Friday, December 30, 2005

Putting tenure on trial

The below story was sent to us from a friend in Harvard and can be found by clicking on the title above or at

Putting tenure on trial
By Burt Prelutsky

Dec 30, 2005

An ongoing problem I have is that I am, at heart, a crusader, but, by temperament, a couch potato. To be really good at altering the status quo, you have to be ready to join with others in a mission, and I don’t happen to like group activities. Even when a group consists of people I like as individuals, as soon as they organize, some bossy person is handing out marching orders, and somebody else is putting me to sleep reading the minutes of the last meeting.

Ideally, the way it should work is that I come up with great ideas and then get to lie down on the sofa and take a nap while other people run off and do the heavy lifting.

My latest campaign is to do away with tenure. If there’s a dumber idea floating around than the guarantee of lifetime employment I’m not sure I want to hear about it. A person can take only so much stupidity in a single lifetime and I believe I’ve just about reached my quota.

So far as I’m aware, the only two groups that receive tenure in our society are Supreme Court justices and teachers. The theory is that these people need to be protected from undue political pressure. Well, these days, as we’re all very much aware, there is as much or more blatant politicking involved in a Supreme Court appointment than in a presidential election. For the life of me, I don’t see why a duly-elected president can only serve eight years, but a justice can serve thirty or forty.

It makes even less sense that professors are guaranteed a job for life. Guys on the assemblyline don’t have tenure. Gardeners and waitresses don’t get tenure. Why should professors who already work short hours for good money be treated like English royalty?

I have heard the argument that, without such guarantees, they might be fired for political reasons. The fact of the matter is that, as more and more colleges and universities are infested with leftwing radicals, professors are far more likely to be hired because of their politics.

As for the risk that a professor of any political stripe might be shown the exit because the administration disapproves of his leanings, the question should be moot. Even if his field of study happens to be history, philosophy or even the Republican party in the 21st century, no professor worth his salt has any business dragging his own politics into the classroom. But suggest that to a leftwing academic, and he starts yelling about censorship, as if the job description includes proselytizing.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: those who can, teach; those who can’t, indoctrinate.

Instead of tenure, I’d give these academics with their childish Che Guevara posters the gate.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why American Students Know So Little American History and What We Can Do About It

Today's entry was sent to us by our friend Joyce Morrison of News With Views. This story is posted on Education News.Org.

Why American Students Know So Little American History and What We Can Do About It
Sandra Stotsky
Commonwealth Education Organization
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

October 6, 2005

Introduction to the sources of the problem

The study of US history in K-12 has traditionally served two significant purposes, one academic, the other civic. It has been the major source for civic education, promoting both knowledge of this country's political principles, processes, and institutions and allegiance to them-i.e., the basis for US citizenship. Over the past 100 years, however, there has been a steady decline in the teaching of history through the grades. To view the rest of the story click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Getting Honest About Grad Rates.

The Education Trust is a great website. The information below is part of the press release from The Education Trust to view the whole press release go to the education trust website. To view the complete report click here.

June 23, 2005

CONTACT: Nicolle Grayson
(202) 293-1217, ext. 351

Getting Honest About Grad Rates: Too Many States Hide Behind False Data

(Washington, DC) – The Education Trust released a report today that sharply criticizes the way states calculate and report graduation statistics. The analysis, entitled “Getting Honest About Grad Rates: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose,” also rebukes the U.S. Department of Education for failing to exert leadership by demanding that states get honest about graduation rates.

The Ed Trust analysis reveals disturbing patterns: Some states rely on ludicrous definitions of graduation rates. Others make little effort to accurately account for students who drop out of school. And others still provide no data at all. The final result: Extremely unreliable graduation-rate information that erodes public confidence in schools and their leadership and threatens to undermine the important work of high school reform.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don't Keep School Tax

The letters below appeared in the Rockford Register Star. Schools are not going to listen until more taxpayers and parents speak up. Bravo to these two Rockford residents for speaking up. McHenry District 15 residents do not forget that the school district is not going to return taxes they promised to return. Can you trust them to do the right thing with new revenues if the spring referendum passes?

Published: December 27, 2005

Letters to the Editor
Don’t keep school tax

Wake up, Rockford School District taxpayers.

The School Board asks that we vote to make a temporary tax permanent. Any time we vote for a temporary tax, it seems the taxing body gets used to it and cannot live without it.

I urge every taxpayer to vote no next spring. Many of us are just making ends meet and the reduction in taxes is considerable if this tax is not extended.

We pay some of the highest school taxes and have not received a lot in return. Yes, there have been improvements. The board wants us to believe that they are good stewards of our tax dollars.

I do not question their motives, but why is it that other districts are doing great without nearly that amount of taxes levied?

The School Board is hoping that you are used to paying and will want you to think, “I am already paying it, so it is not so bad.” Stop and think about that kind of reasoning.

We, as taxpayers, have the power to stop a tax from being continued.

Now is the time to start talking to your neighbors and urge them to vote no.

— David Draper, Rockford

Published: December 26, 2005

Letters to the Editor
Focus on education

Are junk food vending machines the schools’ most pressing issue?

The governor is concerned. I agree, as most parents would, that junk food isn’t the best for our kids. My concern is: Are we spending too much time and resources on this issue, when there are more serious ones facing our schools?

We need the focus to be education of our students, not just whether they eat a bag of chips for lunch.

— Diane Walz, Rockford

Monday, December 26, 2005

Band, sports ready to return

The article below appeared in the Sunday, December 25th edition of the Northwest Herald. Harvard had asked for 7 referenda in a row that all failed. A referendum never passed and the school board managed to balance the budget. Bravo to the Harvard school board. But one must ask oneself did they really need the money in the past and what was the money going to be used for at that time.

Band, sports ready to return as board reinstates programs

[published on Sun, Dec 25, 2005]

HARVARD – Linda Russ was pleased to hear recently that some of the items cut by District 50 were approved by the school board to be reinstated.

But the mother of two fourth-graders at Jefferson Elementary School found herself asking why the cuts ever were made.

"I have to wonder how they can afford to bring them back now," she said. "The cuts never should have been made. Some of the teachers that they've let go should have never been let go."

The school board announced last month that it would look into bringing back its most recent cuts, which included junior high jazz band, freshman sports at Harvard High School, and the high school scholastic bowl.

The school board has approved a list of recommended items to reinstate. In addition to the above programs, these include a junior high reading specialist, art consultants, a high school math teacher, and an elementary librarian.

Bringing back those programs and staff would cost the district about $195,000, District 50 spokesman Bill Clow said.

District officials this fall began meeting with groups such as the Harvard High School Booster Club and HARMONY, a nonprofit group formed two years ago to promote music and stage-performance activities.

"They were wanting to at least have the board consider this," said Superintendent Randy Gross, who recommended the list to the board, whose members approved it Monday.

"This is a good example that the board is listening to the community and doing what it can within the financial constraints for the district," he said.

District officials have pointed to a balanced budget as the reason these programs could return. The district in September touted a $19.75 million budget showing that education-fund revenues would exceed spending by about $200,000.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Union leaders need to learn to behave

The Education Intelligence Agency is a must see website for those fighting for true education reform and spending reform. Intercepts is Mike Antonucci's BLOG. Mr. Antonucci established the Education Intelligence Agency in June 1997. I first spotted this article on his BLOG this article was originally posted at Inside Bay Area.

Jim, some of of our other educating reform fighting friends and I, are all too familiar with this behavior. We experienced it in Harvard, Huntley and Winthrop Harbor among other places. We are wondering just what will happen at the District 300 presentations planned for early 2006.

The article below can also be viewed at

Union leaders need to learn to behave

WHY do some Oakland teachers union leaders and members have to stoop to boorish behavior to draw attention to their demands?
It's one thing for the union to renew its threat of a strike if a new contract isn't crafted to its satisfaction. Negotiations have been bitter and emotions have run high since spring, when the union rejected the district's contract offer. So, talk of a strike in that context isn't shocking.

What's disturbing, though, were the antics some union members displayed at Wednesday night's school board meeting. One teacher went so far as to compare state School Administrator Randolph Ward to Hitler and to describe him as "a bourgeois black man" who has forgotten his roots. The teacher's comments were loudly cheered as others in the audience laughed and applauded.

We realize the great majority of district teachers, even if frustrated with the pace of contract talks, are civil and care more about their students' academic progress than demonizing Ward.

By all accounts, there are legitimate concerns about health benefits in the current contract talks. Teachers are worried their family health care costs could soar to $3,000 a year under the proposed "cap" on health benefits. Negotiating for teachers' benefits and rights should be serious business, and discussions should be handled seriously, not with sophomoric stunts.

Another low point came when a teacher tried to explain to the school board his plans for a new science and technology charter school in a partnership with NASA. Members of the audience berated the teacher, punctuating his presentation with noisy boos and jeers.

Where do these so-called educators get off demeaning and disrespecting a fellow teacher for daring to propose innovative ways to educate Oakland youths? There is always room for disagreement about methods and philosophy, but any differences should be focused on a specific issue rather than resorting to bullying and heckling out of a resentment against charter schools.
When they take to the podium to speak, would some of Wednesday night's hecklers want to be treated the same way — drowned out or made fun of?

