Tim Albores

The victorious candidates in the Lyons Township High School District 204 school board race were boosted by five-figure financial support from a political action committee of the state teachers’ union, of which the LTHS teachers union is a part, and a newly formed local group which raised at least $20,000. 

Winning candidates Tim Albores and incumbents Jill Beda Daniels and Kari Dillon also received support from the Democratic Party of Illinois.

“It’s hard to beat the union, and it’s hard to beat the Democratic Party when it’s supposed to be a non-partisan election,” said losing candidate Tim Vlcek, who finished fifth in the seven-candidate race.

Jill Beda Daniels

The latest campaign finance disclosures, filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections after the election, reveal the extent of the support for candidates. 

The PAC for the Illinois Education Association spent $15,000 for text messages, digital advertising and mailers in support of Albores, Daniels and Dillon. 

On April 17, less than two weeks after election, the LTHS school board, including Daniels and Dillon, voted unanimously to approve a new five-year contract with the LTHS teachers’ union, which includes a cumulative 14% increase in base pay over the course of the deal.

Vlcek questioned the teachers’ union support of Albores, Daniels and Dillon since the latter two voted on the new contract. 

Kari Dillon

“It’s a conflict of interest for the teachers’ union to endorse a school board that is ultimately going to be voting on their contract,” Vlcek said. “It’s ironic that the contract is settled less than two weeks after the election, so how much of this contract was negotiated in advance of the election.”

Daniels and Dillon said they had no part in negotiating the new contract. Alison Kelly and Jill Grech were the two board members on the negotiating team.

“I was not a school board member involved in the negotiations, and I do not believe that it is a conflict of interest,” Daniels said.

The union spent the money directly in support of Albores, Dillon and Daniels and did not contribute to their campaign committees. Albores and Daniels were the only candidates in the race who created campaign committees. Candidates are not required to file reports with the Illinois State Board of Elections unless they spend more than $5,000 on a campaign.

A new group, which called itself Support Our Schools, apparently also spent significant sums in support of Albores, Daniels, and Dillon. 

Support Our Schools has ties to a couple of well-connected Democrats, including LaGrange Park resident Heather Wier Vaught, a lawyer who now has her own law and lobbying firm in LaGrange. 

Wier Vaught is a former chief counsel to former Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Mike Madigan. She submitted filings to the Illinois State Board of Elections on behalf of Support Our Schools. 

The filings indicate Support Our Schools received only two donations, a $15,000 donation from Bonnie Atkinson of Burr Ridge and $5,000 from Mark Laubacher of Western Springs. 

Support Our Schools didn’t file its statement of organization until March 27, just eight days before the election. It had previously filed as an LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State.

Support Our Schools has not yet reported its expenditures as it is required to do, but Support Our Schools sent out at least one mailer supporting Albores, Daniels and Dillon and opposing Vlcek, Frank Evans and David Herndon. Support Our Schools also purchased campaign signs that included the names of Albores, Daniels and Dillon.

The Democratic Party of Illinois spent money on text messages, a direct mailer and digital advertising in support of Albores, Daniels and Dillon and opposing Evens, Herndon and Vlcek. 

Albores’ campaign committee reported an $1,623.36 in-kind contribution from the Democratic Party of Illinois for digital advertising and texting while Daniels’s campaign committee reported a $1,447.18 in-kind contribution from the Democratic Party of Illinois in the form of digital advertising.

Much of the messaging on behalf of Albores, Daniels and Dillon described Vlcek, who attended a school board candidate training workshop sponsored in part by the conservative group Awake Illinois, Evans and Herndon as extremists.

“They were out there just trashing us,” Vlcek said.

Vlcek said that he didn’t know how much of an impact the outside spending had on the outcome of the race.

A political action committee run by conservative radio talk show host Dan Proft spent $3,725.56 for a mailing in support of Evans, Herndon and Vlcek.

School board member Michael Thomas contributed $200 to Albores’ campaign committee, Friends of Tim Albores for the Lyons Township High School Board. Albores’ committee raised $4,160, most of it from the candidate himself and family members, and spent $3955.36. 

After contributing another $195.36 to his campaign after the election, Albores closed out his campaign fund by making $400 donation to BEDS Plus in LaGrange. 

Daniels largely funded her own campaign, contributing $4,251 of her own money to her campaign committee. Her campaign committee reported spending $4,134.84.

District voters divided

The heated race drew plenty of passion on both sides. Voter turnout nearly doubled from the LTHS school board race two years ago. This year 26.86% of registered voters voted in the LTHS school board race compared to just 13.68% turnout two years ago. 

The precinct-level voting results show that Albores, Daniels and Dillon piled up big margins in the portion the LTHS school district roughly north of Plainfield Road while Evans, Herndon and Vlcek won big in the southern portion of the district, especially near the Willow Springs property that LTHS tried to sell earlier this year.

Albores, who was the leading vote-getter in the race with 7,265 votes, Daniels and Dillon combined to receive 55% of the vote overall while Vlcek, Herndon and Evans combined for a little more than 38% of the vote. 

In the Brookfield portion of the district, Albores, Daniels and Dillon combined for 65% of the vote combined to just 29% for Evans, Herndon and Vlcek and almost 6% for unaligned candidate Justin Clark.

In the Willow Springs portion of the district, where many were angry about the school board trying to sell undeveloped land to an industrial developer, Evans, Herndon, and Vlcek ran very strongly, combining for 66% of the vote compared to just 24% for Albores, Daniels and Dillon. Clark received 9% of the vote in the Willow Springs part of the district.  

Albores, Daniels and Dillon ran strongly in LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Springs in addition to Brookfield while Evans, Herndon and Vlcek generally did better in Countryside and Burr Ridge, while Indian Head Park was relatively evenly spilt.