Noel Manley is convinced Hinsdale Township High School District 86 board members are falling short in fulfilling what he thinks should be their mission in the growing battle over school funding.
“They’re definitely not serving the voters,” Manley, the husband of former District 86 board member Claudia Manley, told the DuPage Policy Journal. “Twice now, the voters have spoken very clearly on how they feel about this in the form of rejecting two referendums. This nonstop push to get something passed is all about serving the special interest groups of the district. They’re trying to get Hinsdale Central rebuilt, and they’re willing to do anything to do it.”
In December, school officials moved to cut the Hinsdale South and Central High football and swimming teams, along with marching band and cheerleader programs, as part of an effort the Chicago Tribune reported is aimed at raising the funds desperately needed for critical school repairs.
The vote to obliterate those programs came just days after voters soundly rejected a $166 million bond request that would have covered all those costs and then some. Yet another $130 million will be requested in a referendum question set to be on the ballot on April 2. School board officials have dangled the carrot that if that question is approved, all programs will be reinstated.
Critics such as Manley, who has written a series of publicly disseminated letters substantiating his point, argue it is all part of a scheme by supporters of the funding request to strong-arm voters into going along.
“There’s no regard for the children in any of this,” he said. “They’re simply being used as pawns by the powers that be to get what they want.”
Manley said what bureaucrats do not seem to understand is that many voters have had enough, especially when many of them are convinced all that can be done has not been before even more burden is strapped to the backs of taxpayers.
“There are a number of ways you can look to produce other revenue streams,” he said, pointing to a plan endorsed by Zach Mottl, chairman of District 86 Can Do Better and Burr Ridge board member, to raise corporate money to sponsor certain school activities as one option.
Mottl has gifted $35,000 of his own money and received pledges for $100,000 more with a goal of raising $275,000, all of it earmarked for restoring many of the popular programs that were stripped away.
Manley said that kind of out-the-box thinking could make all the difference in maintaining long-held school standards without overburdening parents. He has proposed creating a districtwide foundation that would support specific projects and student-based programs.
“This foundation could be supported by private and corporate funding and serve as a pillar of the district,” he said.
No matter what happens, Manley said, he and others will be heard from on April 2.
“We will continue to campaign for 'no' votes in the referendum, because it seems the district still hasn’t gotten the message,” he said. “Our plan is to let people know just how bad a deal this is, and until certain structural changes are made I don’t think my view on that will change at all.”