overcrowding in homes? It seems
the tax burden is not fair if these multiple families have many children, and are only paying
the property tax on one house.

District #33 asks for proof of residency for every new student when they register. However, by law, we must educate every student who comes to us. The overcrowding in homes is a zoning issue. The City of West Chicago is aware of it, and they do ask us for specific student residency information under the Freedom of Information Act. This also points to the bigger issue of equitable school funding, and is one reason some support a change to income tax to pay for education.

9. Are we working with other District's across the state and country to fix the budget issues?

Yes, there is a network of school board members, administrators, and teachers who regularly, consistently, and persistently lobby the legislature for change. Frankly, until the legislators hear from enough voters – not educators – they will not make a change.

10. What administrative cuts have been made?

Turnover and grant funding has been the key to reducing costs in administration. From last year to this year, three administrative positions changed in the district office at a savings of approximately $56,000. The new superintendent came in with a smaller salary. Because he was an internal candidate, the District saved search firm fees. The assistant superintendent for learning position changed and resulted in a lower salary. The assistant superintendent for second language learners position was downgraded to director and the contract was shortened from 12 to 10.5 months. There are two coordinator positions. Those positions, and their secretaries, are paid by grants. The Middle
School principal, one elementary principal, and the Middle School assistant principal are new persons in these positions at entry-level salaries. Four lead teachers (two of them grant funded) assume some administrative, testing, and staff development functions reducing the need for additional administrators. Our average administrative salaries are $2,000 less than a year ago, $13,000 less than State average, and $20,000 less than the DuPage County average. District #33 is well below State average in administrative costs, and in the ratio of administrators to students as reported in the State School Report Card.

11. If we are looking at drastic budget cuts for 2005-2006, what's ahead for the next school year?

We continue to work to obtain new revenues through grant writing, lobbying legislature, and local efforts (e.g. appealing airport property tax exemption, and other new construction). These revenue generating efforts are combined with ongoing cost reducing/avoidance efforts. It is hoped no additional measures will be needed next year, but a full range of options will be explored if further reductions are needed. This will include all levels of staffing, programming, debt restructuring, and cost avoidance measures. However, the funding system in Illinois is set up to guarantee that revenues will be suppressed below the growth of expenditures. The system essentially guarantees that we cannot keep a balanced budget. That is THE problem. Ultimately, the ONLY long-term answer is a change in the system of funding schools. That is a LEGISLATIVE issue. District #33 staff and Board are doing all that is possible at the local level, but it will not be enough until funding changes at the State level.

12. What percentage of their salary do teachers pay to the Teachers Retirement System? What
does the District pay?

Teachers pay 9% to the Teachers Retirement System annually. The District pays up to 100% of a teachers' salary at retirement as required by law, if they are taking an early retirement option.

13. What does the District pay towards administrator's retirement?

The District pays 9% as an administrative benefit. Despite this, and due to suppressed administrative salaries and longer annual contracts, many teachers still earn more (especially on a per diem basis), than many administrators. This also contributes to a reduced administrator candidate pool. By law, the District must have certified administrators. All of our administrators came from teacher ranks. There must be incentive for teachers to move into administrative positions.

14. Has the District considered outsourcing custodians?

Yes. The District just negotiated a new custodial contract that now allows subcontracting for cleaning services. The District is in the process of researching this possibility. Prior to this contract, this was prohibited.

15. What can parents and community members do to raise awareness of the school funding
issues in the State?

Parents and community members involvement is essential to school funding reform. Legislators have been hearing from educators about school funding problems for more than 15 years. They simply are not listening anymore. Until parents and community members make their voices heard to our state representatives and senators, changes will not be made. Legislators do not want to approve tax increases because they are afraid they will not get re-elected. Changes in school funding will not occur until legislators believe they will not get re-elected unless they do solve the funding problem. For more information on legislative efforts, visit the legislative portion of our website: Legislative Information

16. Why did District #33 lose some State Aid after the referendum passed?

The State Aid formula is based on the school district's ability to generate local revenue. When the referendum passed, District #33's ability to generate local revenue increased, so the State lowered its contribution to us. It is one of many flaws in the funding formula.

