Monday, December 11, 2006

We are moving.

Dear Friends,

Our family will be moving in the near future. Until the move is complete our Blog will not be updated regularly. We will continue to fight for education reform and education spending reform until we move and when we move to our new location.

Regards to All,


Sunday, November 26, 2006

D-300 agrees to deal

The following article Northwest Herald.
Referendum passes as usual the school employees win while the taxpayers and children lose.

D-300 agrees to deal

Comments (23)
CARPENTERSVILLE – After 10 months of negotiations, the District 300 school board approved a new four-year contract for teachers Wednesday night. The school board also approved raises for administrators and a $5,000 bonus for Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates.

Teachers and other Local Education Association District 300 union members will get a 17.4 percent raise over the span of the deal. Annual raises will come to 8.6 percent over the four years in addition to an annual step increase boost of 2.2 percent. The contract leaves open the possibility of future raises for teacher performance and student achievement.

The district estimates that it will spend $3.7 million more in teacher salaries than last year, but that figure includes 95 new teachers who were hired after the March referendums passed.

District administrators will see about a 5 percent annual raise including 1.9 percent to 2 percent step increases.

Board member Mary Warren cast the only vote against the contracts, citing philosophical differences with their retirement packages. The other members, however, said they felt comfortable defending the raises to the public.

Under both contracts, employees will pay more in health-care deductibles and co-pays, but receive annual tax-free health-reimbursement accounts ranging from $1,000 to $250.

Full-year administrators will get the $1,000 HRAs, school-year administrators will get less, and union members will get $250 annually. In the four years before their retirements, union members will get an additional $500 deposit in their HRA annually.

The accounts bear interest and can be used at any time in the employee’s lifetime.

School board President Mary Fioretti said the district was the first in the state to incorporate the tax-free funds into a teachers’ contract.

Both contracts also eliminate the 20 percent raises teachers and administrators received in their last four years of employment.

Under a new state law, districts face stiff penalties for end-of-career bonuses of more than 6 percent. Administrators and union members each will receive that maximum. The district, however, no longer will pay the fee that employees face for early retirement.

Warren said she voted against the contracts because of the four 6 percent raises for retirees.

“I firmly believe new dollars in the system do not belong in enhancing end-of-career bonuses because they do not enhance student achievement,” Warren said.

Administrators will continue to get 12 sick days a year, but union members will see an increase from 10 days to 12.

Teachers also will receive more in tuition reimbursement for continuing their educations.

Both contracts are retroactive to July 1, 2006.

Superintendent Ken Arndt’s contract will not be affected by the new deal.

The school board also unanimously approved a one-time $5,000 deposit in an HRA for Crates based on her job performance.

The contracts at a glance


– 17.4 percent raise over four years.

– Two additional sick days, bringing the total to 12.

– Four 6 percent raises in the four years preceding retirement.

– Higher medical deductibles and co-pays.

– All dental and vision premiums paid first three years, going to 80 percent in the contract’s fourth year.

– Annual deposits of $250 into a tax-free, interest-bearing health reimbursement account.

– More tuition reimbursement for continuing education.


– 5 percent annual raises for four years.

– Four 6 percent raises in the four years preceding retirement.

– Annual deposits ranging from $1,000 to $350 into a tax-free, interest-bearing health-reimbursement account.

– Higher medical deductibles and co-pays.

Monday, October 30, 2006

All about the kids, tee-hee

The following piece appeared in the Daily Herald. Remember vote no for education referenda on election day.

Divide between public servants, those paying bill only grows deeper

Chris Bailey
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006

All about the kids, tee-hee

Right about now, a lot of Community School District 300 voters are probably feeling pretty angry. Having fallen for the self-righteous and guilt-inducing “it’s all about the children” spiel during the successful tax hike vote last spring, they now know it really was about more cash for educators.

The district has offered teachers pay raises of about 4 percent per year for four years, including step increases — a reasonable pay hike commensurate with the rest of the world these days. The teachers’ union, of course, was appalled at such a paltry figure. Aggrieved teachers descended en masse last week on the school board, no doubt as a reminder of how much the tax hike was really “all about the kids.”

Referendums are never about the kids. A teacher arriving early or staying late to help a struggling or curious student; that’s about the kids. A coach disciplining a selfish player; that’s about the kids. A teacher bringing Shakespeare to life; that’s about the kids. Picking new textbooks over a fancy building; that’s about the kids.

No, referendums are always about money — how much can be taken from your pocket and put into theirs. Though we were vilified for saying it, we did tell you so. Our editorial endorsement urged a “no” vote on the education fund tax hike, saying, among other things, that a contract settled before the vote “would have assured voters their money wouldn’t go mostly for pay raises.”

That editorial also said the district should “ink a multiple-year teacher pact that includes a freeze or minimal increases. Employees represent the greatest part of the budget. They either are part of the solution or there won’t be one.”

We know how those employees chose, don’t we? So here’s one more unpalatable observation. If the district doesn’t stick to its guns on raises of 4 percent or so, it likely won’t pass another referendum for, oh, I’d say, at least another school generation. It would be that long before a new set of parents would be susceptible to the “it’s all about the kids” lie again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

State’s 100 percent solution to education woes is to fund the child

The following piece came to us from our friends at the Illinois Policy Institute.

State’s 100 percent solution to education woes is to fund the child
The State Journal-Register

Published Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On Oct. 14, the Rev. Jesse Jackson will march to protest the deep inequities in an education finance system in Illinois that leaves schools underfunded and children uneducated. I’m going to march with him.

Sen. James Meeks, a compatriot of Jackson’s, has introduced legislation (HB750) to level funding between school districts by coupling a state income tax increase with property tax relief. And Jackson has pledged “to put high quality and equal education funding in the middle of the debate.” He has said, “We want equal access and high quality public education for all of our children – make the playing field even for all of our children.”

Proponents of HB750 believe that the bill will achieve those ends. They’re wrong.

While HB750 makes funding more equitable between school districts, it does not address the terrible imbalances in funding within those districts and within their schools. It is a virtual guarantee that unless HB750 is accompanied by fundamental reforms in education spending, little will come in the way of progress in the classroom - and at great expense.

If passed, HB750 would substantially increase the role of state government in education finance and go a long way toward enabling the state to achieve uniformity in average-per-pupil funding. If amended, however, HB750 could instead enable the state to “Fund the Child.”

This is the title of a new proposal released by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, wherein its authors advocate the “100 Percent Solution” - a dramatic rethinking of public school finance, one that could revolutionize American public education, one that requires each student be educated according to his needs and be allowed to attend the public school in which those needs are best met.

Under the present system of school finance, there are huge disparities between the poorest and most wealthy districts. But even within those districts, the situation is no less dire. Neighborhood schools with a high number of low-income students are often unable to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

There is little or no financial incentive for teachers with even just a few years of experience to remain in troubled schools. They often opt, as soon as possible, to transfer to a school in a more affluent neighborhood with a more comfortable working environment. The funds follow the teacher. Schools in the poorest neighborhoods are left with the least experienced, lowest-paid teachers, and therefore spend far less per pupil than their more affluent counterparts.

Under the 100 percent solution, the funds follow the child. Each student would receive funding according to a weighted formula, and those funds would follow that student to the public school setting of his parents’ choice. Those from more affluent, stable backgrounds - those least at risk of academic failure -would receive a base amount. Those from more adverse backgrounds or those who suffer from disabilities - those who are more expensive to educate - would receive more.

Parents would be allowed to select the most appropriate public school setting for their children. Principals would be afforded the flexibility to best address the needs of the students. The system of public education in Illinois could become “one in which schools compete to hire the best teachers and to attract the hardest-to-educate students, and in which [parents and educators] are free to try new and dynamic solutions to ensure that all of their students succeed.”

HB750 should be amended to require that state government and local school districts “fund the child.” Thus amended, HB750 is one that replaces an antiquated school finance system with one of equality and opportunity. Such an HB750 would deserve the support from all across the state, from both parties, and from Jackson.

Jackson has said of his march for equal education funding, “This is neither left nor right, Democrat nor Republican. It is the moral center.” The same is true of the 100 percent solution, and it, too, is worth marching for.

Collin Hitt is director of Education Policy and Reform at the Springfield-based Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

Monday, October 09, 2006

Teachers’ unions a negative

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Northwest Herald. We posted this once before but it is well worth a second read.

Teachers’ unions a negative

Comments (0)
To the Editor:

As a former teacher, principal and superintendent of schools in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, and California, I have some knowledge of education in the United States.

My studies at the University of Dayton [B.A.], Xavier University [M.A.] and The Ohio State University [Ph.D.] with majors in English, philosophy, educational administration, and sociology have helped me understand public education.

I began my teaching career 51 years ago and I have come to the following conclusion: Teachers’ unions are the worst institution that have pervaded our schools and have the most deleterious and negative impact on education.

