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Article posted: 1/23/2013 5:30 AM

Dist. 300 puts priority on truancy, state funding

By Tara García Mathewson

Community Unit District 300 made progress on one of its 2012-13 legislative priorities on the same night it announced them to the public.

The Carpentersville-based district outlined four priorities during a reception hosted Tuesday night by the legislative committee at Jacobs High School in Algonquin. State representatives joined local mayors and more than 100 community members and students for the annual update, which for the first time was held in the evening, greatly increasing participation.

On the topic of truancy, the district is pushing all villages in its boundaries to pass ordinances -- following in the footsteps of Carpentersville -- that make skipping school a ticketable offense for students and parents. Gary Chester, district safety officer, said the truancy rate at Dundee-Crown High School is down significantly from last year, when the Carpentersville village board first passed the ordinance.

Larry Keller, village president of West Dundee, and Stephen Pickett, village president of Sleepy Hollow, both committed to bringing similar ordinances to their respective boards.

To a question about why neither village had acted before, Keller responded that West Dundee was not aware of the option.

"Sometimes people say things but they don't say things to the right people at the right time," Keller said. "Tonight my ears are open."

The district's top legislative priority deals with state funding. Mary McNicholas, a member of the legislative committee and a junior at Dundee-Crown High School, explained to the crowd that the district is opposed to further cuts in general state aid and in support of raising the per-student aid amount. McNicholas said the district will also pressure the state to provide extra funding when it mandates certain services and to catch up on late payments.

The district will also continue to push for its $35 million reimbursement from the state Capital Development Board for construction projects and health, safety and technology needs.

"We'd love to partner with our legislators," said Kathleen Burley, committee member and school board candidate. "Anything we can do to help push that along ... and make sure we get those funds when they're released would be wonderful."

Pension reform is the final priority for the district this year. It will advocate against a shift in the employer pension contribution from the state to the district, one proposal many support because Chicago Public Schools already operate on that model.

State reps. Keith Farnham and Mike Tryon, along with Sen. Karen McConnaughay and representatives from the offices of Rep. David McSweeney and Sen. Dan Duffy, listened to the priorities and answered audience questions Tuesday.

Several times the elected officials counseled the crowd that the problems are complex and solutions will be painful for many. "The needs are growing faster than the money becomes available to solve the problems," McConnaughay said.

But the representatives encouraged the community participation and said their offices are always ready to receive constituent input.

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