Friday, February 24, 2006

Schools slammed for barring child

Why is it US citizens do not get school choice but illegal aliens as well as foreign students here on Visa's get school choice? The following story appeared in the February 24th, 2006 addition of the Sun-times.

Schools slammed for barring child

February 24, 2006

BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter

State Board of Education officials, led by an angry Mexican-American chairman, stripped Elmwood Park School District 401 of all state funding Thursday, saying officials there had illegally asked at least two potential students about their immigration status.

The Elmwood Park district stands to lose $3.5 million of its $30 million budget this year as a result of the state board's decision to "non-recognize'' the west suburban district. That could threaten teacher pay, the district's attorney said.

In addition, the district was suspended from the Illinois High School Association, meaning its varsity boys basketball team can't play in the Class AA boys basketball tournament on Monday and its cheerleaders can't compete in the March 4 sectional competition.

For state board Chairman Jesse Ruiz, Elmwood Park's treatment of two kids -- one from Ecuador seeking high school admission, and another from the Czech Republic seeking to attend middle school -- struck close to home.

"As the son of a Mexican American who was here illegally for eight years, you would have denied me an education,'' an angry Ruiz told Elmwood Park officials during the board's monthly meeting. "You are not supposed to discriminate against any children based on any immigration status.''

Immigration questions shouldn't even be asked during enrollment, he said.

Elmwood Park District 401 attorney Jack Murphy insisted the district was merely trying to follow federal immigration laws barring a person on a temporary B-2 visa from enrolling in a school.

The federal government has been cracking down on enforcement of that provision ever since some of the 9/11 terrorists got into the United States on B-2 visas and went on to illegally take classes here, said Murphy.

"I think what [state board members] have told us today is that you can't get your state money unless you violate federal laws. We think that's wrong,'' said Murphy, an attorney with the firm of Scariano, Himes & Petrarca.

Elmwood Park has 15 days to appeal and is hoping U.S. District Judge James Holderman will rule differently next Tuesday.

The district had been on probation since December for its admission questions as well as for barring an applicant.

A 13-year-old girl from the Czech Republic was let into Elm Middle School after she sued the district and admitted her B-2 visa had expired. That meant she was covered by a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that illegal immigrants cannot be denied a public school education, Murphy said.

But the second child, a 14-year-old from Ecuador, told the district she was here legally on a B-2 visa, so she has yet to be admitted to Elmwood Park High School, Murphy said.

State board attorney Irma Martinez Snopek said the Ecuadorian girl was "terrified'' by the district's questions and fled the state.

Other students 'being punished'

"What we are trying to do is make sure there aren't other students out there who are sitting at home doing nothing because the district says they don't want to enroll them,'' Snopek said.

After the unanimous state board vote, Ruiz explained his father came to the U.S. legally to pick crops outside Milwaukee. But when the father suffered appendicitis, the farm owner wanted to "ship him to Mexico,'' so he fled to Chicago, where he lived illegally from 1947 to 1955, Ruiz said. Ruiz said he was born in the U.S. after his father returned to Mexico, then came back to the U.S. legally.

Elmwood Park's actions violate a 1982 Supreme Court ruling called Plyler v. Doe, said Ruiz, a corporate securities attorney. He learned about the 1982 case during a University of Chicago law class taught by now U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Ruiz said.

The district superintendent was trying to schedule a board meeting for today to see "what can be done to rectify the sanctions,'' said Elmwood Park High School Principal Jim Jennings. "I'm upset and disappointed in the fact that our current students are the ones being punished,'' he said.

Don’t keep what wasn’t in the asking

The below editorial appeared in the Daily Herald. The Daily Herald is head and shoulders above all newspapers when it comes to investigating education issues. This article speaks for itself. Until loop holes are closed to protect taxpayers all referenda must be voted down.

Don’t keep what wasn’t in the asking
After Naperville Unit District 203 got what it wanted when it went out with its hat in its hands, it proceeded to pull the wool over the taxpayers’ eyes.
But at least their eyes were protected from a sharp stick yet to be thrust.

In 2002, District 203 got voter approval for a tax hike. But what it told the taxpayers it would need, and what the school district actually collected, are two immensely different things. The district admits it wound up collecting $24 million more than voters were led to expect. This is due to a loophole in the tax cap law, brought to light in an investigative series by the Daily Herald. That analysis actually showed that District 203 received $45.8 million more over four years than if the full tax increase had been collected in one year. We stand by that reporting.

The district should be faithful to what it communicated to the electorate. That means refunding the amount collected beyond what the district said, in 2002, that it needed. That means admitting error — either confusion over the tax cap law or intentionally misleading voters.

