43. Changing the Debate

With a budget crunch last year, superintendent Ray Lauk faced a daunting prospect: cutting programs or selling a big tax hike. His constituents weren’t eager to raise their own taxes. But Lauk gave them a reason. He convened 50 community members and faculty to reassess priorities for the district of 2,200 students over the next 10 years. They came back with two proposals: A “reality plan” that left taxes alone but meant closing two schools and increasing class sizes, and a “possibility plan” that would restore art, music, and athletics and focus on math and reading. Lauk won a referendum last March — with a 50% property tax increase. “We weren’t asking them to raise taxes,” he says. “We were asking them, ‘Which vision of schooling do you want for your kids?’ Seeing the choices made the difference.”


Ray Lauk, 45

Lyons Elementary School District 103
Lyons, Illinois

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