Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 approves 2020-21 budget

 
 
Updated 9/24/2020 10:21 AM

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300's school board on Tuesday approved its fiscal year 2020-21 budget.

The district expects to bring in $290.4 million in revenue and to spend $289.4 million, giving it a $1 million surplus of revenues over expenditures, Chief Operating Officer Susan Harkin said. That would bring District 300's fund balance to $120 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The budget was passed with no changes in a 7-0 by the school board.

The vote followed comments by two members of the public, Sandy Davila and Matthew Thomas, who suggested the district save money by ending agreements with local police departments to have school resource officers work in District 300's high schools.

Davila, who read a statement on behalf of a former District 300 student, said she wanted to ask the board to reflect on how they are perpetuating a culture of fear by having a police presence in schools.

"It never made me feel safe as a student of color seeing a cop every day," Davila read. "It made me feel uncomfortable. I know that I was not the only student that was less than comfortable with the presence of a school resource officer in the building."

Davila said it could potentially hinder students' education to have them come to an environment where they are intimidated by authority figures who are there, she said, to criminalize them.

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"We do not need repressive tools like Tasers, guns and batons near our youth," she said. "The ideal approach would be to work proactively to prevent the use of police force in schools instead of keeping the (school resource officers), thus continuing to support the school to prison pipeline."

Thomas, a former District 300 student, also referenced a school-to-prison pipeline in his statement.

"While we present this discussion to D-300 today, it is important that we look at the specific role law enforcement takes within our education," Thomas said. "I'm requesting that the board seek better alternatives that do not involve law enforcement, rather individuals from that of a human services background, and I urge D-300 to cancel their contract with local law enforcement."

This year's budget includes three teachers for the blended expansion and English as a Second Language support, three additional paraprofessionals hired for bilingual support at the high school and two support staff positions, all of which were approved in May to ensure staffing levels met current need, Harkin said.

One substitute was also added for the prekindergarten program to support any absences, and one administrative position, a dean, was also added, she said. These additions totaled $629,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The district incurred $3.4 million in COVID-19 related expenses, which it expects to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and federal CARES Act grants meant to help various entities deal with coronavirus repercussions, Harkin said.

A total of $1.8 million has been allocated for mental health counselors, social workers, behavioral therapists and mental health counselors for student support. Another $1.1 million will go toward personal protective equipment and e-learning support.

District staff learned it will receive a digital equity grant, which Harkin said District 300 plans to use to ensure schools have the right support for remote learning.

"If the FEMA reimbursement does not come through, we do have additional funding that we can use to help prop up this portion of the expenditures," Harkin said. "If we get word that we received both of them, then we would come forward with a plan to determine what's the best use of those funds."

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