Education

Fairview Heights residents looking to detach from East St. Louis school district

Fairview Heights Residents Want To Detach From East St. Louis Schools

Norm Miller and other residents of the French Village area of Fairview Heights want to detach from East St. Louis school district 189.
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Norm Miller and other residents of the French Village area of Fairview Heights want to detach from East St. Louis school district 189.

Poor educational performance, higher taxes and fiscal irresponsibility are the driving factors in one Fairview Heights neighborhood renewed efforts to detach from East St. Louis School District 189, residents say.

“The children aren’t getting a proper education,” says Norm Miller, of Fairview Heights. “They can’t come close to meeting the standard core test.”

Miller lives in a small part of Fairview Heights that’s in the East St. Louis school district. He is among those calling for the area to detach from the district and become part of neighboring Grant District 110 and Belleville High School District 201. Under state law, areas wishing to detach must attach to a neighboring district.

“What compels us for detachment is decades of under-performance of District 189, the waste of tens of millions of tax dollars, and the No. 1 cause for our detachment is a proper education for the children in our community,” said Kevin Sheridan, of Fairview Heights. Sheridan attended East St. Louis schools; his children are grown.

A meeting for those interested in learning more about the detachment process will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Jones Banquet Plaza, 9003 St. Clair Ave., in Fairview Heights. The meeting has been organized by Miller and Sheridan to gauge interest among local families and promote detachment.

Kelli Hawkins, spokeswoman for District 189, said 44 students who have Fairview Heights addresses attend Katie Wright Elementary School, Mason-Clark Middle School and East St. Louis Senior High school.

A meeting for Fairview Heights residents to discuss detachment from East St. Louis School District 189 will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Jones Banquet Plaza, 9003 St. Clair Ave., Fairview Heights. The meeting is open to the public.

Hawkins provided no comment on the organizers’ statements about the district’s poor educational and fiscal performance.

Alorton, Belleville, Brooklyn, Centreville, Caseyville, Fairmont City, Madison and Washington Park also pay property taxes to District 189.

Students who live in Fairview Heights and District 189 may also attend private schools or be home schooled; those numbers were not available. Most Fairview Heights students attend the Grant or Pontiac school districts and Belleville Township High School East.

The detachment process can take place with one family or a group of families, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. The first step is one of three types of petitions:

▪  The boards of education from each affected district agrees to the detachment;

▪  A majority of registered voters in each affected district must agree;

▪  Or two-thirds of the registered voters in the area proposed to be detached can petition for detachment.

After a petition is submitted to the regional board of school trustees, it’s considered by that board and published by the regional superintendent at the petitioners’ cost. A public hearing will be held, according to ISBE, at which any resident of any affected district may support or oppose the petition.

The residents who are leading the charge this time live in an area of Fairview Heights commonly known as French Village. It’s not the first time that area has tried to detach. Efforts go back as far as 1972, and there have been sporadic efforts since, some successful.

Susan Sarfaty, regional school superintendent in St. Clair County, said a handful of homes successfully detached from East St. Louis early in her tenure, which began in 2010.

“The houses were in East St. Louis (school district) and they detached into Signal Hill,” she said. “There was logic behind it. (It was) a dead-end street, everyone to that point on the street was in Signal Hill. It was very logical to do so.”

Sarfety declined to comment on any future detachment efforts.

“Nothing starts until I receive a formal petition; until then it’s purely speculation,” she said. “You don’t know who’s going to sign the petition, so you don’t know who will be in the detachment.”

Tax implications

East St. Louis District 189 draws property tax dollars from nine other taxing bodies. The district received more than $790,000 from property taxes in 2014 from Fairview Heights addresses, according to the St. Clair County treasurer’s office. Because there is not yet a formal petition completed, it is not known how much of that taxing area could be subject to the detachment.

All homes in the East St. Louis District 189 are taxed at a rate of $10.838 per $100 of assessed valuation, said Dina Thurlow, St. Clair County’s tax extension supervisor. District 189 is a K-12 district; Grant is kindergarten through eighth grade and District 201 is a high school district. Thurlow said for a house that resides in both districts, their tax rates of $4.002 and $2.035, respectively, are added together.

That means a $100,000 home with an owner-occupied exemption in District 189 would pay $2,974 a year in taxes to the school district; the same home in Grant 110 and District 201 would pay $1,650. That’s in large part because home values in East St. Louis are less than in Fairview Heights.

Comparisons to other districts are difficult because of the number of factors involved in school funding. For instance, Mascoutah is a K-12 district but “always has the lowest rate ($4.659) because they get a lot of federal money because of the military students,” Thurlow said.

Cahokia District 187, another K-12 district, has a rate of $11.043 because of outstanding bonds, lower home values and other factors.

They’re spending a disproportionate amount of money compared to other districts. One is the taxes they pay compared to what people pay two streets over, and the other is the schools (quality of education).

Matt Stines, superintendent of Grant District 110

Money can also be a driving factor in detachment cases, one school administrator said.

“They’re spending a disproportionate amount of money compared to other districts. One is the taxes they pay compared to what people pay two streets over, and the other is the schools (quality of education),” said Matt Stines, superintendent of Grant District 110.

Stines said this is not the first attempt at detachment, but previous efforts were met with resistence from the districts because Grant and Belleville did not have the space.

“Back then it was a lot more kids,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number ... the conversation I heard was that three, four or five more classrooms” would have been necessary at the elementary school.

Now, though, Stines said the district might have a different outlook.

“Our enrollment is down. There would be an incurred transportation cost, but the district would be open to it after a study,” Stines said.

Superintendent Jeff Dosier, of Belleville District 201, said he would want “all the information before we take a position” on any detachment effort, but acknowledged that the number of potential students would have limited impact. Belleville East, where most Fairview Heights students attend, has an enrollment of about 2,600 students.

School comparisons

Students living in Fairview Heights and East St. Louis District 189 attend Katie Wright Elementary School and Mason/Clark Middle School and East St. Louis Senior High School. If detachment is successful, those students would attend Illini Elementary and Grant Middle School and Belleville Township High School East.

This table compares the schools’ enrollment, students’ income status and scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers statewide tests. Last year was the first time schools took that test.

  • Katie Wright Elementary

506 students, 3% PARCC, 99% low income

  • Mason/Clark Middle School

656 students, 3% PARCC, 99% low-income

  • Grant Middle School

259 students, 23% PARCC, 60% low income

  • Illini Elementary School

378 students, 23% PARCC, 51% low income

  • Belleville East High School

2,551 students, 50% meeting or exceeding standards on PARCC, 87% graduation rate

  • East St. Louis High School

1,560 students, 2% meeting or exceeding standards on PARCC, 72% graduation rate

Source: Illinois State Board of Education

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