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Derek Johnson

Board races are vital

Candidates across Bureau County are going to be sent anew or once again into very important school boards on April 9 when consolidated elections occur in Illinois. I hope voters are looking hard at their candidates in every district.

There are not many schools in the country that are not in trouble. Yes, even the parochial and charter schools are in trouble. It’s not a rural or urban issue. It’s not Republican or Democratic. It’s a national emergency. Schools from coast to coast are feeling the pain of Washington’s lack of concern for every state, county and municipality in our nation. After all, their kids don’t attend Princeton or LaMoille/Ohio high schools. The result of gridlock in Washington is tough decision-making for every school board in Illinois in 2013-14.

Here are questions these boards will have to answer in the coming months: Can we provide transportation to and from school? Can we afford sports like basketball, football, softball, wrestling, etc? Can we feed our kids a healthy lunch at an affordable price? Can we repair a crumbling roof? Should we cut programs and lay off teachers? To me, those are all very serious questions. They affect the safety, health and education of our most important resource — our kids.

I’ll get called a liberal or a tax-and-spend type just because I said the word “kids.” That’s fine. However, I am not incorrect. I was in high school in the mid-’90s. My school was a great place to get a diverse education and even a great place to work out after school. We had options for our education. We didn’t worry about there being a prom because it was taken care of by the class before. And I attended a rural high school that was the county stepchild.

Now, every school is the pariah of a move toward austerity in the United States.

There is no stopping the cuts that are coming provided that a housing boom doesn’t jump out of the ground and sprinkle the country in lottery style property tax revenues. In other words, the outlook is not good, and the money ain’t coming. All Bureau County families are about to see their schools under even more financial pressure in the next year. That means we have some serious decisions to make in the April 9 elections.

In most cases, these candidates are very accessible. You can ask them questions in the grocery store line or at a forum. Talk to your kids’ teachers and see what they have to say. As a person who has worked elections on a professional level many times in my life, I can easily say the school board elections in Illinois will turn out to be some of the most impactful election results I have ever witnessed at the state level. I mean, hey, we have a President Obama and had President Bush in the last 12 years ... you tell me the difference.

The point being that there are a number of people who directly and immediately affect your lives on the ballot next month. And this isn’t November. Call them, approach them, and make sure whether or not you want to vote for them. Then, get to the polls and vote like it was November in a presidential election.

Derek Johnson of Dover can be reached at derekeus@hotmail.com.

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