There are four reasons for this conclusion. Based on the union proposals that I have studied and negotiated for the past 30 years, they all contain the same demands: 1) Unions want more money; 2) Unions want more fringe benefits; 3) Unions want less work; and 4) Unions want more power.

That’s it.

Of all the demands in their negotiations, I never have seen one that redounds to the direct benefit of the child’s education.

Read teachers’ contracts. If you find one item that will contribute to the direct, positive learning of the student, let me know.

Donald E. Bond


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Teacher Hacked to Death in Mexican City -for opposing a teachers' strike.

The following story appeared on Fox

Teacher Hacked to Death in Mexican City
Friday , October 06, 2006

OAXACA, Mexico — A teacher was hacked to death in this historic Mexican city that has been paralyzed for months by protests and violence, police said late Thursday. A colleague claimed the man was killed for opposing a teachers' strike.

Thousands of trade unionists and leftists have been camped out in Oaxaca since May, building barricades, taking over buildings and burning buses. The protesters are demanding the resignation of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, accusing him of rigging the 2004 election to win office and sending armed thugs against dissenters.

Victor Alonso Altamirano of the Oaxaca state police said teacher Jaime Rene Calva Aragon was on his way to a meeting Thursday evening when he was killed by two assailants wielding hefty ice picks.

Fellow teacher Alma Rosa Fernandez accused militant leftists of killing Calva for opposing a statewide teachers' strike that was a catalyst for the wider protests. Fernandez, who also opposes the strike, said the dissident teachers have been receiving death threats.

"We blame this murder directly on the radical teachers' wings," Fernandez said.
Florentino Lopez, a spokesman for the protesters, denied the accusation and instead blamed the governor.

"This is a plan by Ulises Ruiz to provoke the intervention of federal forces," Lopez told reporters and protesters in Oaxaca's main square.

The protests began when thousands of teachers went on strike to demand higher pay. After Ruiz sent police to try to dislodge the camps in June, the teachers were joined by a broad coalition of leftists, students, anarchists and Indian groups.

Ruiz denies the protesters' accusations against him and has repeatedly called for federal troops to restore order.

In recent days, helicopters and military planes have flown over the protesters while thousands of state police have
gathered outside the city. Protesters broadcast alerts from occupied radio stations, fearing an onslaught was imminent.

Enrique Rueda, head of the Oaxaca teachers union, traveled to Mexico City Thursday and met with Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal to try and resolve the conflict.

After the meeting, Rueda said Abascal promised he would not order soldiers to move against the protesters.

"We have the guarantee from the interior secretary that there will be no military incursion in Oaxaca," Rueda told a news conference.

The Interior Department later released a statement saying "the conflict in Oaxaca will be solved via the law and institutions." It did not comment on the use of soldiers.

Clashes involving protesters, police and armed gangs have already left two people dead, and both the U.S. and British embassies in Mexico have issued advisories warning their citizens about going to Oaxaca.

The unrest has scared most tourists away from the city, which is normally popular for its colonial architecture and ancient pyramids. Business leaders put losses at more than $300 million.

Ruiz has been supported by other governors from his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held the Mexican presidency from 1929 until 2000.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who really benefits when referenda pass? How does your school compare? $5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials

Recently District 158 passed a referendum. The claim was it was for the kids. Who benefits most from the passage of referenda? If your school district is running a referendum this year be sure to review salaries and contracts of school employees before supporting any referenda.

To review the salarires of your school's employees visit The

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald.

$5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials
By Jeffrey Gaunt
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, October 05, 2006

Several top Huntley District 158 administrators have been receiving cash payments for opting out of the district health insurance program — while still receiving health coverage.

Under a practice that board members say was started by former officials, administrators received $5,400 a year when passing on district insurance.

Three officials with spouses who worked in the district were able to receive coverage under their spouses’ plans while still collecting the $5,400 incentive.

Three more officials are on single-coverage plans but still receive the $5,400 benefit because they don’t get family

Only one of the seven officials who were receiving the $5,400 payouts doesn’t have any district insurance.

Providing the “cash in lieu” payments to employees who don’t get insurance, which is not unique to District 158, is
intended to save on the $12,000 to $14,000 the district otherwise would pay for health coverage.

But board members decided to phase out the practice this year, saying they don’t know when the district started offering the benefit.

“I couldn’t tell you honestly when it started,” school board President Mike Skala said of the payments. “There didn’t seem to be any policy in place that defined that benefit.”

Board members said that in a closed meeting earlier this year they agreed to pay six officials the extra $5,400 this year but phase out the practice over the next three years.

“The board of education felt that there needed to be some control on the expenditures we were having in regard to insurance,” Skala said.

But board member Larry Snow said there is another problem: a seventh official who is receiving the $5,400 without board approval.

Superintendent John Burkey raised the issue with the board at a committee meeting but never sought a board vote before extending the extra payment, Snow said.

District officials said that because of poor record keeping under the past administration, they didn’t know at the time of the school board vote that the employee was receiving the cash in lieu payments.

And Burkey said he didn’t know the lack of an official school board vote on the one employee was an issue, given the person had been receiving the payment for several years.

“We couldn’t not give it to him,” Burkey said, explaining that the administrator showed district officials documentation confirming he had been getting cash in lieu money in the past. “Whether the cash in lieu was right or not, we gave it to him like everyone else. I told the board about it right away. It wasn’t a sneaky thing.”

Burkey also pointed out that the cash in lieu payments — which haven’t been properly documented — are one reason he recommended a forensic audit of the district’s payroll department.

Board members last month sent out requests for a forensic auditor to look into both the payroll department and site and construction fund.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

IASB Conference Sessions I Would Attend

Cal Skinner of McHenry County Blog has a great piece up about the courses offered at the Illinois Association of School Boards annual convention.

The Illinois Association of School Boards is holding it annual convention this week and weekend in Chicago.

There's one seminar I would really like to attend.

It seems to be about how the Carpentersville District 300 tax hike committee, Advance 300, convinced a slim majority of voters to approve both a 55-cent tax hike and a huge bond referendum.

Do you agree that a session entitled, "Organization and Communication--'Vote Yes Twice' Wins Big at Polls," probably refers to this springs massively expensive campaign in District 300?

I wonder if they will point out that developers and school vendors financed the effort.

I also wonder if the topic of "Mandate Shortfall Levies" being offerred by the Illinois Association of School Boards is about an existing way to avoid the property tax cap or one which its members hope to get passed next year.

To view the rest of the piece click here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

You be the judge. Do some public schools have a political agenda?

The following article appeared on the First Amendment Center website.

Tennessee high school OKs Muslim headscarf

By The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A public high school changed its dress code to allow religious headscarves after a national civil rights group for Muslims complained to the principal on behalf of a student.

A spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Emily Smith, 18, a senior at suburban East Ridge High School, wore her “religiously mandated headscarf,” or hijab, on campus for the first time Jan. 13.

Smith said friends and a few teachers told her “congratulations.”

“I wanted to keep it as low-key as possible,” she said.

Rick Smith, an assistant superintendent for Hamilton County schools, said he talked to an assistant principal who told him that there was “not a word, not a question by a student or adult of any kind” in reaction to the headscarf.

An assistant principal, Gary Lowery, declined comment when contacted by phone. He said the school principal, Cheri Dedmon, was out of town.

Khadija Athman, civil rights manager for the Washington, D.C.-based council, said the student asked about her rights in a Jan. 3 e-mail. A letter of complaint was sent to Dedmon on Jan. 6.

The letter said the student as a Muslim is “required to cover her hair in public. Ms. Smith stated that despite numerous efforts to explain to you the importance of the headscarf in her faith, you always found an excuse to hinder her. The various excuses are: needing her grandmother’s permission, it is against the school’s dress code; other students would feel excluded, negative image of Muslim would create safety concerns for Ms. Smith; need to speak to other schools in the area about how they handle the issue etc.”

The letter said religious headscarves are protected by the Constitution and laws that prohibit discrimination in public schools.

Rick Smith said schools have individual dress codes and that the complaint was the first one he was aware of in the county system.

“The school had a standardized dress code in place. Any kind of head wear was prohibited,” he said. “This particular item was a little different because it is a religious garment.”

He said attorneys were consulted and the principal “agreed to allow the student to wear the headscarf.”
Rick Smith said he did not speak with anyone from the council. He said the school system did not have a policy regarding religious clothing.

“It’s something we will look into,” he said.

Athman said the student advised the council that the principal “was willing to work with her. It was just that she wasn’t getting the response she could wear it right now. It was not like it was a hostile environment or anything.”

The student said she first requested permission to wear the headscarf in August but school system spokeswoman Cheryl Marsh said the request was first made “prior to winter break.”