Instead, the school board has refused to refund anything, with only board members Mike Davitt and Jim Caulfield voting to lower the district’s property tax levy to allow the district to return the $24 million over time. Even a one-time refund from the district’s $8.9 million surplus, offered by board member Gerry Cassioppi, was refused.

The sharp stick.

The district explains that refunding the over-collection would leave the school program financially vulnerable. Well, if it needed that extra $24 million to eliminate the risk of financial ruin, it should have asked for it openly and honestly.

Board President Dean Reschke has an interesting revisionist view of the referendum campaign. What the district asked for, he said, was merely a projection. Therefore, it presumably is under no obligation to honor what it said.

We could see the tax increase impact, as presented in 2002, being off a few thousand bucks. But $24 million? If the district allows math students to use calculators nowadays, shouldn’t the administration be allowed the same luxury?

And if “projections” are going to be the precedent in pitching tax increases, we would recommend voters be wary of being fooled by such lack of precision in any future District 203 tax increase proposal.

The district can point out that it has agreed to forgo at least $5.3 million it could have asked for this year, courtesy of that loophole. Hold the applause. This is just money taxpayers didn’t expect to have to surrender.

The history of this issue has been one replete with denial and blaming the messengers, whether in the media or public. And it reveals a disconnect that has been revealed, time and time again in this school district, as “lack of trust.” Well, here’s a new trust-buster to deal with.

All this points out the need for the state to impose a directive on school districts in the form of a legislative closure of the tax cap loophole.

And though taxpayers in District 203 aren’t getting their money back, we recommend they deposit the school district’s handling of this matter in their memory bank. There’s a school board election next year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

School board members attack fiscally accountable school board member.

What we glean from the letter to the editor posted in the Daily Herald below is that Mr. Snow did not jump on board with the District 300 tax and spend mentality. It appears to us that D - 300 started nagging the Distrirct 158 board to shut Mr. Snow up. Let us hope he does not listen. If you research Mr. Snow you will find he is the only fiscally accoutable school board member on the District 158 board. Mr. Snow uncovered the fact the school board could take in millions of dollars more than promised the taxpayers among other items. The taxaholics do not like that.

When reviewing the D 300 finances he found millions of dollars in unaccounted for revenue. It appears that D - 300 is doing all they can to make Mr. Snow look bad and shut him up. Yet another reason to vote "no".

The school board members in the letter to the editor below are hypocritical. In 2004, board member Skaja wrote a letter to the editor and signed it as a board member, clearly advocating a yes vote on their referendum. She also
defended CFO Paul Halvorsen who was subsequently lost his job for withholding information from the
public. Her letter is at Election

Then at a board meeting in 2004, the Daily Herald quoted her as saying they were having "informational"
meetings to ensure the referendum passed. You can view that article here.

Further comments about this matter can be viewed at Cal Skinners site McHenry County BLOG

Snow doesn’t speak for Dist.158 board

District 158 board and finance committee member Larry Snow has engaged in speaking at various events both within and outside District 158. Some of the comments he made at these events were published in local papers.

As board members, we would like to clarify that Snow was not speaking on behalf of District 158, the board of education or our finance committee. We regret any damaging effects his comments may have on the staff, students and residents of District 300 and surrounding communities.

Snow also called upon local village officials and accused them of not caring about children. Furthermore, he attempted to mislead them into thinking he was speaking as a representative of District 158. We regret any damaging effects his comments to those officials may have had.

We would like to publicly state that board President Mike Skala and interim Superintendent Robert Hammon are the spokesmen for our board. No one else has been given authority to represent District 158 at public meetings.

We further encourage concerned officials and citizens to contact the board of education through the District 158 administration at (847) 659-6158 regarding any concerns about representations by Snow.

Every citizen, whether a member of an elected board or not, has a right to free speech. However, it is our hope that everyone understands a board of education member has no legal authority as an individual and that board decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a board of education meeting.

We would also like to clarify that we are signing this letter as individual board members.

Frank Coleman, Huntley

Shawn Green, Union

Kim Skaja, Union

Mike Skala, Huntley

Glen Stewart, Huntley

Rosemary Herringer


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

District 181 investigates tax mistake

The Daily Herald
has another great story relating to public education issues. Are the school board member and the administrator in the story below incompetent or purposely trying to cheat the public. Decide for yourself.

District 181 investigates tax mistake
By Catherine Edman
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2006

School board members in Hinsdale Elementary District 181 want to know why an extra $5 million wound up in the district’s property tax request this year despite their explicit orders to the contrary.

Monday night the board discussed who was responsible, meeting behind closed doors for several hours to talk about “personnel.”

“On the surface it appears to be an innocent mistake; however, it’s a serious one,” board member Kevin Hanrahan said.

Last week, the board learned that despite its direction to the administration, officials requested $43.6 million, not $38.6 million, from the property tax rolls in 2005.

