So, it’s come to this. A majority of the Riverside School District 96’s Board of Education simply refuses to believe they have at least an equal responsibility to pony up a few thousand dollars to ensure the safety of the students coming to their buildings on a daily basis.
After being presented with a proposal by the village of Riverside to share the cost of six crossing guards, the District 96 board rejected it — again — claiming that public safety is the responsibility of the village, not the school district.
This is despite state law, which clearly spells out who may or may not be responsible for funding and organizing a crossing guard program. Actually, the matter is addressed in two separate places, the municipal code and the school code.
The municipal code states that municipalities may (emphasis ours) set aside funds for crossing guards. It does not require municipalities to do so, nor does it encourage municipalities to do so. The fact that municipalities traditionally have chosen to bear the entire cost for crossing guards does not change the fact that they don’t have any obligation to do so.
At the same time, the school code states clearly that school boards, specifically, may “employ persons for the purpose of directing traffic upon school grounds and on or along such streets and highways or portions thereof within a radius of one mile from such school grounds, or to share in the cost of employing such persons with or accept the employment of such persons by any unit of local government.”
So the state itself recognizes that public safety, when it comes to children walking to school, is not the purview of any one unit of government.
Frankly, District 96 is throwing a tantrum. The village has always paid for the vast majority of the cost of crossing guards and the school district would like the village to continue to do so.
But the village has said it is not going to do so any longer, so it’s time for the school district — if they are care about the safety of children as much as they say they do — to share equally in the cost of crossing guard salaries. The village of Riverside will continue to administer the program and fund the training and equipment needed for the crossing guards to do their jobs. It’s a fair deal.
As for the argument about North Riverside and Brookfield paying in full for crossing guards it provides, we say, “So what?” That is the decision those villages have made regarding crossing guards. They are perfectly within their rights to make that decision, and the school district can continue to enjoy the largesse of those villages when it comes to funding crossing guards.
But if ever a time came when those villages ask the school district to share in funding the salaries of those crossing guards, then we would expect the school district to do so.
Will it have an impact of the school district’s budget? Yes, just as it has an impact on municipal budgets. In the past, we’ve suggested that the school district should share in the cost out of a sense of neighborliness. No longer. They should do it out of a sense of duty to the people they serve, and they should quit crying about it.