We want to respect our teachers and support them. But when they use such juvenile tactics, it is hard to take them seriously. And what kind of role model are these teachers setting for their students? Will students learn, by observing their teachers, that the only way to express opinions is by being disruptive and disrespectful, outshouting any opposing viewpoints and resorting to derogatory name-calling to make their points?

It's time for the leaders of the teachers union to grow up, tone down the theatrics and work with the administration to find the best solutions to the myriad problems facing the district.

According to teachers union President Ben Visnick, the union "has been reasonable" at the bargaining table and is ready to reach a fair contract. He says the teachers have made concessions, and the district must do the same.

That all sounds fine. If only such civility could be extended to other public meetings, there might be more movement on all sides.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All School Districts Should Follow Suit.

What a great Christmas and Chanukah present to the taxpayers aka the employers of the District 15 staff. Full disclosure! District 15 among other items will be placing full contracts including pay-tables and a full account of the budget online for all people to access. Bravo. If school districts really want residents to support a referendum let them have full access to district information truly be open and honest to the voters. What are school districts hiding that will not fully disclose this information?

Daily Herald
Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005
Dist. 15 public documents can be seen online
By Nadia Malik
Daily Herald Staff Writer

Everything from the teacher salary schedule to lunch menus to a full
account of the budget can now be found on Palatine Township
Elementary District 15's Web site.

Ever since a discussion in October about disclosing more public
information on the Web, the district has been working to rearrange
its site.

"Anything that anybody could want to know on the district is up
there," school board President Scott Boucher said.

That includes negotiated agreements with the three unions the
district works with, under the new "documents" tab on the home page,
and information on improvement plans for each of the district's 20

Much of the material has also been cross-referenced at various places
on the Web site.

The same information has also been distributed to the Palatine,
Rolling Meadows and Barrington libraries.

At the October board meeting, there was a dispute about whether the
items should be put online, but board members eventually agreed the
documents are worthy public information.

Although district officials can't monitor who is looking at the
materials, as they could when interested residents had to file a
Freedom of Information request, Boucher said they still have the
capability to track how many people view a certain section.

"It's just so we know, so we can get a better feel for what people
are looking at and if we need to make modifications," Boucher said.

The district's Web site,, will also soon start
including the complete packet board members receive before their

The modifications are all small steps the board has been taking this
past year to change the way it does some of its business.

School board meetings are now videotaped and aired on public access
channels in three towns.

The tapes are played at 5 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Thursdays in
Palatine, 3 p.m. Mondays in Rolling Meadows and 8 p.m. Thursdays and
Sundays in Hoffman Estates.

"It'll be interesting if we can see what kind of traffic we have and
how many people actually sit and watch (the board meetings)," Boucher

The board also recently decided to have two meetings a month, with
one slated for just discussion items.

"We've decided that there's a lot of issues out there right now,"
Boucher said. "To get a full airing of the issues, the best way to do
that is to break this into two meetings."

The first meeting of the month will be mostly votes on issues and
recognition of awards.

"The other meeting will have no action taken whatsoever," Boucher
said. "Those meetings will strictly be discussion."

Boucher said the board still has to decide what format the discussion
sessions will take and if residents will have to follow the same
rules in the public comments section. As it stands now, residents can
talk for only three minutes each, and the board holds a policy of not
engaging in direct discussion with commentators.

"It's a new idea for us," Boucher said. "We've always had formal
meetings, so it'll be interesting to see how this will work."

The information and suggestions below was sent to us by Kevin Killion of the

Reformer's challenge for the week:
Try asking YOUR district to commit to what Palatine is doing!

I can think of a few more things that full disclosure should include:

-- detailed curriculum standards
-- syllabus for each course
-- textbooks and other purchased curriculum materials,
by grade and subject
-- distribution of assigned letter grades (thx, Dave Carvalho!)
-- statement on commitment to intellectual diversity

-- contracts with key administrators
-- CV for key administrators
-- breakout of degrees earned by teachers, categorized by
degree subject and awarding dept (ed school vs. others)

-- full minutes of meetings, taken by someone other than
a school administrator or employee
-- full description and budget information on all
teacher in-service programs

-- email addresses for all board members
-- surveys: complete results, rather than carefully
excerpted tidbits

(What else should be added to this list?)

For more on meetings and public access to school information, see
Illinois Loop: Illinois Laws and Rules
This includes links on the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.

-- Kevin

Friday, December 23, 2005

EIA Exclusive: NEA's Annual Labor Organization Disclosure

The Education Intelligence Agency performs public education research, analysis and investigations. The Communique for the Week of December 12, 2005 is an exclusive disclosure of the National Education Association's (national teacher union) contributions, grants and political expenditures. Our tax dollars are used to pay teachers salaries in turn teachers use these tax dollars to pay union dues. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars are wasted each year on lobbying and union administration instead of staying in the class room. Voting yes on tax referenda will only increase the use of our own tax dollars being used against us.

EIA Exclusive: NEA's Annual Labor Organization Disclosure Report – Part Two, Contributions, Grants and Political Expenditures

Last week, EIA reported on the salary portion of the 2004-05 labor organization financial disclosure report (LM-2) filed by the National Education Association. This analysis concentrates on contribution, grants, political expenditures, and other outlays made by the union during the year.

The U.S. Department of Labor now requires unions to itemize expenditures in the following categories:

* Representational activities – NEA spent $47 million.

* Political activities and lobbying – NEA spent $25 million.

* Contributions, gifts and grants – NEA spent $65.5 million.

* General overhead – NEA spent $64 million.

* Union administration – NEA spent $56.8 million.

Each category contains details of expenditures, though it isn't always clear why an expenditure was placed in one category and not another. NEA also employed a mob of consultants during the 2004-05 school year, and space simply won't allow listing them all, or guessing at what they were hired to do.

For the complete report go to the Education Intelligence Agency website.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

State urges district mergers

The article below appeared in the December 22, 2005 edition of the Chicago Tribune. Diane Rado is one of their best education reporters.

State urges district mergers
By By Diane Rado, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Darnell Little contributed to this rep
Chicago Tribune

Illinois has one of the most fragmented, massive and inefficient education bureaucracies in the nation, and state officials--under pressure to put more money into schools but unwilling to raise taxes--are renewing efforts to merge school districts, the Tribune has learned.

Consolidations would not be forced. But significant changes in the law would make it easier for voters to approve mergers and allow districts to combine in ways prohibited in the past, according to a memo by state schools Supt. Randy Dunn that was obtained by the Tribune.

Lawmakers would have to approve the proposals, crafted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich's staff and state education officials.

The goal, officials say, is to free up scarce dollars for the classroom or reduce property-tax bills.

The precise savings are unknown because the amount would depend on which districts merged and other factors. But a Tribune analysis found that nearly 900 districts spent $643.3 million on schools boards and administrators in 2003-04. And the smallest districts spent three times more of their budgets on administrative costs than the largest districts.

Saving even half that $643.3 million could boost state aid by more than $200 per child, according to state estimates. That would be the second-largest increase in per-pupil aid in nearly a decade.

Blagojevich has been instrumental in increasing per-pupil aid during his administration, but he remains under pressure from schools and education advocacy groups to increase school funding even more.

Illinois has not made a serious attempt to merge districts since 1985, when consolidation legislation was approved but later gutted as districts fought to keep their students, buildings, jobs and tax bases.

Click here for the full story.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Opposition aside, levy approved

The article below was published December 21, 2005 in the Daily Herald . Mike Davitt has been the primary voice of reason on this school board. Many school boards across Illinois are partially made up of teachers, relatives of teachers, or retired school employees. These school board members are specifically recruited by teachers' unions to serve their interests and not the taxpayers interests. Many school districts have school board biographies on their websites for your viewing pleasure. This great quote from Mike Davitt appears in the article below "We have taken more from taxpayers than they were led to believe when taxpayers went to the polls in 2002," Davitt said. "In my opinion taxpayers did not authorize a blank check referendum."

Opposition aside, levy approved

By Melissa Jenco
Daily Herald

The Naperville Unit District 203 school board approved a $169.4 million property tax levy Tuesday but left the possibility of a tax refund on the table for future discussion.

The board voted 5-2 in favor of the levy, rejecting several requests to lower it in light of the district collecting at least $24 million more than voters expected from the 2002 referendum request.

The levy the board approved is at least $5.3 million less than it could have asked for.

Board member Mike Davitt, who voted against the levy, proposed lowering it by another $5.8 million.

"We have taken more from taxpayers than they were led to believe when taxpayers went to the polls in 2002," Davitt said. "In my opinion taxpayers did not authorize a blank check referendum."

In the public hearing portion of the meeting, the Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance asked for a lower levy as well. The group requested that it be lowered by almost $7 million, which would put it at $162.5 million.

"Let's make a strategic value of the district to be responsible with the money not just spend," said Kevin Hausman, a member of the group. "Spending alone doesn't improve education. Let's abate money."

