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Staff Opinion: Inkspot endorses Unit 5 referendum

Inkspot Staff
The Inkspot endorses the referendum on Nov. 8’s ballot. Vote yes, vote for students’ futures.

The Inkspot staff strongly endorses the Unit 5 tax referendum, firmly believing it is every citizen’s civic duty to vote yes.

If passed, the referendum would increase Unit 5’s Education Fund tax rate while simultaneously lowering the district’s overall tax rate — saving taxpayers money and preserving district programs.

However, if Unit 5’s referendum on Tuesday’s ballot fails, the district will be forced to continue to slash away at spending in an attempt to reduce a $12 million deficit. 

These slashes don’t just cut the budget — they cut educational opportunities for generations of the community’s children.

12,393 students. English Language Learners. Honors students. Low-Income students. Students in the Work Program. Students with special needs, with disabilities. 

12,393 students across 25 schools. 12,393 musicians, athletes, artists, and actors. 12,393 scientists, mathematicians, readers and writers.  

12,393 students, the vast majority of whom cannot vote on this issue.

Yet, all will feel the impact as the district’s offerings, its athletic programs, music co- and extra-curriculars, elective courses, career and technical student organizations—the enrichment programs that keep students invested in school—are on the chopping block. 

Last year, cuts reduced the district’s budget deficit to 12 million dollars. But those cuts came with a cost.  

That $2 million budget cut has had an immediate and profound impact on our students, exacerbating the effects they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

No hay clases de español en el octavo grado.

That is a statement Unit 5’s 8th graders can no longer read after their foreign language class offerings were cut, leaving them two years behind their peers in neighboring District 87.

28 teaching positions were left unfilled, restricting course offerings and increasing class sizes. 

That is a statement Normal West’s journalism program can no longer write. Staffing shortages and increased class sizes shuttered their student news website, the West Paw Print — robbing students of an outlet for free speech and erasing decades of the school’s history. 

Class sizes — from high school to kindergarten– now exceed 30 students. 

Imagine 30 kindergarten students in a classroom all day with one adult. 30 five-year-olds in a classroom all day with one adult.

According to various anecdotal studies, the average five-year-old asks hundreds of questions a day. In a class of 30, that can be 9,000 questions. 

Imagine how many now must go unanswered. 

This is a scenario we no longer have to imagine. This is the current reality.

The integral fabric of our public education system is in danger of being torn to shreds.

While critics blame the growing budget deficit on the previous district administration’s financial mismanagement, the district’s debt is a product of factors beyond Unit 5’s control. 

Unit 5’s tax rate has increased by a mere .1% in 40 years, resulting in the district having the lowest tax rate among surrounding districts. 

Meanwhile, the student population Unit 5 serves has more than doubled since that last nominal tax increase. 

This current funding model is simply unsustainable and unsuitable for a district of Unit 5’s size. 

This issue is exacerbated by the fact the state of Illinois has not provided Unit 5 with $19 million of promised funding in the past decade.

Everyone wants to cast blame on how we got here.

What is more important is how we get out.  

Already, Unit 5 teachers are paid less than in surrounding districts. Already, Unit 5 has limited administrative positions across the district to cut costs. These realities impact students, as highly qualified educators are attracted elsewhere, as the adult-to-student ratio in each Unit 5 building continues to increase. 

There is no more fabric left to trim.

The lasting impact of $12 million more in cuts is unimaginable. 

When you cast your vote on Tuesday, remember: The referendum is not simply about dollars and cents; it is about the tangible, generational impacts on the quality of each student’s education. 

The 12,000 students unable to advocate for themselves leave this issue in your hands. The choice is common sense. 

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IF YOU SHARE THE INKSPOT'S PASSION for empowering Normal Community's aspiring journalists and equipping them with viable and valuable digital media skills, please consider contributing to our cause.
Your support plays a vital role in enabling the Inkspot to invest in top-tier equipment, maintain memberships in distinguished professional organizations such as the Journalism Education Association and National Scholastic Press Association, send our students to compete at state and national contests, and attend the National High School Journalism Convention.
Your generosity is the key to providing these students with a truly enriching educational experience. THANK YOU.

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