“This hasn’t been lingering around for months but is a relatively new issue,” Marsh said.

The following article appeared on The Rutherford Institute's website.

Maryland School Officials Threaten Seventh Grader with Disciplinary Action for Reading Bible During Lunch Time
Rutherford Institute Attorneys Sue Middle School in Defense of Student’s Right to Read Bible

GREENBELT, Md. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit in defense of the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of a seventh grader who was allegedly ordered by a Maryland middle school employee to stop reading her Bible during free time at school or face disciplinary action. Institute attorneys have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to declare that prohibiting students from reading Bibles or other religious texts during their free time is unconstitutional.

“We live in a country that touts itself as the cradle of freedom and democracy,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “However, what kind of freedom do we really have when a young girl can’t even read her Bible during lunch time without being punished for it?”

On September 14, 2006, seventh-grader Amber Mangum, who was reading a Bible in the school cafeteria during her lunch period, was allegedly approached by an employee working at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Prince George’s County, Md. In keeping with school policy, students are allowed to read books or engage in interpersonal communications during non-instructional time at school, including lunch periods. Furthermore, published administrative procedure of the Prince George’s County Public Schools provides that “[s]tudents may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable, non-disruptive activities.”

However, the complaint filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys alleges that the school official informed Amber that reading a Bible was a violation of the school’s policy and warned her that she would be subject to more severe disciplinary action if she were found reading a Bible at school again. In defending Amber’s right to read a Bible during non-instructional time at school, Institute attorneys have pointed out that according to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 guidelines under the No Child Left Behind Act, students have the right to read Bibles or other religious scriptures during lunch hour, recess or other non-instructional times.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

School Superintendent Behind Videotape Scandal

The joke is on him?
SD 228 superintendent's 'funny' video may lead to his removal from school district

September 30, 2006
By Kati Phillips Staff writer
A school superintendent's job will be on the line Tuesday because he posted a video with mock teacher interviews on the district's Web site.

Supt. Richard Mitchell spliced his fake questions with real answers from first-year teacher interviews to make it appear the teachers stripped, abused prescription drugs and wanted to kill a principal.

To view the rest of the article visit the Daily Southtown website.

To view the transcript of the video visit Free

Monday, October 02, 2006

Golden Handcuff Award

Golden Handcuff Award

Since teachers have the Golden Apple Award I thought it only appropriate to have a similar award for politicians called the “Golden Handcuff Award”. Whereas the Golden Apple recognizes the highest achievement in the classroom, the Golden Handcuff would recognize those politicians with the highest achievement in garnering political contributions from the teacher unions. To get the Golden Handcuff you must have received at least $50,000 in teacher union contributions.

I call it the Golden Handcuff because once you have received money from the unions you are no longer able to lift anything heavier than a 5-figure contribution check. The heavy lifting involved in curbing 6-figure teacher salaries, $300,000 administrators salaries, multi-million dollar pensions, vouchers, endless property tax increases etc cannot be done when you are encumbered with the Golden Handcuffs. No sir, all you can do after your Golden handcuffs are snapped closed is sign on to (or sponsor) bills providing more money and benefits to the teachers.

Although the state does have a website to track political contributions it is not easy because the contributors can use many different names thereby making tracking more difficult. Of course the various teacher union organizations do their best to confuse the public. For example the largest contributor ($11 million plus) the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education (IPACE) can be found using the following names: IPACE, I.P.A.C.E., 1 PACE, !PACE, IPACE PAC, IPACE-Il, IPACE-PAC, IPACE-ILLINOIS, IPACE/ILLINOIS, LPACE, Ipage, IPACE-EDUC. In addition the various teacher organizations launder their contributions by sending money back and forth to each other in a manner befitting a Columbian drug cartel.

Therefore the $23 million total I have managed to come up with is probably low even though that is frightening enough. For example if you search for contributions from organizations containing the word “teacher” in it you get $16 million, for the letters “ift” (Illinois Federation of Teachers) $8 million, the letters “aft” (America Federation of Teachers) $3 million plus the IPACE $11 million gives you $38 million including the money laundering amounts back and forth. The largest 3rd party contribution to Blagojevich was $300,000 from IPACE along with $250,000 and $225,000 from other teacher union funds. And all of the money does not come from Illinois: over $1.7 million came from the American Federation of Teachers headquarters in Washington DC. Over $500,000 from the teacher unions has been donated just since Jan 2006.

You will notice that although Democrats dominate the following list there are enough Republicans to make certain that the union’s demands are met no matter which party is in power. The biggest donations in 2006 have gone to Emil Jones ($27,500), the Madigans ($40,000), Tom Hynes ($20,000) and interesting enough 2 Republicans Sydney Mathias of Buffalo Grove and Mark Beaubien of Wauconda, $15,000 each.

If this kind of vote buying isn’t “special interest” what is?

Bill Zettler

To see a list of donations visit the The website.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pete Speer's response to the dumbing down of our education system.

The state teachers unions and the the NEA have joined hands to nullify NCLB.
Local boards have been influenced by the local unions and their half
brothers, the similarly educated administrators, to reject NCLB money.

That legislation, as cumbersome as it may be, was passed to overcome the
under-education rendered by underqualified teachers in primary and secondary
schools. The 2004 report of the President's Advisory Commission on Science
and Technology indicated that when compared to the public education in
Europe, the entire Asian littoral plus Japan and India, the level of
knowledge and the curriculum requirements were generally below the 50th

Those well publicized 'Advanced Placement' courses in Math and Science?
They ranked at the sixth and the zero percentile respectively.

How did my state of Illinois react? The Illinois State Board of Education
is supposed to set standards for the field. Within the last year, they
dumbed down their standardized tests -- creating the appearance of higher
grades -- and normed up the results -- making the parents believe that
Johnny was learning. The last smooth move was to reduce the passing grade
on the certification test for History and the Social Sciences.

The schools rely on degree granting Schools of Education and provide their
certified staff for pay raises based on longevity and on additional
Education School course work.

There is no concept of Subject Matter Mastery. The buzz phrase is Content
Mastery -- just be able to teach what is in the textbook. Subject Matter
Mastery implies that the teacher has an undergraduate degree in the subject
being taught. Additional studies in that subject at the graduate level keep
the teacher up to date in his/her field. Implied is a love of the subject
that can be transitted to the student.

Education degreed teachers usually can not qualify for such graduate
courses. And if they do, they become lost.

65% in the classroom is a very nice folly. Illinois teachers took advantage
of early retirement and extraordinary raises in the last three years to
enable them to buy out and qualify for the highest state pensions. 65%
would have been corrupted.

65% will further enrich a system which recognizes itself as a closed union
shop, not unlike the UAW in the days before the Japanese importers started
building quality in their product.

How so we return Quality and Education Value?

The only answer -- and it is being done in San Francisco and other places --
is Competitive Choice.

After accounting for special needs children, each district must vest every
student equally in the federal, state and local tax moneys. The parent(s)
will then choose where to use that money: public, provate, parochial and
shiva (religious classes taught after hours), charter and even home
schooling. All that is required is certification by a (now reformed) state

Choice of a school costing less than the fair share will result in moneys
being kept in the District. Choice of a more expensive option will require
the parent(s) fund the difference.

Families still have dreams of interclass mobility for their children.
American must still have to compete in the 21st Century world economy/

Let us not drag ourselves down.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Coalition for Public Awareness

Keith Steinacher of the Coalition for Public Awareness
has asked CRAFT to pass on the message that their site has been updated. If you have not reviewed their site it is highly recommended before supporting any tax increase for public schools.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Many Teachers Are OK; It's the Damn Teachers Unions That Are the Problem

As a former teacher, principal and superintendent of schools in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, and Califoria, I have a fairly good knowledge of how education works in the U.S.

My studies at the University of Dayton (B.A.), Xavier University (M.A.) and The Ohio State University (Ph.D.) with majors in English, Philosophy, Educational Administration, Sociology, and an S.T.B at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland have helped me to think through many issues in public education.

It has been 51 years since I began my teaching caareer in New York. I have come to the following major conclusion:


Think it through with me. There are four reasons why I have reached this rational conclusion. It is based on the union proposals that I have studied, argued, and negotiated for the past 30 years. They all contain the same major ideas and issues.

1) They want more money.

2) They want more fringe benefits.

3) They want less work and less responsibility.

4) They want more power.

That's it!

Of the hundreds of demands that I have read in their proposals for negoations, I have NEVER seen one that asks for some item to be placed in their contracts that will redound to the direct benefit for the child's education. Not one.

Read teachers contracts. If you find one positive item that states that they want some element or item added that will contribute to the direct, positive learning of the student, please let me know about it. It will be a FIRST.

Do you agree with this simple, but rational analysis?

Response to Don.

