A field trip to Springfield during next week's veto session is the optimal educational experience for students at Dundee Middle School to see the democratic process in action, leaders in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 say.
But at least one parent believes the district is exploiting children in its fight against the extension of tax breaks for Sears in Hoffman Estates.
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"They are taking kids for a 12-hour trip, of which 2 hours and 15 minutes is allegedly educational," said Cheryl Anderley, a West Dundee resident whose son attends Dundee Middle School. "Their plan is to go to Springfield for three days. But if the EDA goes to a vote ... they will cancel the field trips for the subsequent days. Clearly, the intent is not for children to learn about the legislative process, but to use children as pawns."
Anderley is an administrative assistant for Sears and works in its corporate headquarters.
The day trips on Nov. 8, 9 and 10, which coincide with the second week of the fall veto session, are optional. Students will tour the Capitol building, visit the home of Abraham Lincoln and observe Senate proceedings from the gallery.
The visits, however, will not include protests or opportunities to promote the district's cause, Superintendent Michael Bregy said.
"This is not a ploy or a vent to simply showcase our students," Bregy said. "There is a learning outcome for multiple programs that will occur throughout the field trip. "
During the first veto session earlier this month, thousands of high school students, parents and staffers from District 300 rallied in front of the Capitol.
For months, the district has been fighting an amendment to Senate Bill 540, which would extend tax breaks for the Hoffman Estates-based corporation for another 15 years. The Sears Economic Development Area is set to expire in 2013 and the corporation and village argue the incentives are needed to keep Sears in Illinois.
District 300, however, says the extension would take another $14 million a year out of the district's hands.
Lawmakers could vote on the Sears deal next week.
"We think that it is appropriate to take middle school students because they are learning about the Illinois Constitution and the U.S. Constitution," Bregy said. "There's no better way to see how a bill becomes a law than in Springfield, and they can tie it to something that's historic in our district."
But the timing of the excursion seems too opportunistic, Anderley said.
"D300 implores parents not to take their children out of school for any reason because they will miss important instructional time," she said. "It is OK for kids to miss instructional time ... but only at D300's discretion."