Board members have expressed concern in past meetings about the effect of lowering the levy, which would essentially mean less money in following years as well.

One of the few people to speak in favor of the levy was Naperville resident David Shaftman.

"Why give $200 back to the average household income of $80,000 … and then endure a very large and growing deficit," Shaftman said. "To me that just doesn't check."

Board President Dean Reschke, Vice President Debbie Shipley and members Suzyn Price, Susan Crotty and Gerry Cassioppi voted in favor of the levy, while Davitt and Jim Caulfield voted against it.

After the levy was approved, Cassioppi suggested a one-time refund of at least part of the district's projected $5.8 million surplus.

His proposal would refund 3.4 percent of what taxpayers paid to the district in 2005. That would mean the owner of a $300,000 home would likely receive a refund of about $143.

"I think a one-time refund of (about) $6 million … done on a refund basis allows the district to take a more balanced approach, take into account the district's fiscal needs going forward," Cassioppi said.

The board will discuss Cassioppi's proposal in February.

The board will meet again for a work session at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 and a business meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Editorial: School funding problem is spending

This editorial speaks for itself. Bravo to the editorial staff at the Decatur Herald & Review.

Editorial: School funding problem is spending


Decatur Herald & Review

The Illinois General Assembly will argue again next session about how much funding should be budgeted for elementary and secondary schools.

The battle is expected to be a tough one, and in an election year, politicians will have to walk a fine line between pleasing those who don't want higher taxes and those who want more money spent on education on the state.

Some pro-education groups have proposed a tax swap: removing the emphasis for school funding from property taxes and placing more of the burden on income taxes. While that's a basically sound idea, many of the proposals carry with it a not-so-well hidden tax increase.

A+ Illinois, an education funding reform group, says the state needs to increase the foundation level by at least $1.200 per student. The foundation level is the minimum amount spent on each Illinois student, and that now stands at $5,164 per year.

Two other proposals for reforming education funding are locked up in rules committees, where a lot of legislation is shelved and then forgotten.

Much of this debate about funding would be unnecessary, however, if the state would look at the problem from the other end. The problem with education in the state isn't as much funding as it is spending. In other words, there is adequate money for public elementary and secondary education in Illinois, but the money isn't being used properly.

For example, Illinois has 894 school districts serving a little more than 2.1 million students. Texas has more than twice as many students,

4.3 million, served by 1,046 school districts. New York state also serves more students, 2.8 million, with 726 school districts. Imagine what could happen if Illinois reduced the number of school districts by even 50 and targeted those savings directly to the classroom?

Of course, consolidating and eliminating school districts is a difficult process, but the long-term effects on school spending would be well worth the effort for students, educators and taxpayers.

The number of districts is just a symptom of a larger problem. Too many Illinois education dollars are spent long before they directly impact students.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be unveiling his vision for elementary and secondary school funding to the General Assembly on Feb. 15. It's expected that the overall state budget will be tight, and schools will be no exception.

The governor could dramatically change the nature of the discussion if he were to announce that the state school system needs to focus on spending the money they have more effectively before asking the taxpayers for additional funding.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Schools falling down on fundamentals job

When schools fail to educate our children parents need to be there to pick up where the education system has left off. Is it better to give the schools more money with a tax increase or use that money to hire a tutor or send your child to a place like Sylvan Learning center where they guarantee results? Paying teachers more does not improve performance. Because of tenure schools can not get rid of underperforming teachers and hire teachers who may get better results.

Teachers and administrators do not have to worry about their retirement take a look at the pension calculator on The Family Taxpayers Network website Make sure you are ready for retirement before you consider giving school systems more money that are making some retired school employees millionaires.

The editorial below appeared in full in the Chicago Sun Times Newspaper on December 18, 2005.

Schools falling down on fundamentals job

December 18, 2005

After researchers at the U.S. Department of Education set out in 2003 knocking on doors and even visiting prisons to determine how literate Americans are, they made a finding that even they found startling: College graduates, even those with graduate degrees, showed lower proficiency in English language and math skills than they had a decade earlier. Fewer of them were able to master complex literacy tasks such as comparing the viewpoints in two newspaper editorials.

Mark Schneider of the National Center of Education Statistics, which conducted the report, hypothesizes that literacy skills at the college level have declined, in part, because universities are serving a different population than they did in 1992 when the last literacy study was undertaken. "Public universities have opened their doors to an increased diversity of students," he said. "They may present new challenges the universities didn't have to face before."

If that's the case, the Education Department literacy study should force colleges to do some self-searching -- not only about the literacy skills of the students they accept as freshmen, but also about the quality of the students they graduate.

It is assumed those with college degrees have advanced skills, that they can undertake complex reading and math tasks -- such as being able to interpret a table about blood pressure, age and physical activity and being able to compute and compare the cost per ounce of food items. If these colleges are graduating students who can't understand editorial arguments or read blood pressure charts, there is something terribly wrong with our educational systems from first grade on up through college.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tom Cross's Letter to the Sun Times

The letter below was sent to the Sun Times in response to Representatitive Tom Cross's letter. The letter was also sent to Tom Cross

Tom Cross is right, “a bipartisan approach is essential to addressing these difficult issues to restore honesty and integrity to the process.” However, until both parties stop taking money from the primary and tertiary lobbyists, the teachers’ unions (IEA and IFT), Illinois will remain in an ethical crisis. That crisis is the under-education of Illinois children by unions that are more concerned about their pocketbooks and lining the pockets of legislators to get a Ponzi scheme retirement system that is sure to bankrupt the State. Their Mantra is underfunding, inequitable funding and unfunded mandates with no regard to actually educating our children and taking the responsibility to do so. Unions prefer the blame game and that game is to blame anyone except themselves while protecting incompetent teachers. The last three decades our K – 12 system has robbed generation after generation of children of a proper education, a greater income potential, and a future as a productive member of society.

Yes Representative Cross, lets have campaign reform. Stop taking money from the teachers union with whom the state contracts. If we solve our education problem, we will solve are social welfare problems as well. The biggest social welfare system that must be reformed is the education system and the protection of incompetent teachers and administrators and their retirement system.

Cathy Peschke
Citizens for Reasonable And Fair Taxes (CRAFT)

The letter below appeared in the December 11, 2005 edition of the Sun Times.

Illinois is in the midst of an ethical crisis. This crisis has shaken the citizens' trust in not only public officials, but government itself.

The issue of ethics in Illinois has now transcended party affiliation and has jaded the minds of the electorate to the point that citizens are rightly left to wonder if public service has changed to self-service.

We are facing substantial public policy dilemmas in many areas: the budget, pensions, Medicaid, affordable health care, education, economic development -- just to name a few.

However, before we can even begin to contemplate the substantive public policy issues affecting every Illinois resident, we must restore trust in our government.

Two years ago, in a bipartisan manner, Illinois House Republicans and Democrats drafted and passed a sweeping ethics reform bill. It was a commonsense package of reforms that were a long time in coming. The measure was heralded at the time as the "nation's toughest" ethics reform package.

Now, however, new issues are emerging in the areas of state contracts and hiring, and their relation to campaign financing, that are again causing an integrity gap.

House Republicans have a number of proposals to address these abuses, as do the Democrats. As we did two years ago, I believe a bipartisan approach is essential to addressing these difficult issues to restore honesty and integrity to the process.

We proved two years ago that by working together, we can make great strides. And now more than ever, we must work together to fix a system both political parties have had a hand in breaking.

Tom Cross
House Republican Leader

McHenry District 15 Referendum

This post will be used to discuss the District 15 referendum. The post will be moderated and offensive comments will be removed. Further information about the referendum will be posted in the form of comments.

Naperville 204 has a great forum as well as Winthrop Harbor District 1. These blogs and forums are great for those who are afraid to speak out about upcoming referenda.

Bravo once again to Marla. We know how difficult it can be to speak out.

Don't punish the kids
[published on Sun, Dec 18, 2005 in the Northwest Herald]
To the Editor:

Re: Tracy Simon's Dec. 2 letter, "Two separate issues."

I did vote for the McHenry District 15 referendum the last two times it was up.

You are saying we should continue to vote for the referendum because the district needs it to run the schools; I agree to a point.

You also said I should not take it out on the children. The voters voted the referendum down at least twice previously, and yet the district is going to take it out on our children if it is voted down again.

So who is in the wrong here? The administration that punishes children for their parents' actions or the parents that expect the administration to run within its means without giving themselves yearly pay raises?

We are being bullied, and I stand by my statement that the administration is holding our children's education for ransom.

I think each board member should take a 10 percent pay decrease and reinvest it in their company, "our children," for one year.

Then maybe some of the other parents who voted down the previous referendums might see that our board does believe in our children. Then maybe the parents can believe in their board.

Marla Pfleger


Saturday, December 17, 2005

District 300 March 21st building and education referendums

This post will be used to post information about the District 300 March 21st referenda. New information about the referenda will be added to this post in the form of comments. We encourage both sides to respond. We will remove offensive comments and foul language.