I do not agree. Teachers can choose to be a part of the union or not. If a person does not speak out against the problem they are not part of the solution. Cathy

"And if you are a teacher who belongs to the teachers union, thus helping to perpetuate with your dues their iron grip on the current system, you, too, are anti-education. " Charles Muth

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

District 300 budget doesn't factor in new teachers contract

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald.

Wondering why District 300 pushed for passage of the referendum? The teacher's contract was up this past June. The teachers knew it and that is why they pressured the very children they educate to push their parents to pass the referendum. This referendum was about money for the teachers and school employees nothing more. The school board will pass a budget busting contract and the need for another referendum will arise in 3 to 5 years. The same Simpletons who supported this referendum will blindly support the next referendum. What will have occurred during this time period? School employees will benefit from larger paychecks, spending per pupil will increase while performance, graduation rates and drop out rates will remain essentially flight or decline. The cost of educating our children will grow. The tax burden passed on to our children will grow. While the public school employees aka our government employees are laughing all the way to the bank while retiring at 55 earning a pension greater than the average working stiff.

Why will this happen? Because parents blindly trust the system they leave their children in 9 months a year. If you really care about your children and their future do a little research instead of letting strangers raise your children.

The amount of money spent on education has little to do with the quality of education your child receives.

We often wonder why parents blindly throw money at a failing system. These are some of the conclusions we made.

1. Parents want to believe a system that is to educate their child will not waste their money and will properly educate their children.

2. Parents would prefer to have their children raised by the system instead of themselves.

3. Parents are apathetic and believe there is nothing they can do to fight the system but keep throwing money at the system.

4. Parents were not properly educated themselves and have no understanding of simple mathematics, finances, economics, logic and problems solving skills.

5. Parents voted yes out of guilt and pressure from the system that threatened their children.

6. Parents just do not care about the education of their children and their children's future.

If any of these reasons are why you will support or have supported a referendum. You are doing nothing for the future of your children. It is easy to vote yes. It is hard to vote no and fight for true reform of our education system.

District 300 budget doesn't factor in new teachers contract


By Jeffrey Gaunt

Daily Herald

Community Unit District 300 now has a budget for the 2006-07 school year - sort of.

The school board Monday night approved a new budget with a $9.7 million surplus in the district's operating funds.

Assuming that number held up, district officials would be able to cut their budget deficit from $13.6 million last year to $3.9 million this year.

But that's not going to happen, district officials said.

The new budget doesn't take into account a new teachers contract, which district officials are still trying to negotiate with the teachers union.

Contract talks stalled earlier this month, leading both sides to call in a federal mediator to facilitate the negotiations.

Right now, the budget shows a nearly $9 million increase in teacher salaries this school year - from $80.8 million to $89.8 million.

But that number is likely low, chief financial officer Cheryl Crates said.

The $9 million increase includes only an estimate of the cost of new hires, yearly raises from added experience and education, and a 2 percent "fudge factor," Crates said.

It doesn't include the across-the-board raises that will come out of the negotiating sessions.

And officials budgeted only a $1.4 million increase in the cost of employee benefits.

"That will all be revised," Crates said.

Board members had to approve the budget before this month's state filing deadline, with or without a new contract.

But neither board members nor administrators discussed Monday what may happen to the district's bottom line as the district wraps up contract talks.

Board member Dave Alessio said only that the budget is a living document and subject to change.

"I imagine there will be changes throughout the rest of the year," Alessio said.

Time to remind our readers of an article that states what is truly wrong with our public education system.

NEA plans lower, not raise, education bar
Ruben Navarette, Jr.
San Diego Union Tribune

SAN DIEGO - After five years of trying to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act, the nation's largest teachers union has decided that it can live with the education reform law after all - as long as the legislation is gutted, its standards lowered and its accountability measures watered down.

Great. So we're making progress.

This month at its annual conference, the National Education Association voted to launch a nationwide campaign to lobby Congress to radically change NCLB when the law comes up for reauthorization next year. The goal behind the changes seems to be to wrest power away from government and put it back where the union thinks it belongs - with educators and those who represent them.

Call me cynical, but I never thought for a minute that the NEA was really concerned about, well, education. I never believed the organization was eager to find new ways to empower students or to hold schools accountable for the educational products they turn out.

I always assumed that the NEA was focused primarily on what any union tends to focus on - the interests of its members. And since the education establishment has been trained to believe that it is not in the interests of teachers to demand more from them or tie them to the performance of their students, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that groups such as the NEA have reacted with hostility to No Child Left Behind.

That's exactly what's been happening since 2001, when the law - perhaps the most significant domestic policy achievements of the Bush administration - took effect.

According to a recent report by Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, the NEA has given more than $8 million to various education, civil rights and public policy groups that opposed or criticized No Child Left Behind. Lead researcher Joe Williams says that what the union did wasn't illegal, but it is clear that it "actively pursued partnerships" with groups intent on fighting NCLB. And questions remain about whether the funding that was given to some of these groups influenced the research some of these groups produced - research that was, to no one's surprise, critical of the education reform law.

Not that the law doesn't have its critics. When I hear from teachers, or even school board members - some of whom have accepted campaign contributions from the NEA and other teachers unions - I get an earful about how NCLB is single-handedly destroying the public education system due to its emphasis on testing, its punishing of underperforming schools and its one-size-fits-all approach.

And yet, knowing all that, it's still frightening to get a peek behind the curtain at the specifics of what the NEA, if it had its druthers, would do to make NCLB more palatable to its members - or at least, some of them, as the more hard-line members won't be satisfied unless the law is repealed.

Convinced that there is too much emphasis on regular testing, and that low-performing schools are being unfairly punished when students come up short, the union would prefer a broader-based accountability system that relies on "multiple measures of success." Whatever that means.

The union also is queasy about the requirement in No Child Left Behind that schools test students in math and reading and then report scores according to race, disability, English proficiency and economic background. The NEA instead wants benchmarks that take into account students' differing abilities and demographics. It seems that many educators are less than confident in the job they've done when it comes to teaching minorities, those with limited English proficiency and the economically disadvantaged, and they're not eager to broadcast their failures.

It's outrageous.

If these people get their way, the practical effect would be a lower bar for students of different racial, ethnic or economic backgrounds - and by extension, those who teach them. And they would do all this not for the good of students but for the professional welfare of those who are supposed to be teaching them and who have, for too long, been coming up short.

And why does the nation's largest teachers union want to make all these changes in No Child Left Behind?

It's so the truth does not come out about whom the public schools serve and whom they sacrifice.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union Tribune.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Parents demand smaller class sizes

The following article appeared on the Students First website. Students First did not attribute the source however Ms. Schory is a reporter for the Northwest Herald.

Why do parents in District 47 demand smaller class size? Who or what group said that smaller class size is an important issue? If district 47 parents did any research into the subject they would know this. It appears these parents believe the propaganda fed to them by a PR firm, the district and/or district employees (including the teachers). What do these people have in common? They would all benefit financially from class size reduction? Parents fall for the baloney thinking there kids will benefit when in fact they will not.

"The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."
Adolf Hitler

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Adolf Hitler

Kevin Craver one of the Northwest Herald's best reporters did a report on small class sizes which appeared in the May 2, 2004 edition of the Northwest Herald.

To research class size issues we suggest the following sources Politicizing Class Size by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
and the class size series by Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institute Stanford University.

Parents demand smaller class sizes

CRYSTAL LAKE - With 30 or more students in their children's third-grade class at North Elementary School, some parents are demanding that District 47 do more to make the class sizes smaller.

"That's too many kids for one teacher," parent Lisa Van Bosch said. "They are not getting the education they deserve. I have every faith in the teachers, but common sense should tell you if there are 31 or 34 children in a class, those struggling would be left out."

Parents said it was not fair that their children were in classrooms that on average had six more students than other third-grade classrooms in the district. But school officials said they were under budget constraints and couldn't hire a new teacher, so aides would have to work with the children in the larger classrooms.

Two North third-grade classrooms have 31 students and three have 30. One with 31 students also soon will have three special-education students and their aide for half a day. The third grades in the district's other eight elementary schools average 24 students, officials said.

Superintendent Ronald Miller said the district had to consider the cost, as District 47 has a $724,000 deficit in its operating budget that officials were trying to contain by saving money and getting more revenue.

The five half-time aides in North's third grades cost $32,500 or about $6,500 each, Miller said.

Overall, the district spends nearly $180,000 on aides.

"We have reserves," Miller said. "Should we use those reserves now? It's a very difficult balance providing help to teachers and students and being fiscally responsible. It's a trade-off."

Donna Relic said her daughter started first grade at North in 2004 with 30 in the class.

"The overcrowding issues were glaringly apparent at that time," Relic said. "It is two years later and nothing has changed."

But Miller said the district has tinkered with boundaries and moved some students from North to Husman.

