OAK PARK (CBS) — District 97 students led a rally Saturday in Scoville Park in support of the Referenda for Education Funding on the April 4 ballot.

WBBM’s Bob Roberts reports.

District board members said music, art, theater, band and orchestra programs may be decimated in the third year of cuts if the April tax referenda is defeated.

Many students who spoke at the demonstration, such as Brooks Middle School eight-grader and Bravo Arts program participant McKale Thompson, took part in the school district’s arts programs. He emphasized how the activities bring students together.

“Theater has been a huge part of my social and emotional development and has given me my closest friendships,” he said.

Oak Park And River Forest sophomore Josh Szuba said the Bravo program changed his life and the lives of others.

“I learned so much about taking risks, choosing to be a leader and creating positive change in yourself and the people around you,” he said.

Board members compared defeat of the referenda on the April ballot to a plane crashing.  They said dozens of teachers would be laid off as well. Julian and Brooks Middle Schools could lose their International Baccalaureate (IB) status, affecting students such as sixth grader Elijah Mowatt.

“With going to Julian, there was a lot of challenges, but at the same time there were lots of new opportunities for thinking,” he said.

Elijah said the program allows him and others to “think about our world and what we could do to make it better.”

One adult told supporters of the referenda to look their neighbors in the eye and explain why they are voting yes. Opponents point to the proposal’s cost, an estimated $740 on a $10,000 tax bill, as the reason to defeat them.

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