Board Vice President Bill Moucka refused to comment on the results of the investigation into the multimillion-dollar gaffe, saying the board would release a statement at next Monday’s board meeting. The investigation remains ongoing, he said, adding that the board was assured by the district attorney, as well as by the DuPage and Cook county clerks, the error can be corrected with “no difference to the taxpayer.”

Other board members said they are concerned, though, about how the mistake will play to residents already skeptical of the district’s fiscal management.

In December, the board voted 4-3 to drop the 2005 property tax request by $5 million after residents pointed out the district took far more money from a 2002 tax rate increase than it promised voters four years ago. Before the vote, the administration presented three financial options ranging from $38.6 million to $43.6 million and argued strongly in favor of the largest amount.

The board, amid much controversy, opted for $38.6 million.

At last week’s meeting, though, former Glen Ellyn resident Michael Lynch presented copies of the county tax levy documents to the board, showing the district requested the $43.6 million.

“I was surprised, disappointed and concerned,” said Hanrahan, who was among those who had voted for the $38.6 million request.

Officials, who could not be reached Monday, had said at last week’s meeting the documents were submitted in error, board members said.

Catherine Delany, a board member whose signature appears on several of the forms, she said she did not notice the amount was wrong when they were presented for her to sign.

Delany was among the members who voted to drop the levy request in December because it was clear the district exceeded the amount it told voters to expect when it asked them to approve a 31-cent increase in the education fund. The district said the cost would be an additional $605 per year for the owner of a $600,000 house, but then it used a portion of the property tax cap law that allows it to continue taking more money for up to five years.

A Daily Herald analysis last year of 25 school districts, of which District 181 was not included, showed they took $263 million more than voters likely expected over a span of five years using the same portion of the law.

“We told them it was going to cost $605 additional a year,” said Delany, a seven-year board member in District 181. “We lied — it cost hundreds more than that. I felt we should have taken the amount we asked for.”

Asking for less money than the district was legally entitled to this year, or only $38.6 million in property taxes, was “the only way we could stop overtaxing,” she said.

Click here to view the rest of the story in the Daily Herald.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Oberweis terms tenure for teachers ‘bunk’

As many of you know CRAFT has getting rid tenure in the K -12 system as part of the No Taxpayer Left Behind platform.

Oberweis terms tenure for teachers ‘bunk’
By Eric Krol
Daily Herald Political Writer
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2006

Republican governor candidate Jim Oberweis called teacher tenure “bunk” Friday, suggesting the state scrap the practice in favor of a system based on merit pay.

“If you really care and you really want to improve our educational system, you’ve got to reward the best teachers and you’ve got to get rid of the bad teachers,” said Oberweis in a meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board. “Tenure does one thing. It protects the bad teachers.”

That stand puts the Sugar Grove dairy magnate alone among the four major candidates running in the March 21 Republican governor primary. Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka of Riverside, Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz and Bloomington state Sen. Bill Brady support teacher tenure.

The tenure question was spurred by a downstate Small Newspaper Group series last year that showed only 38 of the state’s 876 school districts have ever been successful in firing a teacher the past 18 years.

“Absolutely I would get rid of tenure because it only hurts the school system,” Oberweis said. “It only helps keep the bad teacher in their position.”

Oberweis acknowledged his stance probably wouldn’t win him support from teachers and teacher unions, but said he’s “a businessman, not a politician.”

He suggested a merit-based pay system for teachers, but would leave the details to be worked out by a panel of experts he’d appoint if elected.

For the rest of the story click here to go to the Daily Herald.

Oberweis only candidate to support school choice for parents and children

Solutions to improve education vary candidate by candidate
By John Chase and Rick Pearson
Chicago Tribune

Republicans and Democrats running for governor all agree more needs to be done to improve education in Illinois, but they have sharp disagreements about the best way to achieve those successes.

For Republican Judy Baar Topinka, Illinois can't make significant improvements to public education without first addressing a budget she says is imbalanced, begin paying down the state's growing pension obligation, and cutting burgeoning health-care expenses.

But the incumbent, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, says more can be done now to increase the state's contributions to school districts across the state, particularly those in poorer communities.

The answers from the two--as well as from the other Democratic and three other major Republican candidates seeking nominations March 21 for governor--came in response to the second Tribune questionnaire on issues confronting the state.

Nearly every candidate agreed that the state's current funding system for education is too reliant on property taxes. But none was willing to embrace a tax swap that would probably bring more equity to education funding statewide by reducing property taxes while increasing state taxes.

Republican Ron Gidwitz, a businessman from Chicago and former head of the State Board of Education, acknowledged that the idea should be examined, as did Democrat Edwin Eisendrath, who is currently a vice president at Kendall College.