17. Can we raise fees?

We have made several changes to our fee structure over the past few years. Students pay participation fees for interscholastic sports at the Middle School that range from $46 to $110, depending on the sport. This offsets most of the cost of the programs. Students who participate in band and orchestra pay a $97 participation fee at both the elementary and middle school level. Every year, we review book rental/registration fees to make sure we are competitive. By law, low income families do not have to pay these fees. Since all students are entitled to a free public education, our fees are not to cover the cost of a child's education.

18. Why are we in the position of having to reduce teachers?

The successful referendum did not cover the entire budget deficit; the funding formula prevents districts from remaining solvent. Reductions in support staff, administrative costs, supplies, materials, equipment, textbooks, testing, etc. have already been made. The local tax base has too little in commercial and industrial property and, as a result, we are again in the position to reduce teachers to balance the budget. Please refer to the budget presentation from the January 25 budget meeting. You can find that on our web site, or by clicking here: http://www.wegoed33.k12.il.us/budget/FY06 Budget Presentation.pdf

19. How does District #33 keep pace with the growth of housing developments?

This is difficult to plan for. We work closely with the City of West Chicago to keep abreast of proposed developments. In the past, we have worked extensively with the City to help them understand the impact housing developments can have on our schools, and have been successful. This does not mean the City will no longer approve housing developments, but they do understand the impact of multi-family dwellings (such as townhouses) that could produce more children than estate size homes. In the case of Prestonfield subdivision near Route 59 and 64, the City made sure the commercial development was constructed prior to the building of homes. The revenue from the commercial portion of the development was received by the District long before the housing complex increased our enrollment. Again, our tax base is too heavy in residential property, and too light in commercial and industrial property. Districts "lucky" enough to have the reverse property tax ratio are not struggling financially. This is the inequity of the State's funding system.

20. If class sizes are much larger in the 2005-2006 school year, will kids get bussed to other
schools with lower enrollments?

This could occur. For example, if there are 46 students in a grade level, the District has several options. We could have one class at that school of 37 students, and then bus the other seven students to another school that has less than 30 students. Or, we could have two classes of 23 students each. Or, it may be that the next grade higher or lower has a population small enough to combine with those seven students as a split grade level class. These are all very difficult decisions; decisions that will not be made until August. The District also offers open enrollment. Parents may choose to enroll their student at another school, provided the class size at the other school is below 28, and the parent is willing to provide transportation.

21. Is the District pooling resources to get the best price on paper and other expenses?

Currently the District belongs to several cooperatives that allow us to bulk purchase and reduce costs. We constantly review our purchasing processes to be sure we are getting the best value for our taxpayer's dollars.

22. Why does District #33 have such a low commercial/industrial tax base (30%
commercial/industrial and 70% residential)?

The City of West Chicago determines the amount of commercial, industrial, and residential growth that occurs within the City limits. The City does understand the impact of approving residential development that potentially adds students versus commercial and industrial development that adds to the tax base but does not produce students. As you can see by the Menard's development on Route 59 and 64, an important component of the residential approval for Prestonfield was the guarantee of commercial development to help offset the burden of additional students.

23. Has the District explored grant funding?

Most grants are awarded based on new or innovative programs or projects, not to fund day to day operations and pay salaries. The dollars awarded usually come with additional expenditures, and an expectation that the District will eventually take on the entire cost. Rarely is there a foundation that will simply award a grant for operating costs.

24. What are the ramifications of not meeting NCLB versus not meeting the budget?

Both result in a potential State take-over, dissolution, and reconstitution of a school district.

25. What are the ramifications of passing a deficit budget? Will there be a penalty?

One ramification is a lower bond rating. This means that if the District needs to borrow funds, our interest rate would be higher. Ultimately, the State can assign an oversight panel to oversee the budget, and can eventually completely take over a school district.

We hope you find this information helpful in understanding District #33's budget situation. Please do not hesitate to call Becky Koltz, School/Community Relations Specialist, at 293-6000 ext.201 or email at koltzb@wegoed33.k12.il.us, or Superintendent Ed Leman at 293-6000 ext. 203, or email at lemanee@wegoed33.k12.il.us with questions or concerns.