Saturday, January 07, 2006

School officials may get pay hike

The story below was originally posted in the Peoria Journal Star and also is posted on Students First. The greed of these administrators is amazing the incompetence of of this school board is astounding. The board should be voted out of office for giving these raises. Raises of 27.5% and 28% should never be given out when they have a deficit of 7.9 million dollars. The administrators are already in the top 10% of wage earners nationwide. Some school employees have lost touch with reality and want the common man earns. How people who are in the top 10% of wage earners nationwide think they are underpaid is unfathomable. These salaries are even more excessive when you consider the cost of living in the Peoria area.

School officials may get pay hike
By Elaine Hopkins

Peoria Journal Star

PEORIA - Retroactive pay raises of about 28 percent are planned for two District 150 associate superintendents, though the School Board still must vote on them.

The raises for Cynthia Fischer and Herschel Hannah Jr. will boost their annual pay to $130,000, effective July 1 of last year.

The raises became known when community activist Mimi McDonald used the Freedom of Information Act to ask about them and received details in a letter dated Dec. 22 from Guy Cahill, the district's controller/treasurer.

Cahill said Fisher now is being paid $111,000. That's a 9 percent increase she already received in the current fiscal year - which started July 1 - over her pay of $101,501 from the previous year. From that rate at the end of the 2004-05 fiscal year, her proposed raise would be a 28 percent increase.

Hannah is making $102,000, the same as last year, with a raise to $130,000 a 27.5 percent increase.

Both entered the District 150 administration in the fall of 2004, when they were earning more than $92,200 as principals.

"The board in consensus agreed on (the proposed new) salaries," Cahill said Thursday. "We made it public when administrative salaries were frozen for people in the same positions, with exceptions for the two associates because they changed positions."

Both had been serving as interim superintendents until last summer. Fischer's increase to $111,000 was "an adjustment, not a raise," Cahill added.

Asked why the proposed raises have not been voted on, Cahill said they "fell through the cracks" when the position of human resources director was vacant.

Superintendent Ken Hinton has a contract and is being paid $185,000 plus an allowance for expenses, Cahill said. Last year, Hinton made $165,303, when he had a temporary contract,

Board president Alicia Butler said Thursday she did not recall any public discussion of the amount of the proposed raises, which must be voted on in open session. "It's not on the agenda for Monday," she added.

Butler said the amounts concerned her, since they would pay for another teacher or security guard. "We certainly have to scrutinize every dollar and that includes salaries," she said.

District 150 expects a deficit of $7.9 million this year and has approved tax levies that will increase taxes by $61 on a $100,000 residence.

Raises for unions in District 150 this year range from 1.9 percent for custodians to 3.7 percent for teachers.

Lisa Uphoff, field representative for the Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Paraprofessional Unit, Local 6099, said the administrative raises were discussed at a meeting of the union coalition Wednesday night.

"It was a surprise to everyone there. We were under the assumption that all administrative salaries were frozen," she said.

Hinton could not be reached for comment.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Why Mommy and Daddy Can’t Read...

Why Mommy and Daddy Can’t Read -
Public Education’s Crisis and The Stockholm Syndrome

Nearly 50 years ago, Rudolph Flesch wrote a best-selling book called Why Johnny Can’t Read, and identified for the first time the epic proportions of illiteracy that were then plaguing our nation. The book put the blame squarely at the feet of poor reading instruction, and the lack of phonics which years later would also be identified as the number one cause of poor reading proficiency. While some believe Johnny’s prospects may have improved a bit since then, and there is evidence that some students are making progress, it seems that grown-up Johnny has equally paltry literacy skills. As parents, Johnny and his wife also have trouble meeting the basic demands of a literate society.

Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that fully a third of college graduates are incapable of reading “lengthy English texts and making complex references from the readings.” According to former California prosecutor and now - high school teacher Patrick Mattimore, “while the educational attainment of America’s adults increased between 1992 and 2003, the percentages of college graduates scoring at the proficient level declined by nine percentage points.”

To view the rest of the story click here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006 Because Education reform is not rocket science!

This site was actually started by a very brilliant public school teacher. He was an engineering student when the teaching bug bit. This fact does not surprise us at CRAFT since many of the education reformists we meet are engineers of one form or another. Engineers appear to have the math skills, problem solving skills and a mastery of logic that makes them excellent education reformists. This is a must read site with a plethora of information.

This great quote is on his website. "We accept no excuses. Excuses do children no favors. We refuse to accept that a child is too poor to learn. We refuse to accept that a parent is too detached to participate. We refuse to accept that a school system is too poor to demand high standards from its students."

-Paul G. Vallas

We agree with Mr. Vallas.