North has the largest enrollment among the district's elementary schools with 881 students. The others range from 462 at Canterbury to 830 at Glacier Ridge.

The problem is not confined to third grade. Miller said North also has 167 second-graders in six classrooms.

"This is not the first time we've had 30 students in a classroom," Miller said. "Our board recognizes the higher the class size, the more help a teacher needs. As with other schools in the past, our board believes at this time, it is best to address it with classroom aide service."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Teachers asking for outrageous hikes

Teachers asking for outrageous hikes

Grant High School teachers have threatened to strike over wages and benefits (what else?), even though state records show increases averaging 35 percent for all employees who were employed there for the four-year period 2001 to 2004 (8 percent per year).

This latest teacher union outrage comes after the recent announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the average American worker saw his salary increase by 1 percent last year. This item was reported last month on the front page of the Daily Herald.

So teachers get 8 percent while taxpayers get 1 percent, and the teachers are so unhappy they want to strike.

And in Mount Prospect District 57, officials and parents are concerned with class size as they struggle with budget problems. District 57 employees have averaged 31 percent from 2001 to 2005.

If they had averaged, say, 15 percent instead, how many more teachers could have been hired thus lowering class size?

And it is not just schools either, as the Gurnee mayor complains about 6 percent increases for their employees, causing budget shortfalls in other areas.

The so-called budget problems in schools and cities are not lack of revenue it is large salary and benefit increases for public employees. Put public employee salary increases on the same basis as private employees and magically budget problems disappear.

How much longer are taxpayers going to allow this to go on? And how long will it be before school boards and city councils use these numbers, which are publicly available, to negotiate contracts?

It’s very simple: public employee salaries cannot increase faster than taxpayer’s salaries.

Bill Zettler

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The following piece was sent to us by a fellow tax fighter and education reformist in Bourbonnais, IL.

BBCHS Fight!

It should be very clear by now that the fight against wasteful school spending and planning is going to be done against the power of the government and the Daily Journal.

BBCHS just sent out a full-color “illegal” mailing full of one-sided information to persuade you to vote for the referendums. Paid for by you!
The Journal is doing everything but going to school and failing because of overcrowding.

We must, as taxpayers look at this logically, not as misty-eyed “anything for the children” patsies.

BBCHS has increased its total tax take by 84.1% over the last 10 years. Enrollment has grown by 28%.

They could have economized, saved money and been ready to meet what they now call a crisis.

They pay a Gym Teacher $103,000 per year. They pay their business manager $121,000 per year. The business manager retired from the position is drawing about $100,000 per year retirement and was hired back.

That’s all money that could be used for the “children”!.

This is only a small example of waste and abuse of your money, which isn’t going into reading, math, english, science, computer skills, history, geography or any other real education.

Our kids are important to the future of this country.

Too important, to allow the School Board and Administrators of BBCHS to continue making a mess of the education system in our community.

Just one more point, these people that claim to be “so” interested in the welfare of our kids have negotiated some of the most secure jobs in the country.

Safe from firing once they receive tenure. They have great retirement benefits and salaries that rival the average attorneys, doctors, architects, engineers and others that have much higher levels of education.

Ron Hansen

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Many fall tax-increase requests in question

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald September 21, 2006. The follow up article below the first article appeared in the Daily Herald September 22 , 2006.

The best solution solution to the problem is to vote no on the referenda in question and to replace fiscally irresponsible school board members as soon as possible. Members of each community with referenda in question should go to the appropriate courts and ask the ballot questions be removed from the November 7th ballots.

Many fall tax-increase requests in question

Some referendums in November election won’t be giving correct cost estimates

By Jeffrey Gaunt and Catherine Edman
Daily Herald Staff Writers
Posted Thursday, September 21, 2006

Judges — not voters — may cast some of the deciding votes in the November election.

New revisions intended to close loopholes in the state’s property tax cap and make tax-increase costs clearer for voters have been misunderstood or erroneously communicated, and many ballot questions are now in doubt.

A Daily Herald review of 18 fall ballot questions found more than half the requests for tax-rate increases in the suburbs were worded incorrectly.

An attorney with the Illinois State Board of Elections said Wednesday his office has been fielding calls from around the state about ballot errors that may invalidate many fall requests for tax-rate increases.

Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake.

“I can see a judicial challenge as to whether the questions can be put in place after the election,” said Steve Sturm, the state election board’s legal counsel. “It will be up to a judge, or perhaps a series of judges.”

State lawmakers rewrote the tax cap law to ensure voters knew the true cost of tax-increase requests. But different interpretations of the revised law mean voters in many taxing districts still won’t have accurate information on the ballot when they head to the polls.

Several ballot questions could face legal challenges this year, including:
•A $1.35 rate-increase request in Big Hollow District 38.
•A 38-cent rate-increase request in Lincolnshire-Prairieview District 103.
•An 85-cent rate-increase request in East Aurora District 131.
•A 20-cent rate-increase request in the Bartlett Fire Protection District.
•And a 13-cent rate-increase request in the Roselle Fire Protection District.

In all five cases, the cost estimates printed on the ballot — as now required by law — are calculated differently than the method used by Chapman and Cutler partner Dan Johnson, who drafted the legislation.

The worst difference the errors would make to owners of $100,000 homes is $500 over four years, in the East Aurora school district case.

Chapman and Cutler is one of the largest law firms in Illinois serving public bodies on tax and finance issues.
Johnson didn’t review the calculations used in those specific cases. But he did say that if the calculations are different, it won’t necessarily invalidate the ballot questions.

“I’m not the law,” Johnson said. “But I’m not sure a $60 difference, that wasn’t intentional, is the sort of thing that invalidates the proposition.

“That’s not to say it’s right,” he said. “Any new law that is highly technical in its nature can lead to different interpretations, without anyone intending to mislead anyone.”

Despite the confusion, advocates of the legislation say when applied correctly, the revisions should still serve to better inform voters and reduce or eliminate the hidden costs of tax-rate increases.

“Any new law will require some back and forth in the implementation to make sure that we get it right,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat who sponsored the legislation with state Rep. Mike Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican.

“I’m glad that we’re fighting over how best to disclose information to voters, rather than whether to disclose key information to the voters at all.”

A summer seminar on the new ballot measures — led by Chapman and Cutler’s Lynda Given and Lake County Director of Tax Extension Wayne Wasylko — serves as an example of how problems developed.

Officials in Lincolnshire-Prairie View Elementary District 103 attended the seminar to learn about the revamped law and how districts should word their fall ballot questions.

District 103 Superintendent Larry Fleming said it was there he was given a detailed packet of information explaining the data and calculations needed to word ballot questions.

But Wasylko said Wednesday those packets, prepared by Chapman and Cutler, were wrong, although he didn’t find out until later when he saw ballot questions from other school districts.
Fleming didn’t find out at all until asked about the ballot wording this week by the Daily Herald.

“What I find interesting is that my business manager and I, and our law firm — each of us in separate training by Chapman and Cutler — got the same information,” Fleming said.

In a prepared statement Wednesday, Chapman and Cutler defended their handling of tax cap law changes.

“Chapman and Cutler is confident that every taxing district that has sought our direct advice on their specific ballot proposition has been provided a consistent and accurate interpretation of the law,” the firm said.

Either way, District 103 officials said they’ll now need to explain to taxpayers why the ballot question doesn’t necessarily mean what it says.

And that obviously presents its own set of challenges, Fleming said.

“I think it’s up to us to describe it,” he said.

Voters’ ballots to stay wrong
Clerk says incorrect wording on tax hikes can’t be stopped
By Lee Filas and Bob Susnjara
Daily Herald Staff Writers
Posted Friday, September 22, 2006

Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said incorrectly worded tax-rate increase questions will remain on the Nov. 7 ballot, despite calls for their removal.

Helander said unless a judge issues an injunction, voters will have to decide whether to support tax increase requests in Big Hollow Elementary District 38 and Lincolnshire-Prairie View Elementary District 103.

“We have no authority to stop the ballots,” she said. “The ballots are printed and we are starting absentee voting, so short of a judge telling me to (remove the questions), we don’t have the authority to do it.”

At issue are legislative revisions intended to close loopholes in the state property tax cap referendum law and clarify costs to voters. But different interpretations of that law caused incorrect formulas to be released to school districts before filing referendum questions with the Lake County Clerk.

The formula was later clarified by Chapman and Cutler, the law firm that helped write the legislation, but not in time to prevent districts from listing incorrect cost figures in their ballot questions.

Chapman and Cutler is one of Illinois’ largest law firms serving public bodies on tax and finance issues.
Attorneys at the state board of elections speculate that should incorrectly worded questions pass, they could be challenged in court and possibly overturned.

Political activist Jack Martin of Libertyville, who’s fighting tax hike proposals in districts 38 and 103, said Helander
shouldn’t allow erroneous ballots to go before voters in November if she is aware of problems now.