The article below appeared in the December 16, 2005 edition of the Northwest Herald. CRAFT finds it offensive that the school district appears to be using these children as political pawns. Are we to believe that these children on their own initiative understand and support the full ramifications of these referenda without independent research into school finances, contracts, audits, tax codes, etc? Or have they been coopted to serve a selfish political agenda? There are school boards and professional auditors who do not understand the effects of referenda. We would like to know how many of these children are related to teachers or District employees. How will these activities affect their academic life?

Will District 300 and the NWH give equal time to students and groups that oppose these referenda? Would such a group even dare expose itself in the recrimination culture of our pulic schools? "Student groups" are using taxpayer facilities to promote the referenda. Can students who oppose the referenda have equal time and facility use? Let us hope these children will seek answers from those who do not have a direct benefit from the passage of this referenda. We wish these students good luck in getting responsible answers. We found it odd that their goal is to pass the referendum before getting the information they need. They should decide that once they get their questions answered.

D-300 high-schoolers launch campaign on questions

[published on Fri, Dec 16, 2005]

ALGONQUIN – A growing group of District 300 high-schoolers has a New Year's resolution: Get voters to approve referendums this spring. The first chapter of their mission is under way, to understand the facts – about population growth, property taxes, district finances, and the No Child Left Behind Act.
The first chapter of their mission is under way, to understand the facts – about population growth, property taxes, district finances, and the No Child Left Behind Act.

To view the rest of the article click here

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The post below is from a CRAFT supporter in Mundelein. Well done Bill Zettler. We need more people like you willing to put strong pieces like this out there for the public to read.


Bill Clinton once told us it depended upon what the meaning of “is” is.

For Illinois citizens it depends upon what the meaning of “education” is.

Lets see if we know what the meaning of “education” is in Illinois.

We know that “education” means pensions of up to$186,000 per year for members of the Teachers Retirement System.

We know “education” means 6 figure salaries for over 5,000 public school employees.

We know “education” means over $10 million in political donations to Illinois politicians of both parties by various Teacher Union organizations since 2000.

In Mundelein “education” means a school district job for one board member, a school contract for the spouse of another board member and the purchase of a public golf course for school expansion when less expensive property is available right across the street. In Carpentersville “education” means 10% per year salary increases for teachers at District 300 at the same time they are asking for more money for the Education Fund.

We know “education” means a 9- month work year and “you can’t fire me” tenure for teachers.

In Illinois “education” means teachers can’t be fired but they can go on strike.

That tells us what “education” is; lets see what “education” isn’t.

“Education” is not vouchers for poor parents so they can decide where their kids should go to school. Fifty years ago blacks were not allowed to eat in certain restaurants, drink from certain fountains or sit in front of the bus. Today they are still not allowed to choose where their children go to school. Jim Crow is alive and well in Illinois.

“Education” does not mean tax credits for dedicated parents who home school. They pay taxes for other kids to go to school but not for their own.

And in a recent article in the Daily Herald, the United Way is asking for donations for school supplies for homeless children so we know for sure the $20 billion Illinois spends on “education” each year does not mean pencils, crayons, tablets, backpacks or scissors for the poorest of the poor.

The Illinois constitution guarantees members of the TRS their $186,000/yr pensions but does not guarantee all children adequate school supplies. Doesn’t that seem backwards to you? Shouldn’t the word “education” consider children before teachers?

So remember when teacher union officials and politicians talk about what “education” is, they do not mean what you think “education” is or should be. And as long as they are in charge of defining what ‘education” is Illinois taxpayers will pay more and Illinois children will receive less.

Bill Zettler

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What Teachers Do

The below Letters to the Editor appeared in the Northwest Herald. The first is Jim Peschke's parody to a pro-education establishment's LTE. The letter from Brian Schweitzer appears to be another version of one promoted by the education establishment posted on Mike Davitt website.

What teachers do

[published on Wed, Dec 14, 2005]

To the Editor:

Re: Nov. 24 letter, "What teachers make."

At a five-star dinner party, one woman, a chief executive officer, wondered how a teacher could afford $200 per plate. She decided to confront this contradiction to the "underpaid teacher" myth.

She argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who thinks a six-figure salary for nine months work is 'underpaid'?" To stress the point, she said to another guest: "You're a teacher, Susan. Be honest, what do you make?" (Looking for income.)

Susan, an unusually frank teacher, asked "You want to know what we make?"

"We make parents work harder than they ever thought they could. We make one-income households become two-income households to pay ever-increasing taxes for schools.

"We make kids wonder why they should bother with homework. We make kids who can't read at age 16 feel like they've won the Congressional Medal of Honor because self-esteem is more important than learning fundamentals.

"We make bad teachers earn more than good teachers. We make legislators pass laws to strengthen our education monopoly. We make Illinois bankrupt with a Ponzi-retirement scheme.

"We make friendly neighbors into enemies by running tax increase referendums every few months.

"We make the elderly choose between food and medicine because they can no longer afford both.

"We make America less competitive in the Information Age."

Susan paused, then continued: "You want to know what we make? We make ourselves out to be secular saints using silly stories like Brian Schweitzer's. We make our union bosses richer. What do you make?"

The chief executive officer replied: "We make medicine to save the lives of millions. If we take public money without delivering results, I can go to jail. What happens to you?"

Susan replied: "Nothing. I have tenure."

Jim Peschke


What do teachers make?

What do teachers make?

Some dinner guests were sitting around a table discussing life. One woman, a chief executive officer, decided to explain the problem with education.

She argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided that the best option in life for a profession was to be involved in education?"

To stress her point she said to another guest, "You're a teacher, Susan. Be honest. What do you make?" (Looking for a dollar amount)

Susan replied: "Do you want to know what we make?

"We make children work harder than they ever thought they could. We make a kid that earned a C-plus and worked real hard to achieve that C-plus, feel like they had just won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"You want to know what we make?

"We make kids wonder. We make them question. We make them say 'please' and 'thank you.'

"We make them so they can write properly. We make them work on taking care of their bodies. We make them read so they can comprehend the words. We make them show all of their work in math and perfect their final drafts for English.

"We make them understand that if you use your brain, follow your heart, and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you must pay no attention because they didn't learn."

Susan paused and then continued: "You want to know what we make? We make a difference! What do you make?"

Any person who is involved in education, at all levels, makes every profession possible.

Congratulations to any person involved in education; you make it all possible.

Brian Schweitzer


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Time to quit hiding costs of tenure

Scott Reeder's series for the Small Newspaper Group
concluded last week with a good editorial, however we disagree changing from property tax to income tax. All
the articles can be reached by clicking on the title above.

An editorial: Time to quit hiding costs of tenure

Small Newspaper Group

Twenty years after the Illinois Legislature tried to
bring greater accountability into the classroom by
making it easier to fire bad teachers, Scott Reeder of
The Small Newspaper Group Springfield bureau launched
an investigation to determine the effectiveness of
those reforms.

The results of the investigation, one of the largest
in the company’s history, are startling.

Despite denials from the state’s two major teacher
unions, the data indicates that tenure has evolved
into near total job protection that mocks the goal of
accountability. The greatest abuses of this system are
often in the poorest school districts.

As part of this six-month investigation, Reeder:

-- Filed about 1,500 Freedom of Information Act
requests with various governmental entities.

-- Achieved a 100 percent response rate when seeking
data from each of Illinois’ 876 school districts.

-- Reviewed every case of a tenured educator facing
dismissal during the past 18 years.

-- Conducted one of the largest media document reviews
in the history of Cook County courts, according to
Linda Cuellar a spokeswoman for the circuit clerk.

-- Interviewed hundreds of educators, union officials
and experts.

What to do now

Students suffer when the teacher is incompetent. The
result is a disaster when the jobs of tomorrow require
higher skills than ever.

Good teachers suffer as they watch helplessly as the
standards of their profession are pulled down. They
are unfairly tarnished with the brush of mediocrity.
To add insult to injury, terrible teachers are paid
$50,000 or more to go away, while the best teachers
rarely get a bonus or premium pay based on merit. We
should have the courage to honor and reward the best
teachers. Their contributions are beyond measure, but
we must try anyway.

The taxpayers suffer by paying hundreds of thousands
of dollars in legal fees in cases to produce verdicts
that defy common sense.

For everybody’s sake, Illinois needs to bring real
accountability to the system.

A few suggestions:

-- It shouldn’t take a reporter six months to get this
kind of information. It should be collected by the
state and offered to the public as an accountability
report card each year.

-- Illinois should follow Iowa’s lead in outlawing
secret deals with bad teachers. Sunlight is a great

-- Long term teachers who are incompetent should
receive severance pay reflecting their seniority,
along with professional outplacement help. This is
better than keeping them in the system, where the
damage they cause to students lasts for years after
the student has left that classroom.

-- Some teachers have students who come badly prepared
and motivated. What counts is not the starting point,
but the progress made during the year. That can be
measured and rewarded.

-- Voucher systems, allowing students to choose among
public schools, would install a spirit of healthy
competition that would wake up the school boards.

-- But the greatest reform would be a grand trade.
Financing schools with property taxes, started when
only the rich owned real estate, is wrong, resulting
in huge disparities among school districts in the
state. Illinois should replace the property tax with
an equivalent income tax, in return for real
accountability for performance. The system we have is
a sham and a disgrace..

