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