Berwyn fifth-graders urge legislators to pass state budget

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The ongoing budget impasse has prompted a group of fifth-graders from Berwyn South School District 100 to lead a letter-writing campaign. Students believe that not enough state funds are being distributed to lower-income districts.

With a $2.1 million budget deficit, District 100 is in danger of running out of reserve funds. The district operates yearly on a $44 million budget, although cuts are going to be made in order to help combat the deficit.

Piper Elementary School has become one of the schools in the district faced with an unsure future due to the imminent cuts. When word spread throughout the school about the dangers of the budget impasse, a group of fifth-grade students began brainstorming how they could attack the issue. The students decided that a letter-writing campaign would be the most effective way to get their voices heard, according to fourth-grade teacher Karla Schwarze.

Schwarze and the students are involved in a program called ‘Our American Voice,’ which encourages youth to become active and engaged members of civic society. Karla is not only a teacher at Piper Elementary but a faculty advisor for the program as well, helping the students draft their letters to be sent to state officials.

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“I am writing because I am concerned about the inequality of school funding in Illinois. Wealthier communities do not rely on funding from the state as much as Berwyn does,” said Piper fifth-grader Camila Hernandez. “The property taxes in Berwyn do not make up the difference of what the state owes its children. Are the students in Berwyn not as worthy as those in wealthier areas of the state?” Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner are all expected to receive copies of the student’s letters, as well as signed copies of a form letter from parents throughout the community.

Camila, 10, is passionate about the issue and believes that more kids throughout the community should get involved as well. “I don’t think that only adults have the right to be heard – I think kids should also be heard,” she said. Camila is hopeful that the adults in positions of power hear their message, and understand how dire their situation really is.

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