Much was made in this latest election campaign season about partisan politics inserting itself into local school board races, particularly in Lyons Township High School District 204, where everyone from a right-wing radio host to the Democratic Party of Illinois endorsed candidates and paid for campaign materials, support that the candidates themselves say they never asked for.
While this might have been unprecedented, you’d be naïve to think it wasn’t inevitable, given the extent to which the idea of public education itself has become an important battlefield in the nation’s never-ending culture wars.
Attempts in recent years by public school districts, including Lyons Township High School, to begin seriously addressing systemic inequities have met with furious pushback by those who refuse to admit those inequities ever existed.
In the face of attacks on school administrators and teachers, it’s no wonder there’s been an “unprecedented” response. It would be foolish not to respond and advocate on behalf of those who face that criticism, which is sometimes deeply personal and offensive.
This year’s introduction of partisan politics in non-partisan school board elections, alas, won’t be a one-time occurrence. For better or worse, voters can expect these kinds of battles to continue being waged in the future until the time that they decide whether they value equitable public education or not.
The long haul
Back in 2017, the village of Riverside made a major investment in making the low-lying section of Swan Pond Park a wetland area supporting native plant species. Close to $30,000 was spent to plant thousands of native species to jumpstart that initiative.
Six years later, only about half of those plants have survived the volatile hydrological conditions in the park, but it provided lessons learned in how to approach Swan Pond in the future.
Riverside has shown it’s committed to its original intent and in the past couple of years has tweaked its approach to a long-term strategy of regular controlled burns, targeted removal of invasive plants, and underseeding reclaimed spots with natives.
This won’t produce results overnight, and if it’s to succeed future Riverside village boards will need to follow through on what’s been started. Here’s hoping village government will stick with the strategy, long term.