We feel that Education Reform has been portrayed as rocket science by an army of self-serving consultants, publishers, and "experts," when instead there are a few very, very simple culprits to our educational woes.

Lack of Choice: Why is it that in any other area of our lives we don't tolerate the government telling us what to do or what to choose, yet when people propose giving parents real choice (for example in the form of vouchers, or even permitting parents to homeschool), the response is, "Nooooo, that will destroy public education!" In fact, the only thing that would be destroyed is the government monopoly over education. Please see the Milton Friedman Foundation for more.

Low Standards: In far too many schools, especially in our cities, there are crushingly low standards for our children. A common refrain is "they can't!" when describing what poor or minority students can or can't do. This mindset helps the staff of ineffective schools get to work each day, but it does nothing to prepare our kids.

Lack of Discipline: In far too many schools, behavior standards are rare or nonexistent. We've taught in schools where the routine nature of uncivilized conduct made teaching and learning all but impossible. Should the students be blamed for this? Of course not, they are just acting within the boundaries--or lack thereof--established by the adults of the school. The flip side of this is also a problem. "Zero Tolerance" policies are also due to the adults' lack of discipline!

Fuzzy Curriculum: One of the biggest reasons our students are performing poorly relates to our poor choice of curricula. Math appreciation is taught under the NCTM's New New Math, reading appreciation is taught under Balanced Literacy and Whole Language, and culture appreciation is taught in soft-core social studies. And don't get us started on the political correctness which has usurped science.

In more than a few cities, the specific curriculum was tossed in favor of a bare-bones "curriculum frameworks"--frameworks which were famous for their vagueness. This was done in the hopes that a "constructivist pedagogy will inform teachers' choices in the classroom" or other drivel.

Teacher Indoctrination: One sound bite the general public hears is "we need more certified teachers!" Yet no one asks what teachers learn in their certification courses. And people don't ask if certified teachers have been proven to be more effective than non-certified ones. What may shock people is that the best private schools in the U.S. refuse to hire certified teachers! That should tell you something. Which leads us to...

Theory over Practice: This is the primary message teachers receive in their 2-years of brainwashing teacher certification classes. If someone wanted to learn how to grow corn in Iowa, or build a bridge over a windy channel, or navigate a corporation through the waters of Chapter 11, or design a really absorbent diaper ... the first step would be to speak to the people who've been successful at those very things!

The site has a section titled Education Reform Blueprint. To view the complete blueprint click here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Camera found in D-2 school bathroom

CRAFT received an email about the incident below on January 2nd, 2006. The writer had asked the school board and superintendent about this incident. Why does it have to take involved parents to bring incidents like this to light. If this parent had not spoken up would the school officials still be sitting on this information? Parents should have received notice of this incident shortly after it happened. More proof that schools are more concerned about their image than actually protecting the children that they serve.

The article below appeared in the January 4 edition of the Northwest Herald.

Camera found in D-2 school bathroom

Video inside

[published on Wed, Jan 4, 2006]
RICHMOND – Nippersink District 2 suspended one of its employees last month after a teacher found a hidden wireless camera in a staff bathroom at Richmond Grade School, Superintendent Paul Hain said Tuesday.

Hain said students, who return from winter break today, are in no danger.

District officials would not name the employee but said the person was not a teacher.

"We are trying to do this as legally and dutifully as we can right now," Hain said. "If there is any truth to this, the school board will fire in a heartbeat anybody who has done that."

Richmond Police Chief Rich Contant said the department had a suspect but had not filed any charges in connection with the incident.

A male teacher used the bathroom Dec. 13 to change his clothes after finding all the bathrooms near the gymnasium full. As the teacher bent over to collect his things, he noticed the small camera under the sink, Hain said.

"It was pointed at the toilet," Hain said.

The bathroom, which is behind the school's kitchen, is used by kitchen staff, maintenance workers, and occasionally teachers. It is a private bathroom, without a stall, that can be used by either men or women.

CBS 2 Video

Richmond police started their investigation Dec. 14 but did not search the rest of the bathrooms until Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.

Winter break started Dec. 21, one week after the camera was found.

Contant said they did not find any more cameras in other bathrooms.

"Parents should not be concerned for their kids at this point," Contant said. "The camera was found in a bathroom, but not one used by children."

Hain said police seized some of the school's equipment, including a computer, as evidence, but he said he did not know whether any images were recovered.

"They are checking to see if any of it was used or if there were any latent images," Hain said.

Contant said he was waiting for a forensics lab to tell him what they have and said he will check with the state attorney's office to see if they have another evidence to press charges.

Hain said the school board will fire the employee if there is credible evidence, even if charges are never filed.

