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Parents Want New Plan for SILO Money

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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - Parents from North Liberty and North Coralville say they want a comprehensive plan that solves all of the Iowa City Community School District's needs. This comes in light of a recent discussion by the school board to possibly divert funds set aside for a third high school into improvements for elementary schools.

The community meeting was planned for Sunday shortly after five of seven school board members expressed they would be in favor of reallocating $32 million of incoming infrastructure local-option sales tax, or SILO, money previously reserved for building a third high school in the North Corridor earlier this month. If the board decides to reallocate the funds, the money could go towards new elementary schools or school additions to deal with overcrowding and air conditioning problems.

But following discussions to divert that money elsewhere, several parents said they felt "defrauded" by the school board, adding they would consider moving from the area or sending their children to a different district if a third high school is not built.

Other parents suggested creating a school board system where there is at least one board member to represent each district -- as the board currently does not have a representative from the North Corridor.
Some parents also said they felt it was their turn for school improvements, as their area continues to grow.

"The tax base is here, we are the tax base for Iowa City," said Trevor Andersen, who has two children in the district. "The area is moving here, geographically, this is the hot spot. We're paying higher taxes, and I'd expect better service."

During the community meeting on Sunday, several parents -- out of a group of about 50 -- cited concerns of safety, fairness, and quality of education as reasons the group needed to organize to express their concerns to the district, tossing around ideas for an email writing campaign, reaching out to state congressmen, ensuring more parents attend meetings, making T-shirts, and filing an injunction to prevent the school board from voting to divert the funds too quickly.

At the end of the meeting, the group agreed that they wanted it to be clear that they do not want the school board to choose between improving elementary schools and building a third high school -- but putting together a comprehensive plan that addresses all the district's issues.

"This is not about pinning one side of the district against the other side of the district," said North Liberty resident Jen Greer. "We don't want the riffs that already exist to grow wider and we're also not here to attack one side or the other."

And school board member Tuyet Dorau, who attended Sunday's meeting, said she felt it would be wrong for the board to make a decision on where the SILO funds will go without holding public forums on the issue, adding she hopes the board is able to come to a decision the reunites the district.

"I think our community has become divided, and I think it's the responsibility of the board to unify the district as a whole." Dorau said. "And I think if we continue as we have been we will not be doing our job."

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