D86 school board accused of punishing voters with vote to eliminate football, marching band
A Dec. 17 vote by the Hinsdale Township High School District 86 has put the Hinsdale South and Central High football and swimming teams, along with marching band and cheerleader programs at the schools, on the chopping block.
The vote to cancel the popular student activities comes just over a month after 54 percent of voters rejected a $166 million referendum.
Zach Mottl, chairman of District 86 Can Do Better, argues that eliminating students sports and other activities is part of a plan to punish voters for taking a stand against a massive tax increase.
“Sadly, the board is voting to cut vital programs in an effort to punish the district’s voters and their children in order to get them to vote yes on yet another massive and wasteful tax hike,” Mottl told the DuPage Policy Journal.
Mottl said the school board has implied all programs could be reinstated if voters were to line up in favor of a $130 million referendum set to be on the ballot April 2.
“The board is trying to use these programs, many of them important to students and parents, as leverage to force a massive, wasteful and unnecessary tax increase," Mottl, a Burr Ride board member, added. “The board has made this a quid pro quo; give us our tax hike and we will give you back your programs.”
School officials insist the cuts are needed as part of a plan to raise the funds necessary for critically needed infrastructure upgrades, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Mottl argues it’s all a ruse to assure that members of "the other side" get the things they want most.
“The board is protecting union jobs at the expense of students,” he said. “They could have increased class size from 24 to 29 students with no impact on learning or outcomes, but it would have saved several million dollars a year in salary and benefits. These program cuts could have been avoided with this one measure.”
What is actually best for the student long ago got lost in the entire debate, Mottl added.
“I’m sure many students are upset by this unfortunate news, but I want them not to worry,” he said. “These cuts are nothing more than straw dogs put up by the board. They are false, meant to intimidate and scare people, but they are not real.”
While predicting that all the program cut will be restored regardless of how the referendum vote turns out, Mottl added that school officials turning to what he characterized as underhanded tactics says a lot about how they operate and what depths they’re willing to go to impose their will.
“The D86 board has made its priorities clear, and neither students nor taxpayers made the high-priority list,” he said. “It’s possible the D86 board has even breached their fiduciary duties. They have mismanaged the finances of the district so badly over the last several years, spending more than they take in, and now they want students and taxpayers to pay the price.”
Mottl said an obvious beneficiary of all the misguided dealing has been the teacher’s union.
“What is even more sad is that next year negotiations are due to start over the next union contract,” he added. “With taxpayers already footing bills averaging more than $150K per D86 teacher for salary and benefits, I say enough is enough.”
Whatever happens, Mottl said, school officials have already set a dangerous precedent.
“The school board, by taking these actions, has already sent the union the wrong message,” he said. “They have told the union they will hurt the students and choke the taxpayers before they demand changes from the teachers that could save millions of dollars a year and not impact student learning or programs.”
Earlier this year the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) placed the school on its financial "review" list based on such metrics as days of cash on hand and borrowing capability.
Over the past five years the school district's spending has increased from $16,772 per student in the 2012-13 school year to $19,113 in the 2016-17 school year, an increase of 12 percent. Meanwhile, its enrollment fell from 4,536 to 4,318.