Name: Matthew Stukenberg
Position seeking: Mascoutah School Board member
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? As a graduate of the Mascoutah School District, I feel very strongly about the quality of education that I received. I believe that our community puts a strong emphasis on a quality education and molding our students into productive members of society. Part of that responsibility is to be able to give back. My knowledge in school finance and facilities have directly benefited the school district. I have helped develop and execute phased planning of facilities that have produced values and efficiencies on construction projects in the district. I also helped develop legislation that allows the Mascoutah School District to change its tax levy structure so that we don’t fall below the 95 percent state average for impact aid. This allows our tax rate to not increase, while ensuring we receive our full heavily impacted aid payment. I believe that with all this in mind, I am an ideal candidate for a member of the Mascoutah District No. 19 School Board.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? I believe there are two major issues facing the Mascoutah School District. One is our continued growth in the district. We have increased our student population by 1,033 students over the past 10 years. This not only requires additional staffing, but also creates facility needs. It takes time and planning to properly address these space needs, and I believe we have done that well. At both Wingate Elementary School and Mascoutah High School, we built “shelled” space, which consists of basically the exterior walls. As student population warrants, we can finish those shelled spaces into classrooms and do that over a summer and not impact the students’ learning environment. We are adding onto the Middle School currently to bring that building’s capacity up to handle the increased student enrollment. The other issue facing our district is to continue to recruit and retain the best teachers and staff possible. The teaching industry in Illinois is facing a shortage we have not seen in years. This is in large part do to the State and the pension problem it has created. We have been very lucky in our community to hire and keep quality educators. While having adequate facilities for students to learn in is essential, nothing matters more than having great teachers delivering quality instruction.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? The Board of Education will actually vote for a 5 percent tax rate decrease at the March or April board meeting. The Mascoutah School District is in a very unique position. Since we educate the children of our Military families at Scott Air Force Base, we receive Impact Aid in lieu of property taxes. We must maintain a tax levy that is within 95 percent of the state average to receive heavily impacted aid. We are one of only 26 school districts in the country that receive this funding level. This equates to about $4 million. The only way I would ever consider raising rates again would be to ensure our rates stayed above the 95 percent threshold.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? I want to continue to provide an exceptional educational experience for every student in the Mascoutah School District. This includes retaining and hiring the best staff possible and providing the best educational environments. I would like to build upon the STEM program and provide those students with opportunities we have not had. I would also like to promote the career and vocational trades within the district. We have a varying student population, and we must provide educational opportunities to all of these students.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? The Mascoutah School District will not be impacted by the minimum wage of $40,000 starting in 2023. Currently, our starting pay for a first-year teacher with benefits is $43,000. I do believe that this should be in issue dealt with at the local level and not a mandate set out by the state.
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