School advocates demanded more money and state lawmakers suggested school consolidation when the two sides gathered at the District 65 administration building in Evanston Tuesday night.

Evanston Township High School Board Member Gretchen Livingston complained that the state owes $1.1 million to the high school and $3.6 million to District 65.

“Education has not been made a priority in our state, and we know that because we have not been putting the dollars there,” Livingston said during the meeting of the PTA Council’s Joint Legislative Task Force.

But Rep. Daniel Biss said lawmakers “are gradually digging ourselves out of the debt.”

Biss said that while payments owed schools have been delayed, “I don’t see any evidence that the bills are not being paid.”

And Rep. Robyn Gabel said the state is paying 12 percent interest on the money owed.

Biss said the legislature wasn’t picking on schools in its budget balancing efforts. “In an environment where there are so many cuts coming, we distributed it evenly so as not to pick favorites,” he said.

And he warned that the cutbacks aren’t over. “In the current economic and political environment, you’re going to see more cuts to education.”

One committee member tried to get the lawmakers to pledge to further raise taxes — beyond the recent 60 percent increase in the state income tax. When they declined to do so, she said, “And these are supposed to be liberal Democrats!”

State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg said school systems could trim costs by sharing services and consolidating districts.

He said local districts should take the lead on that rather than being compelled to consolidate by the legislature, and he said “the communities in my senate district should lead by example” on consolidation.

Top: Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Rep. Robyn Gabel and Rep. Daniel Biss.

Join the Conversation


  1. Yes to consolidation

    With so many issues on the table, we really do need to consolidate the two districts. It hurts our children to have District 202 and 65 so grossly misaligned that one in seven children who graduate from D65 are in need of remedial education in D202.

  2. School “cuts”

    What a great idea — cut back on schools, keep the kids from learning, so they'll grow up and vote Democrat! A wonderful way to broaden the voting base!!! Remember Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.

  3. Our elected leaders are the problem

    I'd sure love to know the name of the committee member who asked these liberal Democrats to raise taxes even more.

    Biss, Gabel and Schoenberg have raised our taxes – Gabel did so in a lame-duck session last November. At the same time, they and other Democrats have borrowed billions on the state level to keep local and the state government going.

    So not only has tax revenue declined because of lowered property values and businesses either not expanding or fleeing a state with the worst economy in the nation but these politicians put us further in debt.

    Right now, Evanston taxpayers pay $20,000 a year per ETHS student. And Gabel, Biss and Schoenberg sit there and tell us we need to take the lead and consolidate D202 and D65. What did we elect them to do? That's THEIR job to get it going because our local school boards will NEVER consolidate unless they are pushed from the top.

    Until our state politicians tackle the real problem – unsustainable government union pensions – we will continue to steam ahead into the inevitable fiscal train wreck.

    It's a shame that state and local politicians have been raising taxes and borrowing money while our property values decline. It's a double whammy that makes the economic situation worse.

    To top it off, our mayor and City Council have been making policy decisions that hurt our local economy. One example is rejecting a high-end sports bar because it didn't meet the mayor's dress standards. Imagine the tens of thousands of annual tax dollars lost in liquor and food sales because the mayor and the feckless City Council didn't like Tilted Kilt's dress attire or business card.

    The storefront, located at a prime corner at Fountain Square, remains vacant and has been vacant since 2008.

    We need new common sense leaders who treat government not as a solution to the problem but a problem that stands in the way of a solution.

    Perhaps next time voters will get a choice when Robyn Gabel runs for office. Last time she hired the Democrat party's hitman that knocked a libertarian candidate off the ballot. One of the first things she did was vote to raise our income taxes more than 65 percent.

    I wonder if that committee member even realizes that?

    1. Support for Education—Not Taxes and More Bureaucracy

      I think most people support education but they don't support politicians and others just calling for more money all the time as if that is the cause of the problem. 

      As far a the public can see, the money just goes to the bureaucracy, more administration and high salaries and 'perks', more 'pet projects', more special interest, more studies that are un-necessary and duplicates, etc..

      As to the education, the dollars already there are probably more than enough—if spent wisely.
      However to most residents, I assume, we don't know what the schools are really doing. They DON'T COMMUNICATE.  How then can they expect taxpayers to want to poor more money into the 'schools' esp. if it is not really the 'education' being funded ?

      Parents with children probably know something about the quality their kids are getting—that is if they are active and care.  But even those parents probably have very little idea what the other schools, grades and teachers are like.  People with no children in the schools [now or ever] have even less information. They see the crime in Evanston by school aged children [or former students], kids 'being kids' and maybe doing nothing wrong on the streets but that is their only impression, etc..

      For the students that do well, there is always the question, was it their own drive [against the odds or bad schools]? was it the parents who kept on them to student and thrive ? was it extra programs like tutoring [either to bring 'up to level' or go past what the schools teach ?  was in extra programs at NU or other places ? was it a 'few' excellent teachers who went far beyond what  was required ? We don't know—all we know is what we see on the streets, what we read about individual student or know from their families.  We certainly don't know from the self-serving articles from the schools or 'guest editorial' comments from those with vested interests.

      Unless the schools open up, they will have a hard time getting more funding.  I would think most parents would prefer to send their kids to Roycemore if not for $$$ !

  4. Education isn’t a priority? Say whaaaaaaa?

    "Education has not been made a priority in our state," says a loyal operative of the Blob.  In fact, education sucks down 36% of the operating budget from general funds in the 2012 proposed state budget.  Of course, much more is added to that from our oppressive property taxes.  The Blob is bleeding us drying in this state, and yet they want more and more and more to prop up a failing system.

  5. PTA Council Legislative Task Force’s lawmaker forum

    As chair of the Dist. 65/202 PTA Council’s Joint Legislative Task Force, I want to thank Evanston Now for providing coverage of Tuesday’s lawmaker forum.  The Task Force organized this public event to learn insights from State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg and State Reps Daniel Biss and Robyn Gabel about the recently concluded legislative session.  We also wanted to initiate dialogue about what the Illinois General Assembly can do to improve the climate for public education and children’s welfare in their 2012 session.

    We had a robust discussion.  And, as demonstrated by the responses to Hayden Dinges’ report, there is a great divergence of opinion about what constitutes effective public education policy in Illinois.

    One point in Mr. Dinges' news report requires clarification.  He wrote:  “One committee member tried to get the lawmakers to pledge to further raise taxes — beyond the recent 60 percent increase in the state income tax. When they declined to do so, she said, ‘And these are supposed to be liberal Democrats!’”

    In fact, this comment was not made by a Task Force member, but by a member of the general public.  We publicized the event through multiple channels and were pleased that some community members chose to take part in our discussion that summer evening.

    The Task Force is a community-led organization that convenes representatives of both school boards, both administrations and both teachers’ unions on a monthly basis throughout the school year to share information and build consensus around issues of common concern.  We are a non-partisan forum that invites broad school community participation.  We will be counting on media outlets like Evanston Now to inform its readership of our upcoming activities.

  6. Maybe if District 202 didn’t

    Maybe if District 202 didn't pay their administrators so much they could absorb the $1.1 million that the state owes. There are something like 30 people at District 202 that make over $130,000 and almost every one is an administrator! Are we seeing the kind of results from ETHS that warrant that many people making that kind of money?

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