"We don't have to have that same standard of evidence in order to take an action," he said.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Teachers' Pets

Teachers' Pets
The NEA gave $65 million in its members' dues to left-liberal groups last year

Tuesday, January 3, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

If we told you that an organization gave away more than $65 million last year to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups, you'd probably assume we were describing a liberal philanthropy. In fact, those expenditures have all turned up on the financial disclosure report of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union.

Under new federal rules pushed through by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, large unions must now disclose in much more detail how they spend members' dues money. Big Labor fought hard (if unsuccessfully) against the new accountability standards, and even a cursory glance at the NEA's recent filings--the first under the new rules--helps explain why. They expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.

We already knew that the NEA's top brass lives large. Reg Weaver, the union's president, makes $439,000 a year. The NEA has a $58 million payroll for just over 600 employees, more than half of whom draw six-figure salaries. Last year the average teacher made only $48,000, so it seems you're better off working as a union rep than in the classroom.

Many of the organization's disbursements--$30,000 to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, $122,000 to the Center for Teaching Quality--at least target groups that ostensibly have a direct educational mission. But many others are a stretch, to say the least. The NEA gave $15,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." The National Women's Law Center, whose Web site currently features a "pocket guide" to opposing Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, received $5,000. And something called the Fund to Protect Social Security got $400,000, presumably to defeat personal investment accounts.

The new disclosure rules mark the first revisions since 1959 and took effect this year. "What wasn't clear before is how much of a part the teachers unions play in the wider liberal movement and the Democratic Party," says Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a California-based watchdog group. "They're like some philanthropic organization that passes out grant money to interest groups."

There's been a lot in the news recently about published opinion that parallels donor politics. Well, last year the NEA gave $45,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, which regularly issues reports that claim education is underfunded and teachers are underpaid. The partisans at People for the American Way got a $51,000 NEA contribution; PFAW happens to be vehemently anti-voucher.

The extent to which the NEA sends money to states for political agitation is also revealing. For example, Protect Our Public Schools, an anti-charter-school group backed by the NEA's Washington state affiliate, received $500,000 toward its efforts to block school choice for underprivileged children. (Never mind that charter schools are public schools.) And the Floridians for All Committee, which focuses on "the construction of a permanent progressive infrastructure that will help redirect Florida politics in a more progressive, Democratic direction," received a $249,000 donation from NEA headquarters.
When George Soros does this sort of thing, at least he's spending his own money. The NEA is spending the mandatory dues paid by members who are told their money will be used to gain better wages, benefits and working conditions. According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals.

The good news is that for the first time members can find out how their union chieftains did their political thinking for them, by going to , where the Labor Department has posted the details.

Union officials claim that they favored such transparency all along, but the truth is they fought the new rules hard in both Congress and the courts. Originally, the AFL-CIO said detailed disclosures were too expensive, citing compliance costs in excess of $1 billion. The final bill turned out to be $54,000, or half of what the unions spent on litigation fighting the new requirements. When Secretary Chao refused to back down, the unions took her to court, and lost.
It's well understood that the NEA is an arm of the Democratic National Committee. (Or is it the other way around?) But we wonder if the union's rank-and-file stand in unity behind this laundry list of left-to-liberal recipients of money that comes out of their pockets.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Letting Literacy Slip

The opinion below appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Letting literacy slip
Marked decline checks in as students are swamped with test-taking tips — and the latest electronic toys

Published on: 12/30/05
At every level of education, Americans are faltering in their ability to grasp a newspaper story or a passage in a book.

This skill is known as prose literacy, and it's declining even among well-educated Americans. The latest sampling of adult literacy by the National Center for Education Statistics found a 10 percentage point drop in graduate students who tested proficient in prose literacy in 2003 compared to the last time it was measured in 1992.

There was also a marked slip among college students testing proficient; 40 percent in 1992 and 31 percent in 2003.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy gauges Americans' fluency in reading text and documents such as maps and labels. It also looks at quantitative literacy, a person's ability to understand tax forms, tables or bank statements.

To be ranked proficient, an adult has to be able to read and extract information from complex materials, such as legal documents. "No group, not even those with the highest levels of formal education, had an average in the proficient level on any of the scales," says National Center for Education Statistics commissioner Mark Schneider.

The sampling found that 13 percent of adults demonstrated "below basic prose literacy." According to Schneider, that translates to 30 million Americans who "could not do much more than sign a form or search a simple document to find out what they are allowed to drink before a medical test."

What's hard to understand is how literacy is falling at the same time that schools are making reading their top priority.

The poor showing on the national literacy assessment even among college grads ought to generate discussion at both state and federal levels about whether test-driven reform is creating better test-takers rather than better readers. As schools concentrate more resources on teaching kids how to bubble in the correct answers on standardized tests, less time is available to develop critical thinking skills.

