By a near unanimous vote, the Proviso Township High Schools board last month passed District 209’s first ever five-year financial plan. This is notable only in the historical context of a failing school district with such profound financial troubles and active mismanagement that the state of Illinois came in to take over the district’s financial operations many years back.
Let that sink in a moment. The state of Illinois, a government entity without two nickels, a pension system which threatens to swamp us all, and with an elongated history of corruption, felt the need to come to Proviso to right this ship of three public high schools.
But to its credit, the Financial Oversight Panel put in place by the state has been a good steward of taxpayer funds and a strict taskmaster as this woebegone school district finally, over several years, put some financial procedures in place.
The hope now is that, with a master facilities plan in place and a five-year financial plan adopted, the FOP will continue to work with the district as construction contracts are doled out.
This school district has never been seriously underfunded by taxpayers. Rather it was mismanaged by elected officials who did not focus on simple goals of educating young people, demanding competent, steady administrative leadership. Constant drama, chaos and self-dealing brought D209 to the cliff’s edge.
The road back over these past four years has been intense and inspirational. But with $72 million in available funding available over the next several years to begin a thorough physical remaking of the district’s three major campuses, this is no time to lose focus. In the not-so-distant past, dubious choices were made on how large amounts of scarce funds were spent on emergency fixes, bad hires and nepotism.