IL school snapshots in a quick minute: Mar. 14

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted, just a few days before the general primary election in Illinois, “I want to thank Rahm Emanuel for not endorsing me. I don’t want the endorsement of a mayor shutting down schools and firing teachers.”


(Photo: John W Iwanski / Flickr Creative Commons)

Donald J Trump, on the other hand, said he “loves” charter schools. “When you get them right, they’re great,” Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson quoted him as saying.

Illinois voters head to the polls on Tuesday, March 15. Here’s other school news from around the state.

Getting ready for prom and other stages

  1. Going full force are spring musicals at Illinois high schools. Our list is here. At least 63 schools will give performances this month of a Broadway musical, and the number will be even higher in April, since Easter weekend, March 27, has resulted in no musicals—that we know about—taking place that week.
  2. Salem Community High School broke an opening night record for attendance at their production of The Addams Family on March 10. The musical continues through this weekend.
  3. Hundreds of young ladies found the dress of their dreams at the annual Melissa’s Closet and Crystal’s Jewelry Box event, held on March 5 at the Godley Park District in Braidwood on March 5. The annual prom dress drive started in 2010 to honor the memory of Melissa Michalowski and Crystal Carr, two Reed-Custer High School students who were killed in a car accident in December 2008, the Morris Herald-News reports. There’s also a scholarship fund in Melissa and Crystal’s name.

School construction and reorganization

In some school districts across the state, voters will weigh in on possible tax increases or other school-related questions in addition to their choice for presidential nominee from one of the two major parties. Some schools just need to fix things, possibly without raising taxes.

  1. Cannon Elementary School in Danville will need repairs to the water filtration system before students can return to their neighborhood school. School staff, parents, and other community members gathered at a District 118 board meeting last week to hear an architect’s report on what the 100-year-old school might need, and it would cost about $9 million. The district might just close Cannon, which flooded during the rains in late December, and absorb its students into Denman Elementary on a permanent basis, the Commercial News reports.
  2. Voters in Morton District 709 are voting in this general primary election on a 27-cent tax increase that would raise money for construction in several schools in the district, including upgrading music rehearsal spaces in the junior high and high school as well as gymnasiums at a few elementary schools. Illinois requires students to take physical education, but District 709 had a waiver because of space limitations. PE teachers have been doing their best, though, conducting gym in spare classrooms and hallways. Our coverage is here.
  3. Residents of DeWitt County will be asked on the March 15 ballot to add a 1-percent sales tax and send the money that comes in to schools, the Bloomington Pantagraph reports. Voters are considering similar measures in St Clair and Monroe counties near St Louis, according to the Belleville News-Democrat, as voters take a stab at shifting the burden for school funding from property taxes to sales taxes.
  4. A new proposed 1-percent sales tax in Macoupin County may cost voters but could give school districts thousands for much needed improvements, the Telegraph reports out of Carlinville. The schools “need extensive renovations so we can provide our students with a safe, comfortable, and innovative learning environment,” the paper quoted Southwestern School District Superintendent Brad Skertich as saying. “This will include new flooring, new ceiling, new windows, new doors, a fresh coat of paint, etc.
  5. Highland Park School District 112 officials have discovered they can save money in a district reorganization if they start middle school in fifth grade. The district is asking for a $198 million referendum in the general primary election. On a $300,000 home, taxes would go up by about $356 if the referendum passes. Opponents say the plan is too costly and will drive people out of town, but others are hoping to convince empty nesters that property values will go up when good schools attract wealthy home buyers. The district is unique in that about 80 percent of voters have no kids in District 112 schools, the Chicago Tribune reports. An anti-referendum group, C.A.R.E. for 112, has a Facebook page, here, and here’s a video from the school board:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Illinois voters on March 15 will be able to answer five ballot questions that are on the ballot everywhere in the state as referendums. None have anything to do with education specifically.

  1. A victims’ rights amendment is being proposed for the Illinois Constitution. It would offer crime victims more protection of their rights during court proceedings and criminal trials and provide them with an opportunity to submit impact statements in court and be notified of hearings, plea negotiations, and releases from custody, among other things.
  2. A right-to-vote amendment being proposed for the state constitution would prohibit denying anyone the right to vote based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, income, or membership in a language minority. It is specifically aimed at a possible law that would require voters to show an ID card before they vote. But are the protections already in effect?
  3. An increase in the minimum wage is also on the ballot statewide, but this is an opinion poll: it is a nonbinding referendum, considered advisory in nature. The current minimum wage is $8.25 in Illinois, and the question asks voters if they think it should be raised to $10 an hour.
  4. Illinois is trying to get advice about a millionaire tax on the ballot. This one is also advisory and nonbinding, and it asks voters if Illinois residents who make more than $1 million should be charged a 3-percent income tax surcharge to raise funds for education. It could raise up to $1 billion in annual revenue, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said. But although such a tax would open up a new revenue stream, earmarked for education, the legislature and governor could easily remove money from the state’s education budget to leave a net effect of zero.
  5. Finally, voters will be asked about birth control in an advisory question. The state wants to know if people think insurance companies that offer prescription coverage should cover birth control.

It’s Pi (π) Day

  1. Annually, schoolchildren mark the day of March 14, also known as 3/14, or Pi Day, after the transcendental, irrational, and just plain cool mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is approximately equal to 3.14, so when you multiply a circle’s diameter by π, you get the circle’s circumference.
  2. The Woodland Middle School math department in Gurnee hosted its seventh annual Pi Day. Over 3,000 digits of π were displayed around the school, and a pie-throwing celebration took place in the front hallway by the school office, with one student from each team who memorized the most digits of π participating. They threw pies at school staff members, and then went back to class, when many teachers conducted π-related activities.
  3. Sixth-grade math students at Hawthorne Middle School in Vernon Hills celebrated π Day by making a paper chain link of the constant’s first 400 digits and a histogram showing the frequency of each digit. They took a few pictures.
  4. Students in the Mu Alpha Theta math club at Joliet Central High School celebrated π Day with a scavenger hunt. Blue papers hanging in the hallway had math problems on them, and students, upon taking the paper down, would solve the problem and bring it to one of the math classrooms to receive a prize.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.