Despite the challenges caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Freeport school district has developed a thorough plan for the $195 million budget proposed for the 2021-22 school year.
With $10.8 million of additional state aid, the budget allows the district to maintain all its current programs and staff while also bringing in new assets to help students succeed.
Thus, the Herald endorses the proposed spending plan, and encourages voters to show their support by voting “yes.”
The budget includes a modest 0.1 percent decrease in the tax levy. If it passes, it would be the sixth time in seven years that the district has reduced taxes and saved residents money, this time during a very tough fiscal year.
The budget would add 16 new positions to help the schools overcome the learning loss caused by the pandemic, especially for students in the special needs and English as a Second Language programs.
The district also plans to expand its summer school program for students in kindergarten to eighth grade. While the program has served 300 to 500 students in previous years, it would now be able to take in as many as 1,000 in the upgraded program, which would include academic, athletic, arts, language, literacy, STEM and special elective activities.
Along with the budget, the Herald also encourages residents to vote “yes” on the $2.5 million Capital Reserves Proposition, which would allow the district to spend secured capital reserve funds on several renovation projects throughout its buildings.
With voting being done by absentee ballot this year, the Herald urges everyone to mail in their ballots and make their voices heard.
Of the three candidates vying for the sole contested trustee seat on the Freeport Board of Education, left behind by the late Ernest Kight Jr., Sunday Coward is the Herald’s choice.
While Coward and fellow challenger Anthony Miller have both previously served on the board, Coward is the only seasoned educator running who has extensive experience in administering budgets, developing academic support and running mentoring programs through her 35-year career in higher education.
As Freeport recovers from the pandemic, Coward has promised to use her expertise to work with the current board to devise plans to help students overcome learning loss and develop a budget that makes the most of the state aid increase coming to the district over the next three years.
Coward is also a strong advocate of student equity, and would help identify and find solutions to the problems that plague majority-minority districts like Freeport. Whether it’s working to improve the district’s meal program or diversifying the district’s teaching and administrative workforce, Coward has said she is committed to making lasting changes for the betterment of the students.
She served the district from 2000 to 2006, but Coward has said she is more than willing to return to help the schools through these tumultuous times, so the Herald asks our readers to show their support for her.