Sunday, October 23, 2005

Trouble or Waste in Districts 2, 15 and 50

On October 20th the NWH Published an Our View regarding Districts 2, 15 and 50. You can view the article below or in the Northwest Herald

Trouble chases

D-15, 50 and 2

Administrative and school board leaders in McHenry District 15 have had a hard time making new friends. "Yes" voters, actually.

Over the past three years, voters have defeated five referendums to increase property taxes for the elementary school district. The revenue would pay for everything from teachers to supplies.

Only Harvard District 50 keeps pace with District 15 for failed education-fund referendums.

Nippersink District 2 is close with four defeats. Yet teachers have threatened to go on strike Oct. 24 over wages and benefits. They say they will continue to negotiate and that a strike is unlikely. Nevertheless, what are they thinking?

But it is worth noting that Harvard is not deficit spending; it continues cutting programs and increasing class sizes in buildings stretched beyond capacity. It hurts the quality of education.

District 15 has a mounting deficit, and if the sixth referendum fails in March, $2.1 million will be cut. "No" voters call them scare tactics and threats. No matter; the cuts will be made.

More children will be packed in classrooms that already have 30-some students. Fine arts will be eliminated, as well as physical education teachers. Three administrators will be dismissed.

But school leaders need to fight the perception that they are overstaffed and overpaid.

Referendum opponents troop out the too-many-administrators argument every time, despite District 15 cutting the number. When people with high five- or six-figure salaries get raises, voters get cranky.

When the administrators were shamed into salary freezes, the next referendum lost by 193 votes, a far cry from margins of defeat in the thousands.

In the defense of teachers and administrators, the best people often leave the district for better pay elsewhere. The district is left with the young ones learning – and making mistakes – on the job, then leaving once they have it down.

But perception, fair or not, counts. Administrators getting raises and decent teachers-union contracts hurt on Election Day.

Voters in Districts 15, 50 and 2 remain unconvinced. They will wait for proof before March 21.

Below was the response from Jim Peschke in the form of a letter to the editor in the NWH.

Waste is no Illusion

If one reads the Northwest Herald's October 20th Our View, one might think that wasteful spending in Districts 2, 15, and 50 is all an illusion. Stingy voters are depriving poor, deserving districts of a few scraps of money needed to save their spartan programs from imminent collapse. Program cuts in these districts are all our fault, and its hurting kids.

Or so we are told.

History tells a different tale. District 2 teachers are threatening to strike, District 15 broke its promise to refund tax dollars, and District 50 hired a PR consultant while cutting programs. These are not acts of need, they're acts of greed.

The Northwest Herald bought into this nonsense hook, line, and sinker. Its not surprising that they'd draw poor conclusions from flawed assumptions. Classrooms with 30 or more students hurts the quality of education? Tell that to anybody over 40 who attended classrooms with 40 or more students. Tell that to high performing Asian students in 50-student classrooms.

The best teachers and administrators are leaving for better pay? Evidence, please! Younger teachers make more mistakes than older teachers? Again, show us some proof.

Parroting the lines of the education establishment hardly qualifies as responsible journalism. Those who question the waste in these districts need only visit private schools that do so much more with so much less.

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