Now that the costs of tenure are no longer hidden, we
can do no less.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The city of Duluth, Minnesota made a "doleful discovery"

As you may know we have hundreds of people on our CRAFT email list sending us great information. The letter below came from our friend Herm. I know that District 50's teachers contract call for medical insurance payments for our retired employees. On top of their outrageous pensions (don't forget to check out for their new pension calculator) it is hard to see why taxpayers are willing to give more to such a mismanaged and corrupt form of government in any community. We must no longer listen to teachers and administrators whine about their low pay because those retiring today are more than likely to earn millions in retirement at the same time you will be paying for their health insurance. Teachers and school boards have no qualms about using your children as political pawns while refusing to take responsibility for actually educating our children just to get more money with no regard to the financial crisis they are creating. Again thanks Herm.

*** The city of Duluth, Minnesota made a "doleful discovery" recently,
reports the New York Times. Apparently, the town had been promising
lifetime health care to all of the town's retired workers, their spouses
and their children up to 26.

Unfortunately, no one ever stopped to figure out how much that would cost
- until a few years ago. After months of data collecting, an actuary
finally came up with an estimate of how much it would cost to provide free
lifetime health care to this group.

The total bill? About $178 million, more than double the city's operating

"Duluth's doleful discovery is about to be repeated across the country,
continues the Times article. "Thousands of government bodies, including
states, cities, towns, school districts and water authorities, are in for
the same kind of shock in the next year or so. For years, governments have
been promising generous medical benefits to millions of schoolteachers,
firefighters and other employees when they retire, yet experts say that
virtually none of these governments have kept track of the mounting price
tag. The usual practice is to budget for health care a year at a time, and
to leave the rest for the future.

"Off the government balance sheets - out of sight and out of mind - those
obligations have been ballooning as health care costs have spiraled and as
the baby-boom generation has approached retirement. And now the accounting
rulemaker for the public sector, the Governmental Accounting Standards
Board, says it is time for every government to do what Duluth has done: to
come to grips with the total value of its promises, and to report it to
their taxpayers and bondholders."

More tomorrow.

In the meantime, you can check out our special report that details what
will happen after the "Boomer Bomb" is dropped. Find out how here:

Duluth: Ground Zero of the Fiscal Firestorm Ahead?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


We must look at our education system and our legislators for creating this problem. The current system and tenure does not allow us to hire the teachers and people we need to get the job of educating all of our children to their maximum potential. If teaching is so important why can't we get rid of incompentent teachers and administrators and hire the people who can do the job right. The security of tenure only helps teachers and does nothing to properly educate our children. The below article appeard in the Decembler 11, 2005 Chicago Tribune. Thanks to Pete Speers for the heads up on this article.

World is caught between old skills and high-tech needs

Unfortunate convergence of economic factors points to a shortfall in trained employees

By Edward E. Gordon, author of "The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis"
Published December 11, 2005, Chicago Tribune

A unique combination of events--the accelerated rise of advanced technologies, globalization after the fall of communism, the 1990s stock-market bubble and its collapse, and a massive number of people retiring--have combined to produce a potential 2010 workforce meltdown.

The 79 million Baby Boomers who are running the world's industrial economies will retire between 2010 and 2025. A smaller Generation X, with 40 million people and fewer entry-level "smart" workers, will take over.

A great mismatch of too many low-skilled workers and too many high-skill jobs is set to reach stellar heights. As these high-skill jobs go unfilled, American businesses will search the world in vain for more highly skilled, job-ready workers.

According to several studies, between 2010 and 2020 the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and India will face a shortfall of between 32 million to 39 million well-educated, technically specialized "smart people." The current business strategies of outsourcing these high-skill jobs or using H-1B temporary visas to import the workers won't work anymore. Millions of lower-skilled Americans, or people educated for careers that aren't growing or are obsolete, will sit on the economic sidelines, either unemployed or condemned to a future of low wages.

A technology paradox for the U.S. industrial and manufacturing sectors that have laid off millions of low-skilled workers is that they cannot find enough people to fill growing numbers of advanced technology jobs.

A 2002 Hudson Institute study found that 60 percent of all the jobs being created require skills that only 20 percent of U.S. workers possess. For example, in November 2004, Pennsylvania reported that nearly 350,000 workers were unemployed. At the same time, 24 percent of businesses told the state they couldn't find enough qualified workers.

Between 2000 and 2005, 200,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared from Illinois. Some of these were high-pay, high-skill jobs that went elsewhere to find the workers companies can't find here. These 2010 meltdown issues do not bode well for the long-term economic development of Illinois. We need to face the facts that in contemporary America there are just too many people trained for the wrong jobs and not enough people preparing for the jobs we are creating.

The career aspirations of much of the population in the U.S. are at serious odds with the increasingly high-tech needs of the economy. Unless this culture lag is resolved in a timely way, a growing labor market imbalance will have serious economic consequences. The high standards of American life are built on a complex technological and physical infrastructure that everyone takes for granted. Its maintenance is central to the prosperity of our economy. Many areas of industry and service within our economy are involved, with health care, manufacturing, information technology and the skilled trades constituting particularly critical sectors.

Yet as the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry has stated, "The nation's apathy toward developing a scientifically and technologically trained workforce is the equivalent of intellectual and industrial disarmament ... and is a direct threat to our nation's capability to continue as a world leader."

According to Rick Stephens, senior vice president of human resources at Boeing Corp., "The shrinkage of a U.S. technically able workforce is the greatest threat to our national security."

Many Americans already are responding to the 2010 challenge. Intel, Microsoft, IBM and others are investing more than $50 billion each year in worker retraining and student career-education programs.

Many communities have organized a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Bridge to Careers of Santa Ana, Calif., the Philadelphia Academies Inc. or the Tulsa Technology Center. These intermediary agencies help bridge the chasm that separates the business and labor markets from education and career preparation.

The NGOs seek to retrain adult workers through a variety of education and skills programs attuned to the needs of local labor markets. They also strive to reinvent an outmoded educational system that traditionally has sorted students into two groups: "the best and the brightest" going to college and the others who won't.

These NGO alternatives place all students in local liberal arts/career academies that prepare everyone for post-secondary education. The major objective is that most students will complete a post-secondary, two- or four-year degree or an occupational program certificate.

NGOs can facilitate a 21st Century career culture that better prepares students and adults for the careers of a technologically driven, globally competitive society. Chicago's Renaissance 2010 Program is focused on developing 100 special academies. But Chicago has 600 public schools. Will it take an entire generation to reinvent education in Chicago? Do we have the time?

America needs to embark on a new era of reconstruction to avoid a 2010 meltdown. The future depends on our individual and collective will to make the necessary culture changes now for a new America and a new Illinois.


Edward E. Gordon is the author of "The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis." He also serves on the Chicago Workforce Board and the Education Workforce Committee of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Schools resort to secret buyouts to get rid of teachers

The article below appeared first in the Small Newspaper Group but was reprinted at Students First. The story below is the second article we have posted by Scott Reeder. Let us hope more papers pick up on this great information.

If teaching is such a noble profession why does such a large majority of public school teachers join the union that inflicts so much harm to the children and taxpayers they are to serve? Great teachers are accountable to the children and parents they serve. Teachers involved with the IFT, IEA, AFT and NEA shun accountability while protecting the interests of bad teachers over the needs of the students they teach.

Schools resort to secret buyouts to get rid of teachers


By Scott Reeder

Small Newspaper Group

SPRINGFIELD - It has become so costly and difficult to fire tenured teachers in Illinois that school districts have resorted to secretly paying people to quit.

In fact, school boards have been defying the Illinois open records laws by promising to keep these hush-hush deals confidential.

For example, five years ago, James Galeski received $30,000 to resign from his teaching post in Valmeyer School District.

Folks in this sleepy southern Illinois community still are perplexed over why this tenured, Ph.D. science teacher left his job.

The state's largest teacher's union, the Illinois Education Association, has threatened litigation if the school district attempts to release records documenting purported problems with Galeski, attorneys involved with the matter have said.

But during an interview last month, Sharon Hill, the school superintendent at the time of Galeski's departure asserted that he:

Shared with students information on bomb making.

Grabbed a teenage girl's crotch while at school.

Taught in an ineffective manner.

When confronted with these accusations, Galeski said, "They are 99.9 percent bullshit."

He said school officials wanted him out because he was "tired and burned out" and because he was earning a larger salary than that cash-strapped school system wanted to pay.

For the public, just who is being truthful remains an enigma because the school district has acquiesced to the IEA's demands to keep the files sealed.

A circuit judge in Sangamon County ordered Valmeyer school district to hand over a copy of the settlement agreement itself to Small Newspaper Group, but the underlying documents which may explain why school officials wanted Galeski out of the classroom remain hidden.

These deals are cut behind closed doors and seldom receive much public scrutiny.

While the agreements are not routine, they are more common than actually firing a tenured teacher, said T.J. Wilson an education labor attorney based in Monticello.

