Letters to the Editor – May 21, 2007

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Fix Our Ailing School Funding Tax System 

As we all know, the way Illinois funds our public schools ensures that some children are "winners" and some are "losers," all based on where the child happens to live.  Our Illinois school funding system is overly reliant on local property taxes, with local taxes funding nearly two-thirds of the cost of education.  This regressive system leads to tremendous disparities in per pupil spending, which ranges from $4,281 to $28,285 (Illinois Education Association fiscal figures for 2005).  Every year the disparity grows larger.  This situation is worsened because Illinois continually fails to meet the state constitution's mandate for financing education by at least 50%.

This must change.

In addition,  homeowners and businesses see higher and higher property taxes to meet the growing cost of education.  This has been especially hard on Chicago Southland property owners.  There has also been an exodus of business and industry from Cook County to areas with lower property taxes.  This must change, as well.

Meanwhile, Illinois has one of the lowest state income taxe rates (3%) in the country.  The income tax is inherently a fairer tax because it's based on the ability to pay.

Fixing this broken funding system is an important key to ensuring that Illinois students keep pace with students in other states and nations as they compete for jobs and ooportunities in the 21st century.

Over the years, many of us have worked to change our ailing school funding tax system.  In the current legislative session, until the end of May, we have a chance to right this wrong.  Please write your state legislators urging them to negotiate, if necessary, to see that school funding reform is accomplished.  That this much time has passed without this happening is a disgrace to our state.

Suzie Brown
Park Forest

Mayor Expresses Gratitude

Now that the official canvas of the April 17 election has been completed, and swearing-in ceremonies are over, I want to express my thanks to the voters of Park Forest for re-electing me by a substantial margin to serve a third four-year term as mayor. My pledge to my fellow citizens is to continue to put forth my best efforts, and to continue to use my experience in government, to effect the best public policy possible for our community.

The campaign was an arduous one, and I must admit some dismay at seeing a piece of my opponent’s literature with my face superimposed on the figure of an individual in a Nazi soldier’s uniform. While my opponent may have thought it humorous, I found it to be childish and I know a number of residents of our Village found it to be offensive. Likewise, I was shocked when I learned that a Park Forest police officer observed my opponent in the early hours of Easter morning defacing one of my campaign signs. Such behavior, in my mind, is inconsistent with the ethical traditions that have been part of the Park Forest political scene in the past.

With the election behind us, I am focusing my attention on a number of important issues, but the most immediate one is to lead a community-wide campaign to lobby our legislators and the governor to make meaningful changes in the way schools are funded in Illinois . Doing so will relieve the heavy property tax burden faced by our residents, since approximately 60 percent of what they pay in property taxes goes to funding our schools. I urge all our citizens to join in this important effort to have our voice heard on this issue before the legislature adjourns its current session.

Thanks again to everyone who helped in my campaign and gave me their vote.

John A. Ostenburg
Mayor

Trustee Says Thanks

I wish to thank the voters of Park Forest for permitting me to serve the residents once again as trustee. It was my honor to serve in the past, and I look forward to once again advocating on behalf of the people.

As I said during the campaign, and in all of my campaign literature, I plan to be a strong advocate for school funding reform.  I am pleased that Mayor Ostenburg has chosen to make school funding reform a focus for the Village of Park Forest. We must fund education properly in Illinois.  I consider it intolerable that we had to fight just over a year ago to keep Rich East High School open.  It’s wrong that students limited to using the library at Bloom Trail High School wouldn’t be able to find out how the Cold War ended. We must work together to shift the burden in school funding from property taxes so Rich East is as bountiful as Naperville North, so Bloom Trail and schools in Ford Heights have the same access to technology as schools in Oswego.

During the coming 4 years, you can anticipate that I'll be knocking on your door again – not campaigning this time.  Just keeping in touch, asking if there is anything we can do for you in Park Forest.  Please don't hesitate to call or email if you need advocacy in local government: village, county, state, or even federal, I will do what I can for you. 

The best way I can say, "Thanks," to each and every one of you is to serve well as promised.

Gary Kopycinski
Village Trustee