Approval of $50m Qualified School Construction Bonds for East Aurora School District 131

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My name is Melanie Kleimola and I am a lifelong resident of Illinois, a 9-year resident of Aurora, and I am in my fifth year teaching the best kids on earth in East Aurora District 131. 

This petition urges the Illinois State Board of Education to authorize the maximum amount of Qualified School Construction Bonds for East Aurora School District 131. On January 4, 2016, the East Aurora School District 131 Board of Education approved a resolution to pursue up to $50 million of the QSC Bonds issued by the federal government.

We ask the State Board to release greatest possible amount to East Aurora School District, as these bonds could have a dramatic impact on our students’ ability to learn in healthy classrooms that are filled with challenging curriculum and adequate technology.

East Aurora School District 131 covers the near east side of Aurora, Illinois. This is an area with great kids and low property values. More than 90 percent of East Aurora students live in poverty. Forty percent of our incoming kindergartners live in a home with unemployed or temporarily employed parents. These students have a great desire to learn, but limited access to the resources of other nearby districts. These students have been further penalized by the state of Illinois’s formula for funding education. Rather than fully funding the state’s portion of education, the state uses a proration formula that cuts state funds to all districts at the same percentage. For low income districts, this has been an appalling penalty. In the last five years, East Aurora lost about $38 million due to this broken formula. While we cannot recover those lost dollars, releasing the maximum amount of QSC Bonds would be a way for our district to improve facilities without further burdening our taxpayers.

Right now, despite opening a kindergarten in 2014, the average East Aurora student learns in a building that is 64 years old. There is one high school in our district: all students will go to East Aurora High School, built in 1957. Unfortunately, it is a building with overcrowded hallways, cramped libraries, outdated classrooms and limited-use facilities. The school is crowded now – more than 3,800 students today – and that population could climb over 4,300 in the next five years. These QSC Bonds would help the District make a dramatic expansion of the high school. Students would finally have modern science labs, usable libraries and computer labs, suitable fine arts spaces, and adequate physical education facilities.

The school’s redesign would even help address a fundamental but often overlooked need: the ability of students to be in class on time, rather than being stuck in clogged hallways. No doubt, there will be hundreds of school districts applying for these bonds. But considering the needs in East Aurora School District, the historical underfunding of low-income students, and the critical facility needs of the state’s 12th-largest district, East Aurora needs the largest possible allocation of the these QSC Bonds.

The bonds would be used in our high school but the effect would be multiplied. If the bonds can pay for high school construction, other district resources can be devoted to expanded preschool opportunities, more technology in classrooms, and smaller class sizes – all changes that are proven to increase student achievement. Our students love to learn. They need the state to support that learning by authorizing $50 million in Qualified State Construction Bonds in 2016. We urge you to sign this petition to make our voices heard.

Note: The photo above is a typical passing period in the high school hallways. Overcrowded--tough to make it to class on time!

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