Proviso teachers are committed to our district promise of Equity-Excellence-Relevance for all. Yet, we alone cannot shoulder this commitment to our students and community as District 209 assigns only 29% of its budget to the instruction of students, far below the state average.
Among the 850 districts reporting to the Illinois State Board of Education we rank near the bottom for instructional spending. Only three school districts in Cook County (the second largest county in the nation) spend less on the instruction of students. We are dead last for instructional spending when compared with every neighboring high school and unit district. Morton (HSD 201) allocates 45% of its tax base to student instruction. Lyons Township (HSD 204) contributes a full 55% of its budget to the instruction of students. Our spending habits clearly contradict the promise of equitable instruction for Proviso students.
As indicated by the Illinois State Board of Education, District 209 has long underfunded student instruction.
Yet, the recent release of ISBE School Report Card data points to a disturbing development: instructional spending decreased over the last fiscal year while overall spending increased, with the plurality of our ballooning budget consumed by other expenditures. No one doubts the need for improved facilities, which partly accounts for this line of spending. Still, the district cannot simultaneously bemoan low achievement at Proviso high schools while prioritizing other spending (at a rate more than double the state average) over instruction of our students.
As revealed by the most recent ISBE report, District 209 gutted $6 million from support services. This is questionable for a school district where our English Learner population increased considerably in recent years. This is problematic for a school district currently under state investigation for non-compliance with special education law. This is unthinkable for a school district suffering from one of the highest chronic truancy rates in the State of Illinois.
The board of education philosophy explicitly states that success is “dependent on the commitment of every member of the Proviso community to the following beliefs . … a progressive education, a compassionate environment, and a financially responsible organization.” As members of the Proviso community, in the interest of progressive and compassionate schooling, teachers are obligated to call out questionable management of the D209 tax base.
The district cycles through an absurd number of administrators and outside consultants whose promise of progress often comes with an eye-popping price tag and dubious results. With a rubber stamp and minimal regard for critical review, our school board majority perpetuates this broken system. Neighboring districts, like those across the region and state, have prioritized student instruction and support services. Why is our tax base increasingly consumed by other priorities? If not for the instruction and support of Proviso students, what is the purpose of District 209 high schools?
We presented these data and questions to our District 209 school board, an elected body responsible for scrutiny and approval of annual budgets that now exceed $100 million. Superintendent [James] Henderson offered this simple reply: “Please review the performance data of students. Thank you so much.” His uninformed sentiment is echoed by our D209 Board of Education, who demand increased academic performance while simultaneously decreasing student supports and resources necessary for effective instruction.
We need informed leadership willing to work with Proviso teachers, not against us. We need leadership committed to funding Proviso classrooms, not the false and costly promise of quick-fix solutions. We need leadership to prioritize Proviso students, not the other matters that drain our tax base. We need district leadership that upholds its own stated principles, including Equity-Excellence-Relevance for all.
Hoping for positive change at Proviso Township High School District 209, Proviso teachers support Sandra Hixson, Jenny Barbahen, and David Ocampo as they campaign for seats on the board of education. We welcome their promise to empower teachers, students, parents, and the community. We look forward to a seat at the table. We value their invitation to honest dialogue for the improvement of D209 schools.
Help us help Proviso. Please vote HBO on April 4.
Proviso Teachers’ Union (PTU)