Martwick’s empty school funding promise comes back to haunt

IL Senate appointee Martwick failed to deliver additional District 80 state aid despite pledge

At a board of education meeting last year, appointed Illinois state senator Robert Martwick appeared to make promises to District 80 when he pledged to work with the District in order to secure more funding.

Martwick spoke of the $45 billion capital bill passed in 2019 containing money “for school infrastructure and improvement”.

Martwick had promised additional funding for District 80

“My office will be a resource to you, as we look at those school construction and rehabilitation grants, make sure that District 80 and all of the other schools are getting their fair share, getting on the list, making sure you’re prioritized”, Martwick said, adding “my office will be happy to work with you on that”.

Martwick also spoke of the “evidence based funding model” passed by the legislature a few years back, and how District 80 was not considered on the list of “neediest” schools.

He said more money will make it to all the other schools “eventually”, stating “money will start flowing to District 80… so that’s coming”.

At the time of the comments, Martwick was a candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary election against Danny O’Toole.

Illinois politicians often use schools as pawns in budget and tax fights, and District 80 appears to have become the latest victim.

District 80 board president Sam Palazzo allowed Martwick to make these campaign promises at the December 2019 meeting, despite a prohibition on political campaigning during school meetings. Palazzo may have thought it would lead to additional funding for District 80.

Martwick went on to win the 2020 Democratic primary against O’Toole. However, Palazzo’s actions were for nought as Martwick did not secure any additional state aid for District 80, either in general funding, or grants.

District 80’s board has more Martwick critics than supporters, and some see Martwick’s lack of engagement on state funding for District 80 as retaliation for some individual board members’ personal opposition to Martwick.

Martwick’s only “contribution” to District 80 funding was taking credit for a $787.50 library grant, which, it turned out, was handled by the Illinois Secretary of State‘s office… meaning Martwick had nothing to do with it.

Avino attacks

District 80 officials must have been asking when Martwick is going to deliver the goods, as board member Lou Mezzano posted a notice of a grant Martwick procured for a Chicago school, musing “it sure would have [been] nice” to have received that money at District 80.

Mezzano’s post didn’t directly attack Martwick, but it was enough to draw a vicious attack from Martwick protege Frank Avino, who claimed Mezzano “didn’t do your job” about requesting a grant directly, and accused Mezzano of taking “cheap shots“.

Avino’s comments were surprising given as Avino is (was?) an ally of Mezzano, having campaigned for him in 2019.

Mezzano didn’t directly respond to Avino’s hostility, instead inviting him to the next District 80 board meeting where “our board will be speaking on this subject”.

Frank Avino is Illinois Democratic Party chairman Mike Madigan’s representative in Norwood Park Township, through Madigan’s Democratic Organization.

Avino also holds the elected positions of Norwood Park fire protection district trustee and Norwood Park Township Democratic Committeeman.

Avino has declared himself a candidate for the Norridge Village Board election in April 2021, even though Avino’s fire board term does not expire until 2023.

Close election

Martwick is locked in a tight general election race versus Republican Anthony Beckman. Beckman is being backed by state and local Republicans, while Martwick is supported by Madigan’s Democratic Organization.

The Dem Organization is also backing IL house 19 appointee and candidate Lindsey Lapointe, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx, and appointee Norridge Village President Daniel Tannhauser’s Norridge Improvement Party slate (of which Frank Avino is also a member).

A key education policy contrast between Beckman and Martwick is support for school choice, the ability for parents to send their children to non-government schools of their choosing while receiving credits for property taxes paid toward public schools.

Beckman is a strong supporter of school choice, whereas Martwick is opposed.

Will Martwick actually secure any additional funds for District 80, other than taking credit for a sub-$800 library grant taken care of by somebody else?

If we go by Martwick’s track record so far… the answer is a firm “no“.

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