A Transparency Audit is in order for Lake Forest High School Board of Education Members

July 28, 2010

As a long-time Lake Bluff resident and taxpayer, a Lake Forester article by Karen Berkowitz published Thursday, July 15,  LFHS tops all North Shore high schools in spending per student”, caught my attention undivided attention.  The article ranked Lake Forest High School first in spending per student based on average daily attendance of all North Shore high schools, $23,789 per student.

On the same day the Chicago Tribune published an equally amazing Watchdog article titled, Suburbs’ $100,000 teachers.  In the Tribune article Lake Forest Community High School District 115 ranked 2nd out of ten school districts having the highest percentage of teachers making $100,000 a year or more or 43.7% of total teachers.  In noting the number of $100,000 teachers by subjects taught, the Tribune listed the top two as physical education and English.  Chemistry came in at #10. 
 
Many argue that teacher salaries must be competitive to attract top teachers as demanded by parents.  But how much is enough?  Teachers enjoy steady increases in wages even during economic downturns.  It is more than likely that many school board members are overcome when facing tough teachers unions at the bargaining table. 
 
As for school taxes, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff residents pay the lowest in the state of Illinois, only because they have the highest value of total property tax base.  Even so, $23,789 per student is way too much when average spending per pupil nationally is $9,698.  According to a former LFHS BOE member, when she left the board in 2007 our per pupil spending was around $16,170. 
 
The Illinois Policy Institute has developed a Ten-Point Transparency Checklist to hold government and elected officials, including school boards, accountable to citizens and taxpayers.  There has been much success around the state. 
 
The Lake Forest Community High School District #115 Board of Education needs to be open to the Illinois Policy Institute’s transparency audit, so its financial books are made available for public scrutiny. Proactive transparency is the best way to educate society about the actions of government.  If not for the information revealed in the Lake Forester and the Chicago Tribune, the public would be largely unaware of the amount of money being spent per pupil or the $100,000 plus teachers employed in the Lake Forest High School District  #115.   
 
Included in the Illinois Policy Institute’s Ten-Point Transparency Checklist:     http://illinoispolicy.org/content/?section=504
  • Elected & Administrative Officials:  Contact Information
  • Meting Information:  Calendar (Future) Minutes & board Packets (Past)
  • Public Records:  FOIA submission & FOIA Officer Contact Information
  • Budgets:  General Fund and Special Projects
  • Financial Audits: Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports
  • Expenditures: Checkbook Register and Credit Card Receipts
  • Salary & Benefits: Wages, Salary, Overtime, Health, Dental, Life, Pension, etc.
  • Contracts: Union, Private Contractors, Vendors
  • Lobbying:  Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Associations
  • Taxes and Fees: Sales, Property, Income, and Miscellaneous Taxes, Fees.

As a Liberty Leader at the Illinois Policy Institute,  I will pursue a transparency audit with member of the Lake Forest Community High School District #115 Board of Education in the fall.  I hope others will join with me in this effort.

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