YES on Nov. 4 School Referendum Will Continue Positive Momentum

Momentum. Progress. Transformation. Community “wins.” Those are just a few words and phrases that are being tossed around our region lately. On November 4, we’ll have the opportunity to add “new schools” to that list.

On Election Day, there will be a referendum asking voters in the Rockford Public School District 205 to vote for or against authorizing the school board to use funds existing in the Capital Projects Fund to “build and equip one or more school buildings” in the district. If approved, it would allow for the reallocation of some of the $139 million set aside last year for the improvement of school buildings. The referendum will not result in a tax increase for any property owners. Rather, it will allow the funds to be used to build new schools.

It’s no secret that a high-performing public school system benefits everyone. It’s true whether you graduated last year or 20 years ago or you haven’t had a child in the district since the 80s or you’ve never had a child in RPS 205 or you’ve just moved to town. Success in our schools benefits our entire community. Period.

Next Rockford is a group of about 100 Gen X and Gen Y professionals who are engaged in a number of issues and initiatives in our region. Public education and RPS 205 has had much focus for our organization in its 11-year history. We were early supporters of charter schools. We were active in the effort that returned neighborhood zones to our schools. We gave significant financial resources and time and talent to the 2012 referendum that is now funding the construction and renovation projects.

Many Next Rockford members have children and many have children who attend RPS 205. We have skin in the game, literally. And, we understand that our community can only move forward if our public school system is the first choice of parents and can help attract young families to Rockford and retain them as well. Yes, it’s that simple.

Long-time residents of our region know the history of the district. The turmoil. The headlines. The financial challenges. The often chaotic leadership. Yet, look around today and I think it’s safe to say that we have a new optimism that the school district’s best days are yet to come.

We have new board members. We have home-grown administrative leaders who understand our community and our challenges. We have a College and Career Academy model in our high schools that’s receiving national attention. So much so, that RPS just this week announced it’s one of only 17 communities to be named a Ford Next Generation Learning Community.

And, thanks to the bond issue following the successful 2012 referendum, we now have significant capital investment that’s changing the physical footprint of our schools and providing our students with the 21st century learning environment that they so much deserve. Challenges remain, to be sure, and turning around our district will not happen overnight. This is truly a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time, money, resources and the effort of thousands of staff, teachers, students, parents and citizens to be successful.

We all have a stake in providing today’s students with a first-rate education that prepares them for a productive life, no matter the path they choose. Their success will be our success and we must take that responsibility seriously. Next Rockford strongly supports the referendum and we urge the community to vote YES on November 4 and keep the momentum going in our schools and in our community.