“I’m surprised,” said Martin, who heads Taxpayers for Good Government. “Who’s at fault? Who made the mistake? The individual school districts?”

Among the incorrectly worded questions in Lake County are those on the ballot in districts 38 and 103.

Mundelein High School District 120 has a 24-cent tax-rate increase on the ballot, but that question is worded correctly, officials said.

District 38 is asking voters to approve a tax-rate increase of $1.35 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation. According to the ballot, the owner of a $100,000 home would see an increase of $450 in the first year, if approved.

But wording that follows is incorrect. It states the owner of the same home, who receives an average 6.1 percent increase in market value, would pay increases of $477 in 2007, $506 in 2008 and $537 in 2009.

The corrected calculations show that the homeowner would see the tax rise $514 in 2007, $582 in 2008 and $655 in 2009.

District 38 Superintendent Ron Pazanin and board President Vicki Gallechio did not return phone calls Thursday.

The same situation occurred at District 103.

That ballot question states the district wants a 38-cent tax-rate increase. In the first year, the owner of a $100,000 home would — correctly — see an increase of $127.

But the question states the owner of the same home with a 5.2 percent increase in home values would see their property taxes rise $133 in 2007, $140 in 2008 and $148 in 2009. The correct figures should be $163 in 2007, $201 in 2008 and $241 in 2009.

Helander said dollar totals on the ballots should not be considered etched in stone, especially three years down the road.

“If you talk about the approximate impact on future years, those are nothing but educated guesses anyway,” she said.
“It’s just there for an example. It’s all guestimated.”

District 103 Superintendent Larry Fleming said he believes the referendum figures were correct as of Thursday, and the issue will be studied further.

Larry Rivkin, co-chairman of the pro-tax increase group Residents to Preserve 103, said he’s confident all will be OK by Election Day.

“This is obviously a new (referendum) law and very complicated,” Rivkin said, “and people will need to work through it.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Sad Day In Illinois

To all of my Friends, Family and Neighbors in Illinois,

Today is a sad day for those of us who live in Illinois. Today is the day that Judge Lois Bell made me lose my faith in the judicial system in our state. She took an overwhelming case, with legal implications that effect Billions of YOUR state tax money, and she dismissed it. Why, you ask? She dismissed it because, she said, we waited to long. We waited to long, to seek justice. She said we did nothing for the last 40+ months. If she had only looked at the facts, at the evidence that we presented, she would have seen that we didn't wait. Jeff Ferguson started this battle over 40 months ago. More than 40 months of contacting state, federal and local agencies that all fell upon deaf ears. He had to spend months doing this, because he had to wait for replies that he was told he would get. He didn't get any replies though, all he got was silence. A silence that shouted, YOU DON'T MATTER! That is what our government thinks of us. All we are to them is a tax bill and a vote. If you don't vote, they will still get your taxes and you will have NO say in what they do with them. In Jersey County, though, the voters said NO. They said it to the tune of a 71% (NO) to 29%(YES) vote. The voters should have had their say that day, but they were denied. The school district sought to acquire Fire Prevention and Safety Bonds to repair our old high school, at least that is what they said they were going to do. Instead, they took that money and used it to get matching state grant money and built 2 new schools. One of which that wasn't even voted on. After all, they were going to go against the will of the voters on one schools, so why even give them an opinion on the other. Hundreds of other schools in this state were build against the will of the voters and it seems that they had it down to a science. Not only does it not matter if you say NO, it doesn't matter if you take it to court, as they will use their corrupt system to beat you down. All I can say is this, do all of you out there in Illinois want to pay for the GREED of a few? Do you like paying taxes toward projects you didn't approve, or didn't even take place in your county?

Folks, I don't need to go into detail. The details are on our website, as they always have been. So this time, when you get this email, don't ignore it. Don't go back to watching this evening's TV shows. If you ignore someone stealing from you, they won't ever stop. They will come up with new ways to take your money and hide it in tax bills, bond issues and other legislation, that you know nothing about. This is all because they know that you are busy living your own life. All I am asking, is that you take a few minutes and find out what they are doing behind your backs. This issue effects the WHOLE state, because the MATCHING GRANT MONEY that ALL of those school construction projects received, is paid by the WHOLE STATE. So, when our school district sold bonds for schools we didn't want, you helped buy them.

This is not some cheesy chain letter that you get every day. This is a WARNING. This is something you need to pass onto anyone , that you know, that lives in this state. If you hit the delete key, they win again. How many times should we let them win before we've had enough? How many times will you let them take money out of your pocket that you could have used for your children's future?

I'm asking you to forward this on to everyone. If you know someone that doesn't have the Internet, get out an envelope and a stamp and mail it to them. Go to our website ( ) and see for yourself what they have done. Additionally, I have attached a copy of a letter written by Jeff Ferguson, this evening, after our case was dismissed today in court. A copy of the email I received from him is also pasted below. Jeff has given countless hours to fight a cause you may not have known even existed. He has sacrificed personally and financially to do this. If you want to help, send the CFPA a small donation. Anything helps and your support goes a long way to keep things like this from happening again. We plan to appeal the judges ruling, such as it was, but we need your support. Though we appreciate all the thanks and praise and "good luck" we've received, but it doesn't help pay the legal fees necessary to fight this cause. If you have questions, please email me with them and I'll do my best to answer them.

Please send all donations to:
Coalition for Public Awareness
P.O. Box 177
Jerseyville, IL. 62052
All requests to remain anonymous will be honored.

Warmest Regards,

Keith Steinacher

Hi all,
Well, we've been passed around the ENTIRE system now. I had hoped and prayed that Judge Lois Bell would allow this suit to move forward, but as we all saw today, there is no justice for the taxpayers at any level. I have written my thoughts as I ponder next steps and have attached the resulting letter. I do not blame anyone who wants to give up at this point but I would encourage you not to. To do so would be to admit defeat and to invite our elected officials to walk all over us anytime they desire. I am too deep into this to stop now and I will continue to pursue it through any avenues I can find. Frank will work up an estimate on what he anticipates it will cost to appeal and we can make a decision at that time if the "justice" system is our best way to move forward. At this point in time, I don't see that we have any option but to continue with the "legal" process, regardless of how flawed it obviously is. Please distribute this letter to everyone you know and ask that they forward it with a vengeance. WE MUST LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM DID TO US TODAY!!!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bob Shelstrom's Guest Column to the Daily Southtown

Guest Column                                                                      September 14, 2007
RE: Response to “Rising School Fees Tax Bills Stem from States Failure to Act”/”School Funding Mess Main Cause of Big Property Tax Hikes”
The Southtown’s recent editorials blaming “The State” for high student fees and taxes clearly missed the real problem.
High taxes and fees are due more to school system “greed” than student “need”.
Consider the fees in High School District 230..
Last year, District 230 had a budget SURPLUS of about $3.5 million, yet still burdened parents with minimum fees of $286 per student, among the highest in the Southland.
Such high fees clearly were not needed to fund the students’ educational costs, but it was in the staff’s interest to save the money for future raises.
Guess who won?
Perhaps the biggest abuse of fees this year is in Palatine High School District 211.
The Palatine Superintendent claims a whopping $44.5 million surplus this year..
They still charge students a minimum $140 fee for enrollment, among other high "use" fees.
High real estate taxes also are often due to student unfriendly decisions by school boards, not "inadequate state funding".
Thornton High School District 205 illustrates this point well.
Thornton 205  has among the highest tax rates in the state.
Its operating expenses are over $12,000 per student. This is about $4,000 more than Lincoln Way District 210, a district known for providing quality education at fair cost.
Average teacher salaries in Thornton are about $81,000 for nine months work, around $25,000 above state average. By comparison, the average civil engineer in the Chicago area makes only about $67,000 for 12 months work.
Over 100 of the Thornton staff had six figure annual compensation according to recent Teacher Retirement System data. The highest paid teacher in Thornton made over $137,000.
With such highly paid teachers and staff, and spending 50% higher than the top high school district in the Southland, Thornton students should be extremely successful, right?
Report Cards show that Thornton students meet or exceed state overall testing requirements at less than 40% of the state average, despite having the same percentage of low income students.
It was the Thornton school board that decided paying teachers $25,000 above state average was more important than providing the courses, extracurriculars, and tutoring necessary for student success, not the state.
It was District 230 President Dennis Cook and the school board that decided creating a surplus for future raises and “pork” spending was more important than fair fees, not the state.
I won’t dispute the fact that our school funding from Springfield is unfair.
Roundout District 72 in the North Suburbs spends over $24,000 per student each year from local funding. This is about triple the state average. Despite this local “overfunding”, Roundout still receives over $600 per student in state aid.
Property rich Palatine Elementary District 15, which spends around $10,000 per student, receives about $1,100 per student in state aid.
I believe it is unconscionable that taxpayers in Harvey, Matteson, and Robbins are subsidizing Palatine and Roundout with their state income tax dollars, while their own school taxes and fees are oppressively high.
Raising income taxes, while increasing unnecessary aid to the “rich” schools, will only make this unfairness worse.
There are many things Springfield can do to reduce property taxes and student fees without raising income  taxes.
It could prohibit fees and truly protect “free’ public education for families.
It could address funding inequity by improving “means testing” in the state formula without raising taxes. We can take care of the underfunded schools, special education needs, and disadvantaged students before distributing state funds to the wealthy.
Springfield can abolish the costly “early retirement” benefits and “end of career” raises which are bankrupting our pension system and creating school budget deficits.
They could also standardize and cap school salaries and benefits, which make up about 80% of school spending.
In the end, however, only parents and taxpayers can protect themselves from excessive taxes and fees regardless of what's done in  Springfield .
Study your school report cards ( and hold your board accountable for excessive and “student unfriendly” spending.
Check your school staff pay at You’ll be amazed how much many districts can afford to pay staff while the students’ programs are being threatened.
Vote in school Board elections and find out which candidates are for the students and taxpayers, and which ones have the Big Ed “network” as their priority.
Better yet, run for the school Board. It only takes fifty petition signatures, some time, a little money, and really thick skin if you criticize school spending or performance.
Remember, the greatest fear of those abusing taxpayers and parents in the “Big Ed” bureaucracy is a well informed and active community.
Student need will only beat Big Ed greed when parents and taxpayers diligently work together to make student success our schools’ top priority.
Bob Shelstrom

