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In the grand scheme of Proviso Township’s $60 million budget and projected $14 million deficit, a couple cell phone bills and hotel rooms seem like the least of anyone’s concerns. Frankly, we wouldn’t argue with the notion that other fiscal changes could more dramatically impact both the tax rates and the quality of student services.

But when board members stick taxpayers with the bill for downtown hotel rooms, it smacks of an out-right contempt for the public’s interest that is maddening.

The problem here is two-fold. Board members are irresponsibly spending money on themselves that could be spent in the classroom. This is selfish and runs counter to the primary goal of improving education.

It certainly can be argued that these national conferences provide a benefit that is worth the cost, but those benefits are lost when the information isn’t shared. Since there hasn’t been a single presentation to the full board from any traveling board member, how is anyone supposed to benefit from these conferences?

Worse yet, how is the public to know they didn’t just pay for someone’s vacation?

The second major issue that community members should find infuriating is the board’s collective failure to hold members accountable. Section 415.09 of the board’s own policy is crystal clear on travel expenses. “The board of education will be responsible for approving the travel of its members.”

According to our review of the past year’s worth of travel receipts from the district and statements from the superintendent, the board is not reviewing travel requests.

There is plenty of blame to go around on this one, but the board president is primarily responsible for enforcing policy. Having been an officer on the board for the last six years, he should be more familiar with the rules. If the president is aware of the policy but is waiting for a recommendation from administrators to enforce it, his lack of leadership becomes even more appalling.

The finger pointing and dirty politics in this school district have frustrated voters for a long time, and we would liken the experience to that of an exasperated parent who lectures a child until they’re blue in the face. As a community, we can not afford to continue repeating ourselves in hopes that the message will sink in. By then it may be too late for an entire class of Proviso students.

This board must dedicate itself to change and the community must be firm in its demands.