Anyone who has entered the meeting room for a Proviso board of education meeting in recent years has surely noticed that there aren’t many white people around. Those who do attend are usually clutching reporter’s notebooks or are Dist. 209 teachers or faculty.
Attendees will also notice that residents of certain villages that fund the school district through their property taxes, including Forest Park, are largely absent from the meetings, which rotate between the three Proviso schools each month.
These observations may seem somewhat obvious: Most Forest Parkers of all races, and those who can afford other options, have long avoided sending their children to the failing district, a move that is certainly understandable. According to the most recent available data, just over 5,000 of the district’s 8,800 students attend Proviso schools.
Only 4 percent of the district’s students last year were white (though that number does not include the new Proviso Math and Science Academy), so it makes sense that the parents who attend the board meetings would also be largely non-white.
Still, there’s a problem here. Just because a certain group”whether it be white people, Forest Park residents, or those who can afford private school”choose not to send their kids to Proviso does not mean that those groups should completely detach themselves from their hometown school district.
Nobody should merely accept the fact that they live in a community without a functional public high school, no matter how accustomed to it they’ve become. Tax money is being wasted, and the situation serves as a repellent to prospective residents.
Much more important, however, is that nearby children, many of whom attend a school located just blocks outside of Forest Park, are being deprived of an education. As the Terra Nova results, recently released to the Review, demonstrate, some high school seniors attending our school district and living in our immediate area are entering their senior year of high school with the vocabulary of a fourth-grader.
The assertion of administrators that students just aren’t taking the tests seriously is a copout. Students score the worst in the same areas every year, and it is doubtful that seniors blowing off tests is only a problem at Proviso. Plus, the students’ ACT and ISAT results are not much better than the Terra Novas.
Area residents can no longer think of Proviso as someone else’s problem just because their own kids don’t go there. The situation requires immediate action from all who live anywhere near it, regardless of race, class, hometown, or where their own kids go to school. We certainly commend Forest Parkers for their involvement in keeping the village council and the zoning board on their toes, but we submit that kids leaving high school completely unprepared for the future is at least as important as insufficient side-yard setbacks.
With the difficult task of monitoring Proviso affairs left to a small segment of the residents of the few towns who still send kids to the schools, the district will only deteriorate further. The school board, at this point, is little more than a power-brokering and money-funneling operation, and the new administration they appointed in August has yet to announce any major changes that would impact either the education of students or the district’s growing budget deficit.
It is time for Forest Park residents of all races to show some unity with their neighbors in surrounding communities, for whom private school is frequently not an option.