Bob Shelstrom is a former High School and College Math and Science Teacher and a Professional Engineer, and has three children in Southland public schools. He may be reached at

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

School Choice: 2006 Progress Report

The following is from the Heritage Foundation's 2006 Progress Report for school choice. Be sure to visit the Heritage Foundation's website to read the full report.

School Choice: 2006 Progress Report
by Dan Lips and Evan Feinberg
Backgrounder #1970

September 18, 2006

Reforms that give parents greater ability to choose their children’s schools continue to expand across the nation. Just a decade ago, only a few school choice programs existed. Today, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have private school choice programs. In 2006, eight states— Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin—enacted new school choice programs or expanded existing programs. By 2007, as many as 150,000 students will be par?ticipating in publicly funded tuition scholarship programs.[1]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

N.Y. School Official Sentenced for Theft

Associated Press Writer

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - One of two administrators behind the theft of as much as $11 million from a school district was sentenced Tuesday to up to 9 years in prison.

To view the rest of the story go to the Federal News Radio website or read a series on the topic on The New York Times website.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Class Size Reduction... the Detroit Way

The following piece appears on the Education Intelligence Agency website. Be sure to visit the EIA website to view the links. Another example of the greed of our public school employees.

Class Size Reduction... the Detroit Way

Detroit school officials are in a panic because next Wednesday is the day the state counts the number of students enrolled to determine the amount of state funding each district gets. And, due to the illegal 16-day teachers' strike, enrollment is roughly 25,000 students below projections.

It's a measure of just how much of a mess Detroit is in that people can't decide whether this is actually true, or a manipulation of the numbers by various players in order to apply political pressure.

Daniel Howes of the Detroit News nails it with his assessment. After noting that since 1994, Detroit's enrollment dropped 23 percent, but its per-pupil revenue increased 94 percent, Howes spells it out for everyone involved:

"No work means fewer students. Fewer students beget less money. Less money
promises fewer jobs. Those are pretty powerful economics, which overwhelm all
the picket signs, finger-pointing and administrative begging now under way, just
days from the dreaded 'count day' that determines state funding."
UPDATE: Something is rotten in the state of Michigan. Where did the 25,000 students go?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

We will be away until September 18th.

While we are gone we suggest the following sites for your reading pleasure.

The Champion

Education Matters

The Illinois Loop

McHenry County Blog

Heartland Institute.

Illinois Policy Institute

New hire goal to make D300 accountable

The following article appeared in the Courier News Newspaper
My husband and I have been fighting for education spending reform for almost four years. Over this time I learned to read newspaper articles and quotes within newspapers with more skepticism. I have learned that there is probably a lot more behind the story. A half hour conversation with reporters has more often than not been boiled down to one or two lines. The reporters usually choose to report on my minor points instead of my major concerns or points. I have come to know why so many others just do not want to talk to reporters.

Some points that I made to Miss Hovanec that were not reported were the following.
Government monopolies such as schools do not need public relations persons as it is not a matter of choice for parents and students as to where they send their children unless they are wealthy. School's primary goal is to educate students. If schools were educating students properly and spending tax dollars wisely there would be no need for public relations persons for schools. What more proof does someone need that Allison Smith was biased toward District 300 than that they hired Allison Smith as their publication relations person.

In the article below Ms. Smith said "Superintendent Arndt said he chose me because he wants me to play devil's advocate with the district, " If Mr. Arndt were truly looking for someone to play devil's advocate he should have hired a vocal critique and not someone who wrote fluff pieces like "Monkey business afoot in D-300 " which appeared in the August 11, 2006 edition of the Northwest Herald. This was a fluff piece that was better suited for the Sneed column in the Chicago Sun Times.

New hire goal to make D300 accountable

By Jeanne Hovanec

CARPENTERSVILLE — Two shootings were reported in the village Monday and the first instance prompted a 40-minute lock-down at three local schools.

It was a heck of a first day for Community Unit School District 300's new communications specialist, Allison Smith.

Smith says crises and shootings are nothing new to her. The former education reporter for the Northwest Herald worked on the police beat when she started her profession at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a year and a half after graduating from journalism school at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"It was a great first day because everyone was safe," Smith said. "Being on the police beat made me a better listener and more compassionate. You have to be good under pressure."

But the pressure continues for the Texas native who is housing pages of future projects on her desk and whose name is no stranger to local blogging sites.

Pushing communications

Although she has finished only one week of work, and only a four-day week at that, Smith has projects in the works to elevate District 300's ability to communicate both internally and externally.
She already has began working with District 300's webmaster to give its Web site an overhaul both aesthetically and in the information provided. She hopes to be able to post press releases online to keep the public up to date with District 300 matters.

In addition, Smith plans to start polls on the Web site to help gage the public's opinion of the district. One example of a possible topic of a poll question would be if people feel the district is living up to its promises about a $185 million bond referendum that voters passed in March.

"I don't feel like I have a huge mountain to climb," Smith said. "I have a trust to maintain. Right now the status between the district and the public is positive and I have two tools to maintain that: making the district accountable for its promises and being honest."

Has critics, supporters

But that might be difficult for Smith who already is being scrutinized for her attention to District 300 while she worked as an education reporter for the Northwest Herald. Cathy Peschke, spokeswoman for Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes, criticized Smith for the way she covered the referendum last year for the newspaper. Peschke says Smith "bent over backwards to defend the school district" and labeled Peschke's group as an anti-referendum group when the group had told her it was a taxpayer advocacy group. She says the mislabel, "clearly showed she was biased toward our view."
Smith is not shocked by the attention and says she would be disappointed if people did not voice their complaints.

"I have never shied away from alternate viewpoints of the district," Smith said. "At the time, opponents of D300 cheered and thanked me for the research. I encourage them to recall my efforts and know that I will keep questioning D300."

Cal Skinner, who contributes on the Web site, McHenry County Blog, agrees with Smith that figures used during the referendum campaign were correct and found her stories helpful when blogging.

"I found one of her articles prior to the campaign very revealing," he said. "I am delighted with how she covered it."

And in the end, it is those researching and critical thinking skills that contributed to her getting hired for the position in the first place, Smith says.

"Superintendent Arndt said he chose me because he wants me to play devil's advocate with the district," she said. "If I didn't know that coming in here, I would have been destined to fail. I want to keep D300 accountable."


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hold elected officials accountable for poor public school outcomes

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Courier News Newspaper on 9/9/06.

Hold elected officials accountable for poor public school outcomes

A recently released research paper shows that out of every 100 Chicago public school freshmen, only six will earn a bachelor's degree — the certificate to a middle-class lifestyle.
When only six out of 100 Chicago students graduate from a four-year college, it means 94 percent of city school children are doomed to low-paying, low-status prospects in a changing world economy that will be driven by highly-skilled, professional jobs.

This is outrageous and unacceptable. All of our elected officials should be held accountable for this systemic failure.

In this election year, Illinois voters must demand that candidates commit to a necessary part of the solution: fixing our unfair, broken system of funding public schools based on local property taxes. Without this reform, far too many kids across Illinois will continue to struggle to learn in schools with huge class sizes, outdated textbooks and materials, and few college-bound course options.

