McHENRY – The League of Women Voters of McHenry County said a March 3 forum for District 156 school board candidates is in no way a joint event with the district’s teachers’ union despite a letter from the union to candidates suggesting otherwise.
Union representatives sent a letter to school board candidates with more than 20 questions, asking candidates to answer the questions and send it back to the union co-president by Feb. 13. The letter stated “the League of Women Voters along with the [union] is interested in understanding your beliefs and views on the issues outlined in the questionnaire.”
Paula Ekstrom, president of the League of Women Voters, said the letter was not authorized by the league and she had no idea the organization’s name was attached to it. She added she did not see a single question on the form and the league had no interest in asking questions – which will come from the audience – until the forum on March 3.
“That was sent out in error by the teachers’ union without our knowledge or without our say-so,” Ekstrom said. “If [candidates] wish to fill them out and send them back to the union, that’s fine, but we will not be using them. We are the sole sponsor of this forum.”
Ekstrom said the league hosts multiple forums each election cycle and never partners with an organization that would compromise its independence and mission to give residents a direct avenue to question candidates.
Union representatives did not return request for comments before press time.
A number of questions on the form dealt with union issues. One question asks candidates how they can be assured that information given by the superintendent – who is relied on to report district happenings to the board – is accurate and that “he/she is competent.”
Other questions ask if candidates are aware of the administration compensation package and the percentage of the education fund that goes toward administration compared to teachers and support staff and if the split is fair.
The union, which is nearing the end of its contract, also asks how informed candidates are about the terms of the current contract and how much weight those terms should be given when making a decision as a board member.
Board member and candidate Tim Byers said he thought it was odd when he received the letter after experiencing the forum four years ago. He said while the union has every right to ask questions of the candidates, he does not plan on filling out the form and believes the union has a good understanding of his positions after four years.
“The fact [the union] wants to know what we’re thinking is fine. They have the prerogative to endorse anyone they would like,” Byers said. “But that’s not how the letter was stated, it was more fuzzy. I’m not sure what their intent was.”
The League of Women Voters will host the candidate forum at 7 p.m. March 3 at McHenry High School – East Campus at 1012 N. Green St.