School districts are engaging in these agreements not necessarily because they think they are good public policy but because they are at times a necessary evil, he said.

"It's a very frustrating situation. You want to be effective. You want to make a difference. You want to make things better for the students and you have someone like this who you cannot fire," said former Valmeyer Superintendent Sharon Hill.

Superintendent Hill used a law passed as part of the 1985 school reforms in an attempt to improve Galeski's performance. The process proved to be time-consuming, costly and ultimately less than effective, she said.

Galeski received continual evaluations and mentoring during a full school year.

"He would get better for a couple of days and then he would be back to where he was. Valmeyer was a very small school district and he was essentially the entire science department - I felt bad that the kids weren't getting a better science education than that," she said.

For his part, Galeski contends his students performed at or better than the state average.

But the allegations involving a teen-age girl were among the most troubling.

"There was a girl who was maybe 14 or 15 and very pretty. She was very friendly toward everyone. I don't know if he misinterpreted that friendliness or what. But he grabbed her crotch in front of other students. She was totally humiliated," Hill said.

School officials notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services of the alleged incident, Hill said.

"Nothing ever came of it because the girl's parents decided not to pursue it. They were afraid of putting their daughter in the spotlight," Hill said.

Galeski said he met with DCFS officials and the complaint was determined to be unfounded. He said when the female student attempted to write on the back of his bald head, he was startled and his hand jerked back and inadvertently touched her in a private area.

As for the assertion that he told students how to make bombs, he said he merely answered a question posed to him by a student in class about the explosive devices planted in the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine High School attack. But he added he did not give step-by-step instructions in bomb making.

The settlement agreement provided that all references to the DCFS investigation would be purged from Galeski's personnel file.

According to the settlement agreement, other items were also removed from Galeski's personnel file including:

A memo from his principal about plans to limit Galeski's internet usage.

Any record of Galeski being placed on remediation.

Negative evaluations of Galeski.

These types of agreements pose a major pitfall for school districts attempting to screen job applicants.

"We have teachers who should be facing judges, but instead are facing classrooms because school boards do this and then the teacher goes on to teach in another school district. The only thing I hope is that the people who cut these deals don't sleep too well at night," said Larry Janes, a consultant often retained by school districts in remediation cases, including Galeski's.

According to data collected by Small Newspaper Group, during the past 18 years an average of only two tenured teachers have been fired each year because of poor performance. An average of five Illinois tenured teachers are fired each year amid allegations of misconduct.

Jim Pflasterer was Galeski's principal at the time he was granted tenure.

"Science teachers are among the hardest positions to fill. That is the case in any school district. And if you are in a small southern Illinois school district, it is even harder ... Sometimes you have to settle for a warm body to fill a position," Pflasterer said.

Like most Illinois teacher settlement agreements, written details of the Galeski case are few and far between, in part because of the confidentiality clause signed by school officials.

"It's cheaper and more effective to just pay teachers to quit than to spend the money on attorneys to fire them. It is far from certain that a school district will succeed when it begins the process of firing a teacher," Janes said.

He added that lawyers with Illinois' two major teacher unions routinely request confidentiality as part of these arrangements.

"Almost every settlement agreement that I have been involved with includes one of these gag orders. The only person who benefits is the teacher. It never benefits the school district. But usually the teacher won't agree to the settlement unless it is included," Janes said.

But the flip side of this argument is one of government accountability.

"Members of the public have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. They have a responsibility to hold public employees and elected officials accountable. If this information is kept secret, they can't hold them accountable," said Barbara Mack, an associate professor of journalism and communication at Iowa State University and a practicing First Amendment lawyer.

Mack added the Iowa Legislature has outlawed these types of secret deals.

"There have been legions of governmental entities across the country that have gone through all kinds of convolutions to keep these types of settlement agreements private. But by-and-large the courts have ruled that they are public record," Scott Sievers, a Springfield media-law attorney, said.

Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for IEA, said personnel issues such as these should be sealed from public view to protect the teacher's privacy and to make it easier for an agreement to be reached.

But current case law clearly indicates that these agreements are public records, Sievers said.

Even so, school officials across the state routinely promise the records will remain confidential.

For example, in the midst of Galeski's agreement is this sentence:

"It is understood and agreed that all information regarding the terms of this settlement and this document itself will be kept in the strictest confidence and shall not be disclosed by way of statement, interview, or press release or in any manner to any person or entity."

These buyouts are far from routine for a number of reasons such as their cost.

But one of the most basic reasons is they are dependent on the teacher choosing to leave voluntarily.

"This mentality that teaching equates to lifetime employment is so pervasive in the profession that it is difficult to convince these teachers that they should resign," Wilson said. "Often the teachers involved in these cases have emotional or psychiatric problems that hadn't manifested themselves until later in their careers. They have also typically been teaching for awhile and are resistant to the idea that they are not a good teacher."

Just how much school districts pay out in these settlement agreements varies greatly.

For example:

In 2002, Kankakee Public Schools agreed to pay more than $93,000 to Beverly Tate, a teacher who resigned from the district in 2002. It has continued to pay for her health insurance. Tate declined to disclose, for the record, why the school district paid her to leave.

In 2001, Mt. Vernon Township High School District paid $73,000 to Ronald Shreve, a teacher accused of sexually harassing students. The money was paid after a state hearing officer ruled against the school district in a dismissal case.

In 1994, Rock Island Public Schools paid Randi Barnes $75,000 to resign after it unsuccessfully sought to have a state hearing officer fire her on grounds of poor performance.

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies to these settlements is that the state's best teachers do not receive bonuses or pay raises based on their good performance, but those teachers whom school districts have worked the hardest to dismiss receive large end-of-career bonuses.

Chris Kolker, a Belleville attorney, who has represented the Illinois Federation of Teachers in a number of settlement agreements said, "If we are dealing with a teacher, who is not involved in any misconduct, but just received a bad evaluation, we would expect the school district to pay the person at least $50,000." Scott Reeder can be contacted at 217-525-8201.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Local influence adds to teacher-union power

The article below appeared first in the Small Newspaper Group but was reprinted at Students First. Much of the information in the article below was reported to be happening by CRAFT and other true education reform groups. It is great to see it picked up by the mainstream media. The education of America's children will continue to suffer as long as the education establishment continues to control school boards.

Local influence adds to teacher-union power


By Scott Reeder

Small Newspaper Group

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois' two major teacher unions not only exert their political clout through lobbying the legislature but also through tough negotiating and politicking on a local level.

"One of the wonderful things about being a teacher is that you get to help elect your own bosses," said Illinois AFL-CIO president Margaret Blackshere, a former kindergarten teacher.

She said teacher unions on a local level often become involved in school board races through endorsing candidates and having members actively campaign for them.

Limited revenues often keep union-friendly boards from giving pay raises as large as some teachers might like, but there are less visible ways that board members can assist a union agenda.

Unions routinely push for adding procedural hoops for the district to jump through when evaluating teachers as a tradeoff for not receiving quite as large a pay raise as the union originally called for.

Chicago-attorney Fred Lifton has represented school districts in more than 1,000 labor contract negotiations during the past 35 years.

"Generally, job security issues are more important at the negotiating table than compensation issues. I wouldn't say that school boards have so much a pro-union viewpoint as a pro-teacher one. They ran for school board because they care about education. They want to be loved. It's a very parental, almost family-like relationship they have with teachers.

"So when unions push for making it harder to fire teachers, they often give in. They don't realize the long-term costs of not being able to get rid of someone who is incompetent."

Lifton added it is not uncommon for Illinois school board members to belong to teachers unions in neighboring school districts where they are employed or have family members working in the school district they are involved in governing.

"They will tell you this doesn't pose a conflict of interest and legally it doesn't. But it does certainly create a certain sympathy for what the union is requesting," he said.

In fact, it has become routine for school boards to give away much of the authority they have in the evaluation process during contract negotiations.

For example, the school board for Rock Island District 41 approved a contract with the union that includes 10 pages of detailed rules for how a teacher shall be evaluated.

The slightest deviation from any specification within the contract --- ranging from an improperly placed checkmark to a missed deadline can result in an evaluation being thrown out in a dismissal proceeding.

But it is not as though the district has tried to fire a tenured teacher recently.

According to the Rock Island chapter of the Illinois Education Association, the district has not used the evaluation system to try to fire a teacher since 1994, when it attempted to fire teacher Randi Barnes on grounds of poor performance. (Hearing officer's ruling in Barnes case)

In that case, the school district ultimately paid Barnes $75,000 to quit after a hearing officer ruled against the district.

The hearing officer Donald J. Peterson said he ruled for Barnes solely because of a procedural error. The district's mistake he said was that it only listed the teacher's weaknesses on the evaluation, but didn't include any of her strengths, which is required by the school code.

Although it was a provision in the law that protected Barnes, some contend union contracts are a greater source of protection for teachers than state law.

"If you can restrict through negotiations how often an administrator can observe a classroom, how many days notice needs be given before an observation or other procedural impediments, you are really affording the teacher more job protection than they are getting from tenure itself," said Myron Lieberman, who heads the Education Policy Institute.

