Friday, November 19, 2010

"Public Education Inc" Software Bugs

I know... it's been a while.

But after watching the Rochester school board emulate Nancy Pelosi and her "We need to pass the bill first, so that you can see what's in it" approach, I had to allow myself this distraction:

The Detroit News: Talk about teacher contracts openly (11/19/10)

This isn't about the contract, it's about the aristocratic approach of the school board.

They'll reveal the contract, immediately vote on it, and THEN "welcome" your comments. Of course, by that point, your views will be irrelevant.

I've pasted below the original piece that was submitted to The Detroit News.

==> Mike.

(P.S. Thanks to Laurie Puscas for tipping me off to the T.A. She runs her own blog,
found here.


Before Governor-elect Rick Snyder can implement his Michigan 3.0 vision, he must first accept that it’s entirely incompatible with an obsolete Public Education 1.0.

PE 1.0 is a school board developed subroutine that, when supercharged with an app called Union 2010, unapologetically consumes one-third of the entire state budget.

If Snyder is unable to debug PE 1.0, these rogue apps will just continue to demand more system resources, and overpower his fresh new program.

Just look at an all too common story that is happening in Rochester, but could just as easily be in any district around the state.

The school board hasn’t passed a balanced budget in at least seven years. This year it’s projecting a $4.9 million dollar deficit.

The actual magnitude of their deficit spending has been masked by the massive infusion of federal Obamabucks over several years.

They just increased the local tax rate by 30 percent. They are deferring building maintenance and technology updates.

Yet the board cannot even honestly face their problems.

Rochester claims to have reduced their budget by $13 million over the past three years. Perhaps in government-world, where a cut doesn’t really mean a cut, they have.
But in the real world, budget documents from the district website put 2007 spending at $160 million, and 2010 spending at $158 million.

Their biggest expense is labor, which consumes over 85 percent of their budget.
It’s quite significant then that the board just announced a “tentative” contract with their local teacher union.

But unbelievably, the agreement was developed in the proverbial “smoke-filled back room”, and in a move reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi and the health care bill, the board does not want to let the public in on the details until after they pass it.

This contract – this secret contract – is undeniably the single biggest determining factor in whether the district will ever balance the budget. It’s one of the biggest decisions the board will make in the near future, and they are making it with the least possible transparency.

It will help to determine how much pressure the board will put on Lansing – and specifically Governor-elect Snyder – for education funding.

The existing contract – which is more or less identical to contracts in all Michigan districts – is structured so that total compensation will increase by roughly 5 percent per year, regardless of performance and regardless of revenue. Healthcare and retirements costs are not capped in any way whatsoever.

The only hope for balancing the budgets and controlling costs is to work out new employee contracts that are reasonable, fair, and affordable.

Does this secret new deal change anything, or is it more of the same?

Will it save our schools, or instead doom them to more years of cuts to educational programs, increased pay-to-play sports fees, and perhaps even lead to a new sinking fund millage?

Will it allow the district to survive on projected state revenues, or will it require the board to pressure Lansing for more money, pleading “for the children”?

This agreement will have a profound impact on the district for years to come, and will affect parents, students, homeowners, and taxpayers alike. Therefore, they should have a reasonable opportunity to understand the contract, and provide feedback prior to a binding vote by their so-called representatives.

The aristocratic school board refuses.

Rochester is not unique. School boards across the state handle their negotiations in the same manner.

Snyder needs to find a way to hold school boards accountable for this sort of nonsense, such as requiring a two week public disclosure period before binding union contract votes are made.

Otherwise, school boards will continue to hold Lansing hostage, and will all but insure that Snyder’s software upgrades will crash.


Diana Huetteman said...

What is so frustrating to me as a parent of school age children in this district is the double talk of endorsing "sunshine laws" and "transparency" all the while engaging in cronyism and "secret" deals. The RCS BOE has policies #9110, 91209(r). 9130, 9420 that it consistently violates in disclosing information. Where is the accountability? Where are the consequences for these violations? Better yet, where is the recall petition for me to sign?

Aunt Beka said...

We saw a similar millage trying to get passed in the Warren Fitzgerald school district. All comment and imput by the community was ignored and at one public meeting I attended the board members more or less told us that they knew what was good for us. Election day came around and Thankfuly the Fitz community told the board we knew what was good for us and the millage was defeated. Thank you for what you do in your community. We need about 10,000 more people like you keeping school districts honest.