Some raise concerns over former teachers union members seeking Downers Grove school board seats
A former teachers union member is joining two former teachers union presidents in bids for seats on the seven-member Downers Grove Grade School District 58 School Board.
Beth Taylor has 20 years of classroom experience, much of it in the district she is now vying to help steer and further put her stamp on.
“I am running for the District 58 school board because it is important for a teacher to be on the board, someone who has experienced the educational environment in Downers Grove firsthand,” Taylor said in a statement to the DuPage Policy Journal. “I have worked with children for years and now want to work for children, doing what is best for them.”
Taylor joins former teachers union presidents Greg Harris and Susan Helsdon in striving to include lifelong educators on the board.
Some, like Andrew Nelms, state deputy director of Americans for Prosperity-Illinois, have expressed concerns about the growing possibility of the board being run by a group representing the interests of the teachers union instead of fundamentally advocating on behalf of taxpayers
“The concern is that folks who have held positions in public unions now stand to be advocates on school boards,” Nelms said. “By and large, folks who run for park and school board spots have been people who really like and care about those kinds of things. This could be the start of people with vested interests becoming involved.”
A major responsibility of the board involves members negotiating with the teachers union on the behalf of taxpayers on all contracts. Because the board is now poised to be dominated by former educators has some wondering if the union might soon be bargaining against itself in those critical moments.
“I think we can be sure the trend won’t result in lower property taxes,” Nelms said. “Taxes almost never go down when local elected official continues to push higher costlier agendas based on pro-union principles.”
District 58 consists of 13 schools, with elementary schools Belle Aire, El Sierra, Fairmount, Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest, Indian Trail, Kingsley, Lester, Pierce Downer and Whittier, along with middle schools Herrick and O’Neill, servicing nearly 5,200 students.
With just 40 percent of the district’s students passing the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam last year, the time for Harris’ students first agenda mandating that all resources are used to the direct benefit of students might not be a tough sell.
“We need to keep that money tight to where the kids are and what they need,” she said at a recent MySurburbanLife candidate’s forum when the subject turned to funds allocated to the district.
Meanwhile, the Illinois State Board of Education reports spending for the district was up 26 percent between 1997 and 2015, while enrollment was down 4 percent.
The average teacher salary also now tops $78,000, while 2015 home values had fallen by an average of 23 percent from $397,799 to $308,000.