Lifton added, "Once a board gives up some of its management authority, it is very hard to get it back in future contract negotiations. You have to offer something in exchange. And what does a school board have to offer, once it has given up some of its managerial authority?"

In school board elections, the local teacher's union often plays a pivotal role.

"School board elections have the lowest turnout of any elections in the state. Historically, no more than 10 to 15 percent of voters participate. The low turnout maximizes the influence of the teachers union, which usually is the only organized special interest involved in the election," said Ron Michaelson, former executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Lieberman contends that teacher unions find it easier to mobilize their members than private-sector unions.

"They have summers off and a shorter workday so they have more time to devote to political activities and they often have negotiated personal days into their contracts that can be used for political purposes like taking Election Day off to ferry voters to the polls," he said.

And that is certainly the case in some Illinois school districts.

"We went door-to-door for candidates, telephoned for them, endorsed them and really went out and worked for them. Our association could put together 1,500 votes - enough to win any school board election," said Philip Robbins, a past president of the Alton Education Association.

But in most Illinois school districts, the influence of the local teacher union is exerted with more subtlety.

"I'm sure teachers told friends and family members what candidates they thought would be good board members. In a smaller community that is just how things are done - by word of mouth. I don't remember our local union actively campaigning for candidates," said Craig Whitlock, who recently retired as superintendent of United Township High School District in East Moline.

They said it...

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar: "They don't just put up money -- they put people on the streets. They are really the only groups I can think of outside of some of the religious groups that put people on the street."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wonder Lake the next Huntleygate

While doing research CRAFT found that Wonder Lake District 36 is repeating the same mistake as Huntley District 158. The referendum question for the consolidated 2005 election was a proposition to increase and establish the maximum annual tax rate for educational purposes at 2.40% instead of 1.82%. Prior to the passage of this referendum the current actual rate was 1.3716%. The school district advertised a 58 cent increase when in actuality the increase could be $1.0284 per 100 dollars EAV to the taxpayers.

Where are the newspaper reports on this issue? How come the Wonder Lake School Board has not told the taxpayers and parents of the district this fact?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Thanks to our friend Kevin Killion of the Illinois
for passing this article on. The article below appeared on the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers (union) website. It is nice to see that someone in the unions is finally understanding the problems the place on our society.




If the United States is to preserve our system of free public schools, teacher unions are going to have to stop accepting the status quo and making excuses for the poor performance of our students. Most of us know that contrary to all of the talk about how we are raising our standards, in most of our schools they continue to decline. The low scores on the so-called high stakes tests are testimony to the fact that large numbers of students leave school knowing next to nothing and ill equipped for any but the most menial of jobs. While many of our most talented young people spend their days in so-called accelerated courses with curricula once thought more appropriate to the college level, too many of them have whizzed right by basic skills and cannot string together three coherent sentences or know to any degree of certainty if they have received the correct change in a store. We must face the fact that some of the right-wing critique of public education, particularly their criticism of the ever inflating costs of public education, resonates with the American public because it is true, or at least truer than some of the blather put out by the people who run the schools and the unions who represent the people who work in them. If it is true that our freedom is ultimately tied to our being an enlightened and educated citizenry, we are in terrible trouble.

Excuse number one – We don’t have enough money to meet the educational needs of our students. While too many of our school districts do need more financial resources, resources that many find impossible to raise trough the regressive property tax, the fact of the matter is too many of them also waste a substantial portion of what they have, a good piece of the waste mandated by state and federal law. I’ve written elsewhere about the administrative bloat in school districts where level upon level of bureaucracy insures that teachers and educational support staff are over scrutinized and under supervised to the point where teaching innovation and imagination are increasingly giving way to the routines of educational programs, particularly in math and English, that are intended to make teaching thinking-free. We have program upon program upon program. Can anyone seriously say that our students know more and are more skilled than they used to be? With entrepreneurial aplomb some crafty educators have gone corporate, developing and skillfully marketing programs for everything from mathematics to values education. School districts employ large numbers of central office administrators who then turn around and hire consultants who often come selling their programmatic wares. Where are the NEA and AFT to challenge this pentagon-like waste in our schools?

Meanwhile, over forty school districts on Long Island defeated their school budgets last spring. Pressed by ever-escalating property taxes, citizens were in revolt. That revolt, I fear, will spread as the middle class in the United States is squeezed more and more by a taxation system designed by and for the rich and an economy that increasingly is either exporting or abolishing the good jobs that used to support a comfortable middle class life. If education unions do not become outspoken advocates for economy in our schools, they will find taxpayers increasingly revolting against them. Surely some of the budget defeats on Long Island were aided by the local newspaper’s articles on teachers earning over one hundred thousand dollars a year.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Is it time to rewrite the Constitution?

Teachers often whine how they are underpaid compared to other professionals, yet teachers' unions have plenty of money to throw at our legislators. According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Illinois Education Association (teachers' union) contributed $10.5 million to politicians between 1993 and 2004, more than any other statewide group. Second-place went to the Illinois Medical Society which contributed about 2.6 million less than the IEA. The third top contributor was the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the state's second-largest teachers union.

Now is the time to get tough with our legislators and let them know that we do not want the schools to receive any more money. It is time to force schools to be fiscally responsible and accountable for educating our children. Taxes will rise if the unions get their way with Constitutional Amendments.

Keep this in mind while reading the article below: Better Funding for Better Schools and A+ Illinois receive large sums of funding from the teachers unions and businesses that benefit from increased school funding.

Yes, it is time to rewrite the Constitution. We need to write true school choice into the Constitution. We must also put an end to Illinois' numerous state pension scams that threaten future generations with unsustainable debt.

The article below appeared in the Daily Southtown.

Is it time to rewrite the Constitution?


By Kati Phillips

Daily Southtown

Association of School Boards calling for a constitutional convention in 2008, or sooner

Crack open the Illinois Constitution and add a line that forces the state to spend more money on education.
That's the dramatic measure a school board lobby group wants to take to obtain long-sought-after education funding reform.

At the request of more than 300 of its members, the Illinois Association of School Boards is pushing for a statewide constitutional convention in 2008 or earlier.

At a convention, delegates amend or rewrite the state's guiding document and put it up for public vote.

While this opens the door to any number of special-interest groups promoting amendments on subjects like same-sex marriage or intelligent design, it also creates the climate needed to pass education-funding reform, school board members say.

Convention delegates - unlike legislators - can attempt to raise taxes or make other hard decisions without worrying about caucus loyalty or re-election bids.

Those risks are to blame for Springfield's shrinking political will, most recently displayed when a tax swap bill that offered property tax relief failed to make it to a Senate vote, school board members say.

"Politics gets in the way of true education-funding reform," said Howard Crouse, superintendent of the Naperville district that introduced the convention resolution.

A swing and a miss

The current language on education funding was a result of the 1970 constitutional convention.

Delegates met in Springfield to find a way to get the state to pick up more of the schools' tab.

People were concerned that the state was providing just 31 percent of the money for schools, compared with 64.5 percent from local property taxes.

Districts with corporate headquarters and expensive homes were funding winners. Rural districts and industry-poor suburbs were losers.

Efforts to set a particular percentage for the state to contribute failed, but a line written by delegate Dawn Clark Netsch made it into the document.

The state has the "primary responsibility" for financing the system of public education, it reads.

"It was a club held over the heads of legislators," said Clark Netsch, a former senator and gubernatorial candidate. "The problem is, it hasn't hit hard enough."

Since 1970, lawmakers have only once raised the income tax, the main source for state education funding.

And the Illinois Supreme Court twice has rejected challenges to the state's education finance system, saying reform must be undertaken in the Legislature and not in the courts.

Though state funding reached almost 48 percent in the mid-1970s, it has dropped considerably.

About 30 percent of school funding comes from the state, and 57 percent is generated by local property taxes, according to the 2004-05 state school report card.

Rewrite every 20 years

The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention is put to voters every 20 years. Three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election are needed to convene one.

The last such referendum was in 1988, when voters turned down the opportunity. The next chance will be in 2008, unless lawmakers set an earlier date.

If voters jump at the chance this time around, they get to elect two delegates from each Legislative district to serve at the convention.

The delegates approve amendments or revisions to the constitution, and then those changes are put to a public vote. Majority rules.

Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn said he fought for a convention in 1988 for many of the same reasons the school board association now is promoting one.

He has not taken an official position on the possible 2008 convention, but he agrees it would remove politics from the funding reform discussion.

"The Constitutional Convention may be the only mechanism taxpayers have to force a true debate on reducing the state's excessive reliance on property taxes," Quinn said.

Illinois hasn't always had an education funding system reliant on property-taxes. In the early 1900s, the state paid the entire bill for public schools.

But complaints that the state was skimping led to local property taxes becoming the main funding source.

Today, wide disparities in property values have created a huge gap in what districts spend, ranging anywhere from $4,000 to $24,000 per student.

Though more money doesn't always mean better scores, advocates say cash is key to closing the achievement gap. Many just aren't positive a constitutional convention is the way to go.