If a generation of test drilling produces adults unable to decipher nutrition labels, then education will have failed miserably.

But it's not only schools that need to re-examine their tactics. How many children received video games, IPods and DVDs for Christmas rather than any books or board games? Among the must-have items this holiday season for kids were the Xbox 360, I-Dog, an electronic dog that hooks up to a digital music player, and ChatNow, a two-way radio.

Too many children have also cleared their bookshelves of books to accommodate televisions. A survey commissioned last year by the National Sleep Foundation found that 43 percent of school-age children, 30 percent of preschoolers and 18 percent of toddlers now have televisions in their bedrooms.

Consider a new poll of public high-school students by the city of Boston. Released by the city a week ago, the survey found that half of the teens devoted three or more hours each night to watching television and that four out of 10 spent that same amount of time on the Internet or playing computer games.

The real quest of schools and parents is not to cram children full of facts, but to teach them how to gather and evaluate information. Literacy is the requisite first step to that goal.

The below was sent to us by our friend Joyce Morrison of News With Views.

"Now the Print Media Is Getting Worried"
by Donna Garner
Jan. 1, 2006

It is so ironic to me that the print media has led the fight to inundate our country in multiculturalism and to de-emphasize our country's historical foundation in Western civilization. With that has come a resistance in our schools toward teaching primary historical documents and the traditional classics which immerse students in deep vocabulary and higher-level thinking skills -- the very skills which the Atlanta-Constitution editorial board now lament have been lost by a large percentage of Americans (please see article posted below).

When whole language was exposed after damaging at least two generations of students and lowering their reading levels, the print media along with concerned Americans should have insisted that the public schools teach children to read through research-based methods and then to make sure that students are immersed in high-quality literature. Instead, the media has aligned themselves with the very organizations which have promoted the dumbing down of America (e.g., NEA, NCEE, NCTE, IRA, NCTM, NBPTS, NCATE, etc.). It is only recently that the print media has come to realize they are losing their readership; now they are getting worried.

Where were they when we classroom teachers who wrote the Texas Alternative Document (TAD -- tried to bring back quality literature to the children in our state? I don't remember the media fighting alongside us to force the education establishment to respond to the TAD's attempts to implement the time-honored classics into our state's standards.

With the power to persuade which the print media has utilized for many years, if the TAD had had the print media's full support, every child in our Texas public schools would now be reading quality literature and historical documents which would provide that much-needed foundational knowledge that helps children increase their skills and reading levels each year. Instead, our students are reading multicultural, politically correct drivel which has been chosen because of its social agenda and the ethnicity of the author instead of being chosen based upon the author's superior writing skills. Our textbooks are filled with distracting graphics which de-emphasize the written word, and students are wasting away their precious classroom minutes by playing on computers rather than on reading the time-honored literary pieces of the world.

The result will be an ever-growing slump in reading abilities which will eventually have dire ramifications for the future of our nation. It will also mean that the print media, to stay in business, will be forced to lower the reading level of its articles. This will mean shallower coverage, more bias, shorter articles, non-engaging depth, more sound bites, and less sophisticated writing style in their articles. If the print media were smart, they would use their tremendous ability to influence the public; and they would lead in the fight to get the public schools to require students to read the cherished works which have linked each generation of Americans with past generations. Instead, multicultural/politically correct pabulum reigns supreme in most public schools; and the print media will continue to lose its readership.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Taxpayers deserve better from Dist. 203

This appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 1, 2006 issue of the Daily Herald. Imagine the millions of taxpayer dollars that could be saved if we had more responsible school board members like Mike Davitt.

Taxpayers deserve better from Dist. 203
Thanks to reporting by the Daily Herald, taxpayers discovered that many school districts were taking advantage of referendums through a loophole in the tax law (a loophole legislators are now scrambling to correct). Nevertheless, District 203 collected somewhere between $24 million to $36 million more than what was originally projected by the 2002 referendum.////

I made a motion to reduce our 2005 levy by $5.8 million (3 percent of our $200 million budget). My rationale was since we over collected $24 million to $36 million more than what voters authorized in 2002, returning some of it was the simply the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, the majority of the board didn’t think we could afford to give any of the money back and voted 5-2 to keep it all. It was the same 5-2 vote that reasoned we could afford to give teachers a 5.2 percent raise for the next three years following six years of 6 percent raises.

Our operating budget has tripled in 15 years (from $69 million in 1990 to $200 million today). Has your home tripled in value? Taxpayers cannot be expected to sustain this level of spending growth.

If only taxpayers could borrow a page from the Naperville Unit Education Association play book and hold parents and students hostage with the threat of a strike perhaps they would have more leverage.

Merry Christmas, Naperville taxpayers.

Mike Davitt