District 200 agrees to fund early childhood initiative in Oak Park and River Forest

$216K in start-up funds for Collaboration approved to audience applause

March 5th, 2013 10:00 PM

By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

A standing ovation at a school board meeting is a rare sight. So rare that Amy McCormack, a District 200 board member, couldn't help but point it out at the Feb. 28 meeting following the board's unanimous vote to support the Collaboration for Early Childhood.

"This never happens," she said, after the 7-0 vote for the resolution authorizing the superintendent to begin allocating funding for the Collaboration's early childhood, supportive care initiative.

Nearly all of the roughly 70 in attendance applauded after the vote, followed by the standing O, which lasted nearly a minute. OPRF joins the village of Oak Park and elementary school District 97 in funding the plan to create an integrated, early childhood support system. The high school's portion amounts to about $216,000 for the first year.

D97 approved a similar resolution in January for roughly $248,000. The village has committed about $115,000 to the program. By 2016, the Collaboration hopes to have their program in place, which will streamline and improve services it already provides, including early childhood developmental screening as well as parental education and outreach. The Collaboration estimates it will cost $1.5 million to fully run an integrated support system.

Though they voted in favor of it, board members Dietra Millard and Sharon Patchak-Layman expressed concerns about the high school's role and the large dollar amount OPRF was being asked to contribute, along with other concerns. Both said they were voting for it "with reservations." They also stressed that the school's main priority was helping its current students.

The high school was the last of the three taxing bodies to financially commit to the initiative, something board President Terry Finnegan acknowledged. Board members had many questions about the program over months of talking with the Collaboration. Finnegan said that slow process was intentional, as the high school wanted to perform its due diligence before committing financially.

The next step for the taxing bodies is to draft and sign an intergovernmental agreement. After 2016, each taxing body will continue to fund the support system, based on a proportional share of their respective operating budgets. For OPRF, that's expected to be more than its initial $216,000, something that also troubled Patchak-Layman.

She initially suggested funding the program from Madison TIF disbursements due the high school. She offered an amendment stating that, but the measure died after not receiving a second from another board member.

The unanimous vote surprised the Collaboration's executive director, Carolyn Newberry-Schwartz, who sat with other members in the audience. The intergovernmental agreement, and contract for services to be signed, should be completed in the next two months, Newbery-Schwartz said.

"I was fairly confident that we would have a majority going into this evening, but I did not know if it was going to be a 7-0 vote," she said. "We're very pleased that we're moving in this direction, that the high school took the time it felt it needed to take to get to such a strong vote tonight."

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  • drmr from Oak Park

    Posted: March 8th, 2013 11:25 PM Another report that refutes the CEC propaganda.In 4 years time the plan is for $1.2 million to be spent JUST BY DISTRICT 200 on this "experiment".There is no hard evidence to back up the claims made by the CEC and so easily believed by a gullible board and editorial writer.Do a little research first;vote on the research and facts,not what you hope the results might be.Any benefit is Gone by 3rd grade.

  • drmr from Oak Park

    Posted: March 8th, 2013 11:06 PM Read the executive summary and you will see why the high school should NOT give one cent to CEC.Kevin Peppard,is this even legal?These programs have no lasting effect and District 200 money should not be allocated for pre-schoolers.A %1000 increase in the next three years?Insane.Especially for a proven failure.Board members,please read the report or its' conclusions before making a mistake.

  • OPRF Achievement

    Posted: March 7th, 2013 6:19 AM

    @ Edwin - your comments represent the concern precisely. Without these issues addressed and measures introduced this will only be ANOTHER line item in the OPRF budget. All Candidates need to be focused on this issue and have a position. Make sure they are asked!

  • Edwin Garcia from Oak Park

    Posted: March 7th, 2013 12:03 AM

    I attended a meeting where this was discussed, and the premise of the initial funding was with the hope that less would have to be spent on special education at the grade school and high school level. The average special ed teacher at OPRF makes around $120,000 per year. I have my doubts. Is there an exit strategy? How long do we give it? How many special ed teachers will go away as a result of this early intervention?

  • Judi's Child Care home

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 9:46 PM

    I'm pleased to see the thoughtful and committed work of the Collab rewarded with broad community support for its expanding comprehensive initiatives. This could be a valuable model for others as well as a benefit for us. Thanks!

  • OPRFDad

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 9:20 PM

    Yay! More of the hard working carrying the water for the deadbeats in and around our community. Can't support yourself and raise kids, then don't have kids. And who applauds this nonsense? Likely the people who pay nothing and want to spend my money.

  • Speeway from Oak Park

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 7:17 PM

    According to the Collab's web site at this time 25% of the at risk kids do not reside in OP. Yes, we are being very altruistic. It's to bad the Collab. cannot raise the funds from donations instead of getting our village boards to sign everyone up to pay for this.

  • anonymous, thanks. from Oak Park

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 6:50 PM

    I assume that the investment in Early Childhood education, preceeds public school enrollment, therefore helps fund private and parochial early childhood classes and programs that happen to operate as business throughout the village? Can I assume that the preschool parents do not in any way have to be residents or taxpayers in the Village? I believe we are being pretty altruistic in this initiative. ...Apparently it takes a Village to save the city next door...

  • Preschool Parent

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 8:27 AM

    Thank you so much for this important vote and recognizing the huge amount of community support for this project, D 200 board!

  • OPRF Achievement

    Posted: March 6th, 2013 6:51 AM

    That is nice to see. Perhalps the Board can take a moment and explain their vote. Why did they see it as the role of HS - to pay so much for something like this. Did they require metrics, ans strings tied to the annual funding. How long is the agreement. What are the contingencies for 2016 and beyond. Although nice to report, overall, this article leaves much to desire about the real facts of the vote. Overall in short good, longer term without these fact very troubling.

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