Teachers strike in Riverdale. A story of racism and school funding.
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Riverdale sounds like the made up name of some TV show. In fact it was.
But Riverdale, Illinois is a real place. It is part of a crescent of predominantly African American towns in Chicago’s south suburbs.
90% of Riverdale is Black. The per capita income in around $16,000.
One problem is that the failure to consolidate school districts in Illinois means that Riverdale’s District 133 has just one school.
District 133 has a highly paid superintendent, Carol Kunst, in addition to a principal.
Is that really necessary?
25% of Illinois school districts have just one school.
Each one has a superintendent and a school principal.
Like you can’t have too many administrators.
A 2016 Better Government Association report uncovered the the misappropriation of spending at District 133 by Superintendent Carol Kunst.
For years, tiny General George S. Patton School District 133 in the predominantly black, largely low-income south suburb Riverdale has struggled financially, routinely spending more than taxes brought in.
Last year, Supt. Carol Kunst said the one-school district had to make “difficult decisions,” including staff cuts, to reduce expenses and “rectify our financial situation.”
But the struggling district has continued to send school board members and occasionally staff members to conferences. It’s spent at least $65,000 over the past four years, records show, for travel ranging as near as downtown Chicago and also to Boston, Nashville, New York and San Diego.
Kunst is still there, although her work and high salary doesn’t seem to require her to have an actual office on site.
This week District 133 teachers went on strike.
The issue is salary. The average teacher salary in District 133 is now is about $57,000.
That’s not even the average entry level salary for teachers in Illinois.
Illinois’ system of funding schools is flawed and racist.
It is racist because public schools are basically funded by local taxes.
Wealthy white towns get well-funded schools.
Poor Black and Brown schools have no money.
And then there are districts like Riverdale's District 133 that have administrative leaders who treat the school like a personal ATM machine.
For years Illinois legislative leaders have promised to fix the problem where a zip code determines the funding and quality of a school.
Riverdale shows that the promise has not been kept.