Thursday, April 7, 2011

Undermining Confidence In Schools

When school boards continue to spew misinformation, it undermines public confidence in the whole system.

I write about it here:

Detroit News: Local schools haven't made cuts (04/07/11)

==> Mike.

Here is the whole article in case the link does not work:


Governor Snyder affirmed his commitment to education by dedicating a full thirty percent of the state budget to education. Snyder’s budget also prudently balances spending with revenue, and necessitates a 4% reduction in education funding; the first substantial cut since this economic crisis began.

School administrators now predict our children are doomed. Unions are threatening an illegal strike. School boards are insulting their legislators and the governor, and spinning a deceitful message designed to manipulate the public.

Make no mistake: these protests are not selfless concern about the well-being of our children. This is all because the adults in the system don’t want to pay a little towards their health care and retirement benefits, and school boards lack the will or the skill to reform a stale public education system.

If ever there was a time for taxpayers to stand up to this greedy special interest… this is it. The long term stability and viability of public education is at stake.

The Rochester school board provided a great forum in which
we could watch this drama unfold. Within a two-week period, they held a “study session” on the budget, as well as conducted public interviews for a new superintendent. Observers were exposed to the district’s homegrown budget misinformation, and also heard funding sentiments of superintendent candidates who came from other Michigan districts.

Rochester claims they are being forced to accept cuts of over $1100 per pupil, even though Snyder’s proposed reduction is only $300 per pupil. The balance of the “cuts” are not really cuts; they are the end of the supplemental federal bailouts – the so-called “stimulus funds” and the “edu-jobs” money.

School boards knew full well that those were one-time dollars, and have had two full years to plan for the expiration, but have done nothing whatsoever to prepare.

In fact, during that two year period many school boards, including Rochester, committed to expensive employee contracts, even though they knew those federal dollars were set to expire.

The Rochester board approved a union contract they label as concessionary. But over its three-year duration the contract was projected to save one-tenth of one percent. With retirement increases this year, it probably saves nothing.

Since 2005, the Rochester board voluntarily agreed to allow the cost of its union contract to increase by a total of $950 per pupil.

The board goes on to say they’ve cut $28 million since 2001. The budget in 2001 was around $110 million. If they cut $28 million, then it should be around $82 million now, right? Wrong. This year the budget is $158 million.

Only in government does that math work.

What schools do is cut student programs and layoff their youngest teachers in order to make room for salary and benefit increases for the older ones. They report the cuts, but not the simultaneous increases.

And other “cuts” correct the absurd contracts they have been defending for years, such as paying custodians upwards of $60,000 per year in salary and benefits.

So what did the superintendent candidates have to say about this?

They are all from Michigan, and it was no great surprise that they were all in lockstep.

One indicated that if selected, he’d collaborate with the union, and seek support from parents to descend on Lansing and make them understand that “we’re not going to neglect our kids!”

Another believes that our legislators and the Governor are simply ignorant and uninformed, and agreed with the school board that Lansing and the public need to be “educated and informed”, presumably by those that got us into this mess.

What these candidates – and school boards around the state – fail to recognize is the legislature, the governor, and the public is becoming increasing well-informed about mismanagement of our public school system.

Clearly, school boards and superintendents are living in denial, and it’s our job as taxpayers to help them wake up to the reality of today.

If local school boards don’t start spending the billions they receive with better care, then it’s our job to un-elect them.