Sadly, they won't get a second chance to repeat their school years, and neither should state leaders who fail to push for comprehensive reform have a second chance to repeat their sorry performances.

Anthony Ryan


Friday, September 08, 2006

Educrats Spin Poll

The following piece appeared on the Campus Report Online website.

Educrats Spin Poll
by: Malcolm A. Kline, August 24, 2006

The Gallup poll released on Tuesday will probably be promoted by public school officials as evidence that they are doing a great job but the survey requires close examination.

“In contrast to the public’s pessimistic view of [No Child Left Behind] NCLB, the poll finds strong support for the public schools,” according to Phi Delta Kappa International. PDK conducted the poll in conjunction with the Gallup organization.

Clearly, the poll takers harbored an animus towards NCLB. Thus, it came as something of a surprise when PDK executive director Lowell Rose admitted, “Test scores have gone up and I credit NCLB and they have gone up among blacks and Hispanics.”

Actually, one of the poll questions was, “Let’s say that large numbers of public schools fail to meet the requirements established by the NCLB law. In your opinion, which would be more to blame for this—the public schools themselves or the NCLB law?”

Nearly half—48 percent—blamed the public schools while less than half—41 percent—blamed the law itself. Nonetheless, Dr. Rose concluded that, “The public holds schools blameless.”

To read the rest of the article and learn more about Campus Report Online click here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

California class size reduction. Great expenditure with minimal to no improvement in outcomes.

The following piece appears on the Education Intelligence Agency website.

California Redoubles Its Efforts. George Santayana once famously wrote: "Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim."

Fix your gaze upon this story from the Sacramento Bee, concerning the $2.9 billion deal to reduce class sizes in additional grades at California's 500 lowest performing schools. The legislature passed a law in 1996 lowering K-3 class sizes to a maximum of 20. While the article goes further than most by suggesting "the jury's still out" on across-the-board class size reduction, it seems 10 years of data should be sufficient to judge whether the tens of billions of dollars Californians have dropped into the well are making our wishes come true.

In 1998, before 4th-graders had the benefit of smaller classes, California's 4th-graders ranked ahead of only those in Hawaii and Louisiana in reading (NAEP test). The benchmark for math is 1996, where California's 4th-graders finished ahead of those in Mississippi and tied with those in Louisiana.

In 2005, California's 4th-graders beat out Mississippi in reading. Hawaii and Louisiana passed us. The brightest picture is 4th-grade math. California finished ahead of Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico, and tied with Louisiana and Nevada.

What's worse is that we have had class size reduction for so long, we can now compare the NAEP scores of 8th-graders under the old class sizes with 8th-graders who experienced four years of 20-student classes. They are virtually indistinguishable.

Everyone loves class size reduction. Parents love it. Politicians love it. Teachers love it. And unions especially love it (the new bill will mean up to 3,000 new CTA members). We all love ice cream, too. But we shouldn't pretend it's the best use of our money.

To view more stories on the Education Intelligence Agency website click here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

D-50 board approves teachers' contract

The below letter was written to the reporter in response to her District 50 article in the Northwest Herald.

Dear Jenn,

Without having seen the contract, let me make two surmises.

First, the Contract is not a 34 year contract. It will in fact be superseded by others which will increase the base salary for entry level teachers and make other adjustments up the longevity ladder. Experienced teachers would come into the system with credit for years teaching at other schools. Regarding this, it may be the first push towards an industry wide (as opposed to a factory) wage scale.

Second, the published information makes no reference to the other source of increasing salaries, commonly found in most contracts: the educational attainment part of the matrix. Credit is given and wages increased if the teacher goes back to school (evenings and summers). Usually it is increments of fifteen hours of credited additional schooling -- one semester worth. Unfortunately for the students most teachers do not take subject matter courses -- they do not, for instance, have a math degree, they are only certified to teach math. They are not qualified to take graduate level courses in the subject they teach. Some do, some have. but their numbers are quite small. So raises flow naturally through the medium of education courses.

It is the combination of longevity raises and education rewards that turn a three percent contractual raise into an actual eight percent increase in the budget.

It is important that all education reporters, all parents and all taxpayers understand this.

pete speer

D-50 board approves teachers' contract

[published on Wed, Sep 6, 2006]
HARVARD – The District 50 school board approved a base teacher salary increase of almost 11 percent at a meeting Tuesday and revamped the schedule by which raises are granted for longevity and education.

According to a joint statement from the school board and the teachers union, the Harvard Education Association, the changes were made "to help in recruitment and retention of quality teachers."

The board increased the base teacher salary to $32,000 this year and $32,500 next year from $28,860. It also changed the set salary increases for years of service and additional education from a percentage to a flat dollar amount, eliminating the compounding that gave teachers high on the pay scale larger increases each year while the teachers nearer to the base salary had comparatively small increases, school board President Ken Book said.

"In the long run, the flat-salary schedule will benefit the district and the teachers," said Book, who abstained from the 5-0 vote to approve the contract because his wife is an employee of the district. Board member Diana Bird was absent.

Mary Cooke, president of the union, said she was pleased with the contract. Going to a flat-salary schedule was necessary to accomplish the teachers' other goals, she said.

"In order to really raise our base salary, with the compounded salary schedule it became too costly," Cooke said.

Teachers also will be able to receive longevity raises for up to 34 years in the district under the new contract. Until now, their salaries topped out at 17 years.

No cuts to other education fund expenditures were made to fund the salary increases, Book said.

"We're dead on for what we had budgeted," he said.


Can we assume since they are dead on for what they budgeted that a referendum will not be needed? Probably not, a referendum will probably be likely come next spring or within the next year because the board will have underestimated the impact of the new contract. The excuse will be growth. But growth with fiscally responsible budgets and good planning can pay for itself. Let us hope Mr. Book does not let the community down.

According to a joint statement the board and the union said the contract will ".. help in recruitment and retention of quality teachers." However this does nothing to get rid of underperforming teachers protected by tenure.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Parents to launch campaign for support of referendum

The story at the end of this post appeared in the Northwest Herald and on the Students First Website. Parents who oppose this referendum must step up to the plate and start fighting this referendum now. The tactics that were used recently in Carepentersville-District 300, Huntely-District 158 and McHenry-District 15 will certainly be used to pass this referendum in Riley District 18. Ward states below "And we are being very aggressive." You can count on this. Expect literature to be sent home with your children threatening increased class sizes and program cuts, letters to the editors from teachers and their relatives, letters from children pleading emotionally for passage of the referendum, a door to door campaign by children who do not know better, announcements during school hours and encouragement from your child's teacher to encourage you to vote yes for this referendum. At the polls people from the school will check to see if you voted, if you have not voted expect a phone call on election day.

If this referendum truly had merit an "aggressive" push would not be needed. Passage of the referendum would occur on merit alone. Passage of the referendum will not ensure lower fees, reduced class sizes, improved educational outcomes but it will benefit the pocketbooks of the very people who educate your children. It will also ensure the same tactics and even larger tax burdens on your children when they are adults. Is that the kind of future you want to leave your children? Throwing more dollars at a corrupt system that refuses to spend only the revenues received ensures the perpetuation of the broken system.

We suggest parents read John Stossel's report titled Stupid in America

Three books we recommend include "Angry Parents, Failing Schools: What's Wrong With the Public Schools & What You Can Do About It" by Dr. Elaine McEwan, "Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So" by Jay P. Greene, and "Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education" by Joe Williams.

There is one or two things the voters of Marengo can count on, passage of this referendum without vocal parental opposition and excessive salary increases if this referendum passes.

Parents to launch campaign for support of referendum
By Brenda Schory

Northwest Herald

MARENGO - With barely two months to shape up a vote "yes" campaign for Riley School District 18, Lori Ward has high hopes that the public will support her cause.

"We have our committees organized. We're getting all our ducks in a row," said Ward, who co-chairs three committees and serves on a fourth. "We have about 10 weeks. And we are being very aggressive."

Riley school officials are asking voters for a 43-cent rate increase on the Nov. 7 ballot. The financially troubled district has a debt of $1 million, 40 percent of its $2.5 million operating budget.

More than program cuts or larger classrooms are at stake: State school officials warned the district that if it does not cut its spending or bring in more revenue, the state could take over running the district.

For Ward, who has one child who has graduated and another still in the one-school district, every effort counts.

"We want the public to be informed," Ward said.

"We're calling it the 'Save Our School' campaign. We're going to start pounding the pavement."

Ward co-chairs committees for printed information, canvassing neighborhoods, and telephone canvassing. She serves on the signs and public messages committee.

Board member Donna Wardzala said having parents take the lead instead of the school board might make all the difference in getting it passed.

Wardzala served as chairwoman of three previous referendum efforts, all of which failed.

"We did not have a parent group to go out and get the message out, and I think we have that now," Wardzala said.