Wary of special interests

First off, a convention cannot be held on a single issue, so delegates from all political persuasions would have the opportunity to tweak the constitution, Clark Netsch said.

Abortion, same-sex marriage, prayer in school - name a hot-button issue and there would be a dogfight, school board members concede.

Secondly, there is no guarantee a convention delegate could create wording that actually would force the state to pay up and get wide support.

Instead of promoting a convention, Bindu Batchu, campaign manager of A+ Illinois, is putting her efforts into encouraging candidates for public office to support education funding reform.

The same goes for members of the Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition. Even if there is a change in the constitution, it is up to the legislature to enact it, chairwoman Sharon Voliva said. Given the state's history, she is doubtful that would happen.

"The constitutional convention won't give legislators a backbone," she said.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Southtown (Newspaper) did its job in Sauk Village

Hey folks, we could not agree more with former Mayor Dean Koldenhoven. Unlike most papers, the Northwest Herald's circulation continues to grow. The NWH must choose whether to continue protecting and promoting the status quo, taking the occasional pot shot at reformers like Larry Snow, or doing some real investigative reporting into school finances. The taxpayers of McHenry County have spoken loud and clear time and time again; they are rejecting referenda. They do not want the schools to get more money and they want their money spent wisely. The Northwest Herald is promoting great changes, lets hope there are some great changes in their investigative reporting as well.

(From the Daily Southtown)
Southtown did its job in Sauk Village

"Voice of the Southland Since 1906" it states under the name, Daily Southtown. That "Voice" of the Southtown, which came about by our 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights, namely the "freedom of the press," has shown its persistence in pursuing one of the biggest bullies in the Southland, Mr. Tom Ryan, the now former Sauk Village elementary school superintendent.

The arrest of Mr. Tom Ryan would not have happened if it were not for the Daily Southtown's role in this interesting story. Some parents of that school district told the Southtown of how Mr. Ryan was bullying and mistreating them and their children. The subsequent news stories by the Southtown came to the attention of investigators of State's Attorney Dick Devine's staff, and led to Mr. Ryan's conviction and the further investigation of other persons involved in illegal activities.

The parents and children by themselves did not have the power to bring Mr. Ryan to justice for his wrong-doings. It took the power of the 1st Amendment's freedom of the press through the Southtown's persistence to get the facts out about what was going on in District 168.

I extend my congratulations to everyone at the Southtown who was a part of exposing this unremorseful bully of the Southland. The school children in this district will be the ones who will benefit from this episode by having monies spent for their education, instead of lining the pockets of criminals. Mr. Ryan will spend eight years in prison.

May the freedom of the press continue in fine journalistic style that the Southtown has done in this news story.

Dean Koldenhoven
Palos Heights

Editor's Note: Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, writes a monthly column for the Daily Southtown.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tax Group Fighting Back

The ranks of taxpayer activists continues to grow. A round of applause for our friends in Will and Dupage Counties.

Tax group fighting back
Will DuPage alliance says its levy figures came right from District 203

By Melissa Jenco
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, December 02, 2005

The new Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance went on the defensive Thursday, saying its calculations regarding Naperville Unit School District 203’s finances are credible, having come from the district itself.

The group was responding to a comment by Superintendent Alan Leis in Thursday’s Daily Herald that the community would be hearing a “flurry of numbers, untruths, half-truths and innuendoes” from people asking for a lower tax levy.

“These are the numbers, 203 numbers,” said Dan Denys, a member of the group. “So should I be cute here and say that 203 numbers are half-truths, innuendo? That’s what I’m using. I’m not making up numbers. I’m not manufacturing numbers.”

Leis said his remarks — made to about 60 community and business leaders Wednesday — were not referring specifically to the Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance, but he felt he needed to defend the district.

“Because I felt the school system was being attacked, individuals were being attacked for not being truthful, and I didn’t think that was fair,” Leis said.

Criticism of the district resurfaced when the school board approved a tentative 2006 tax levy of $169.4 million.

While this is at least $5 million less than it could have asked for, some residents believe it’s still too high because the district already took in at least $24 million more than taxpayers expected after approving a 2002 tax increase.

The alliance plans to ask the district to reduce its levy by roughly $6 million, which is the amount the district expects to have in surplus at the end of the school year.

Leis said in considering the proposal, the district will have to look at what it means for its future because collecting less this year will mean collecting less in subsequent years as well.

“The district has rightly been focused on five-year projections and out, and we have to be very careful of the (impact) it will have in the out years and not just in next year’s budget,” Leis said.

Members of the alliance said the district can sustain a lower levy if it makes cuts in spending, which they don’t believe will affect the quality of education.

“It just really bothers me that they take the coward’s way out and make the community feel that, in order to save any money, we have to hurt the children,” said resident Maureen Taylor, who attended the tax group’s news conference Thursday. “Or if we don’t give them additional money, it’s going to hurt the children.”

The group suggested outsourcing maintenance and transportation staffs to reduce expenses.

Ultimately though, members said their goal is to promote a better understanding among taxpayers.

“If taxpayers want to pay more taxes, that’s certainly a right that they have,” said group member Ari Rosenthal. “We just want to make sure there is an open discussion and all the facts are out on the table.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ex-principal charged with stealing funds

Bravo to our Friends at Citizens for Responsible Government and Rich Conley. Well done. A special thanks to Richard Bryan retired school teacher. We need to see more current and retired teachers coming out to expose the inappropriate use of our school funds.

Ex-principal charged with stealing funds
By Bob Susnjara
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, December 01, 2005

An investigation into Warren Township High School finances that spanned almost a year ended Wednesday with the indictment of a former principal accused of misspending activity fund money on theater tickets.

Philip Roffman, the ex-principal who most recently led Gurnee-based Warren District 121’s Almond Road upperclass campus, was charged with one felony theft count. A conviction can result in a sentence ranging from probation to five years behind bars.

Roffman, 57, remains free on a $25,000 bench warrant and is to plead guilty as part of a negotiated deal Dec. 15 before Circuit Judge Victoria Rossetti. He was a Warren principal for about 14 years until retiring in October 2004, shortly after the Daily Herald began investigating activity fund spending.

At issue was convenience accounts that draw money from District 121’s activity fund. Convenience account spending by adult school employees is required to have a student connection, such as pizzas for a sports team.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney George Strickland said Roffman illegally spent public money on Steppenwolf Theatre Co. tickets for friends and family in 2003. Roffman received a $400 reimbursement after submitting an activity fund form that falsely stated “theater tickets for teacher/staff.”

Roffman was not charged on other spending the state’s attorney’s office confirmed would have violated the law, said Strickland, who declined to elaborate. Those expenditures were detailed in a report filed in December 2004 by special investigator Daniel Field, an attorney who was hired by Warren after the activity fund questions surfaced.

Field wrote Roffman’s use of school money to purchase 17 handcrafted silk ties for $1,186.50 from Lee Allison Co. should be considered “illegal and improper.”

Roffman bought the ties Oct. 25, 2001, documents show. The purchase went unnoticed until it was discovered in documents obtained by the Daily Herald through Freedom of Information Act requests and confirmed by Lee Allison.

To justify having a check sent to Lee Allison, Roffman wrote “healthy communication supplies for fund-raiser” on a District 121 form.

Neither Roffman nor his lawyer, Patrick Tuite, returned calls Wednesday.

Field also found Roffman improperly used Warren activity funds to pay for calls to a telephone-sex line and an Internet sex-partner swapping club membership.

In a statement issued Wednesday, District 121 Superintendent Phil Sobocinski said he was saddened, but not surprised, by Roffman’s indictment. Warren provided documents going back at least 10 years to the state’s attorney’s office.

“It is important the Warren community understand the school district does not condone the behavior alleged in the indictment,” Sobocinski said.

“From the moment the board initiated its own investigation, we were on the record that the district would pursue all legal avenues to obtain restitution from any individuals convicted of misusing any school district funds.”

Working from Field’s report, state’s attorney’s office investigator Lou Archbold spent about 10 months combing through more than just Roffman’s activity fund spending at District 121.

Archbold also explored previous activity fund expenditures by retired Associate Principal Ron Shelton, ex-Athletic Director Lenny Chimino and others who were cited in Field’s report. Criminal charges only were leveled against Roffman.

“We examined all issues that were brought up in the Field report,” Strickland said. “We brought criminal charges that can be supported and are within the statute of limitations.”

Retired Warren High teacher Richard Bryan and Citizens for Responsible Government members in Gurnee were among those who brought concerns about activity fund spending to the attention of Warren officials.

Citizens for Responsible Government member Richard Conley expressed satisfaction after learning about Roffman’s indictment.

“As a citizen and as a member of the (tax watchdogs), I am just happy that the state’s attorney took our concerns seriously and investigated them fully,” Conley said.

Strickland credited District 121 officials for their cooperation in the investigation and said the Roffman indictment means the case is closed.

Four boxes of District 121 property were returned by Roffman last year, officials said. The haul included stereo speakers, compact-disk player, digital camera and a Dixie Chicks video.

Roffman has repaid Warren for some items, but will be asked to make further restitution for unauthorized expenditures, Strickland said.