PEORIA, IL -- The city of Peoria has extra money in its TIF accounts, money that city officials have discussed "rolling over" to help with construction of the River Trail apartments, at Riverfront Park.
Instead, this money should go to Peoria School District 150, to benefit the children of Peoria, instead of a private, for-profit project, I told the Peoria School Board at its Sept. 28 meeting.
The city council last week voted to move forward with the apartments, despite public opposition. Using excess TIF (tax increment financing) funds for the apartments instead of the schools is an outrage. I urged the board to look into this and ask for the money.
In his response, board member Rick Cloyd said he was aware of these funds, and two years ago a letter went to the city council asking for them.
But apparently it was ignored.
Other public comments involved excess busing of students from critic Terry Knapp, especially busing to the charter academy Quest.
The need to revive the music and arts programs which have been allowed to wither away over the last few years under the previous superintendent was discussed after comments by Sharon Crews. Her comments are posted below.
Here is a recording of these and other comments:
-- Elaine Hopkins
Comments by Sharon Crews:
Many things from the past still need to be fixed, but I believe Dr. Kherat is creating an environment for District 150 to head in a new direction—or maybe even a return to what was good about the past. Many have been saddened to watch 150’s music program dwindle almost to non-existence. If I could jump, I would have jumped for joy when I saw a Facebook request from the Roosevelt band director asking the community to donate musical instruments because so many children wanted to be in the band. I was even more pleased to read in the PJStar that people were responding and that the band had expanded from 22 to 44 after school started.
Chris Coplan mentioned that the music program has dwindled in the last five years—that’s not a surprise! I was chagrined to learn that the longstanding contract with Kidder Music had been dropped. For years Kidder’s had refurbished instruments and passed them on to District 150. I was pleased to learn that Kidder’s wants to revive that relationship with the District. I was, also, pleased to learn that Dr. Kherat wants to revive Roosevelt’s status as a performing arts school.
Of course, the music program needs to be restored at all middle schools, and I have no doubt that Dr. Kherat already has that on her to-do list. Perhaps if Roosevelt’s band is strengthened, we can expect Manual and Peoria High to reap some of the benefits. On Facebook, Manual grads reported seeing only drummers marching in the Labor Day Parade and remembered the days that I, also, remember when the Manual band numbered at least 100 and won many contests. Also, we remember that before Christmas, we would all open our classroom doors as we heard the Manual Band led by George Graves coming down the hall playing Christmas music. Many students have been deprived of the feeling of pride that comes from participation in a strong music program. The previous administration, in its desire to encourage kids to go to college, must not have realized how many 150 kids went to college on music scholarships.
Less testing and more of the arts might well be what schools need. At the last meeting we heard about the time-consuming and expensive glitches in trying to administer NWEA tests. Then we hear from the State Board of Education that we should not expect good results from the PARCC test. Isn’t it time that we consider that there might be something wrong with these tests—how do we know that the tests themselves have passed any validity tests? - 30 -