"I'll put the entire revenue system on the table," said Eisendrath, the governor's sole opponent in the Democratic primary.

Republican Bill Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, has a proposal to dedicate half of all natural revenue growth for education, which he estimates would be about $1 billion over four years. Aurora businessman Jim Oberweis said school vouchers allowing taxpayer dollars to help pay for private school tuition is the answer.

"Parents deserve to have a choice in the marketplace among a full range of public and private options," Oberweis said.

Both Blagojevich and Topinka said the key to improving education is increasing state funding to boost the minimum amount of money spent on each student in the state, which is known as the foundation level.

"We have raised the foundation level by $600 per student. Previous administrations averaged much less," Blagojevich said.

Topinka, the state's three-term treasurer, argues that though Blagojevich has increased the foundation level, he hasn't increased it as much as he promised.

"Four years ago, candidate Rod Blagojevich promised to raise the foundation level $250 a year or $1,000 over his four-year term," she said.

Topinka and Blagojevich also have a significant disagreement over what the state's response should be to claims by the Chicago Public Schools that it is facing one of the worst fiscal crises in recent memory.

Blagojevich has promised $100 million in state aid to help, but Topinka said making the promise is a "knee-jerk response." Instead, she said that if she's elected, the Chicago schools will have to make their case before getting a dime of new money.

Oberweis said the answer is to allow "children and parents escape from failing schools" through vouchers, while Gidwitz said the answer to the Chicago schools' problems is for the state to adopt a "zero-based" strategy that starts the state's spending process from scratch each year. That move would free up more money for schools statewide, he said.

"Chicago is not alone in suffering from a lack of resources," Gidwitz said.

"More than 80 percent of the school districts in the state are operating at a deficit."

Eisendrath said teacher training needs to be improved, as does school management, with which Brady agreed.

"I will use the savings from eliminating bureaucracy to incrementally increase classroom spending," Brady said.

Brady was the only candidate who said that if elected, he would dismantle the State Board of Education and restructure it into a department that reports directly to the governor. Most of the others said they would change the board's makeup with more members "independent" of the governor's office.

To view the rest of the article click here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pensions obligations - Yet another reason to vote "NO" March 21st

The item below was put together by our friend Bill Zettler. Passing referenda increases salaries placing a larger burden on the taxpayers (that includes you) who pay 80% of the pensions. Today's pension burdens will be paid for by your children and grandchildren. We need legislation reform and spending reform. Throwing more money at the problem only makes the problem worse.


The top pension in 2005 was $357,800 as opposed to last years measly $314,000. To give you an idea of what that pension is worth think about it this way: in order to receive $357,800 in interest each year you would have to buy a CD worth at least $7 million.

In 2005 the State of Illinois continued to make 1,000’s of pension millionaires out of retired public employees with the taxpayer picking up the tab. Here are some more disturbing pension facts:

…In 2005 1,578 former state employees had pensions of over $100,000, up 40% from 2004’s 1,129. Next year we should easily cross the 2,000 mark.

…Last year 24 former public employees had pensions greater than President Clinton. Despite a nice increase for Clinton, this year’s total is 29.

…For the first time you need a pension of at least $150,000 to even make it into the Top 100.

…Ninety of the 100 were University or K-12 employees meaning they probably spent the majority of their careers working 9 months a year with tenure.

…Over 80% of the pension payment comes from taxpayers.

…Over 275 state pensions had MONTHLY payments greater than average Social Security ANNUAL payment of $11,000.

… Former U of I coach Lou Henson left Illinois for New Mexico years ago but we, the generous taxpayers of Illinois, continue to send him pension checks totaling $250,440 per year.

Another way to look at it is the top pension is 33 times the amount the average Social Security recipient receives and 12 times the median wage of the average full time Illinois worker ($28,806).

Why do average people, most of whom do not have enough money for their own retirement, have to pay taxes to buy the equivalent of a $7 million CD for one public employee?

If these former Illinois Public employees had been on Social Security and a 401K program during their working years (like the rest of us) taxpayer liability for their pensions would be zero as opposed to $182 Billion for the Teacher Retirement System alone.

Increased spending reduces literacy.

COLUMN: Vin Suprynowicz

Increased school spending reduces literacy

I got a phone call last week from the head of one of the many departments in the Clark County School District which I had mentioned in my March 16 essay on elephantine school districts, headlined "Mission Creep."

"Do you even know what my department does?" demanded the fellow, whose listing in the district's administrative phone directory says only "Warranty Department."

I had no idea, I said. And, I continued, that was the whole point of the listing: The sheer number -- hundreds -- of bureaucrats being paid $60,000 and $80,000 and more per year, leeches living off taxpayer funds to do things the average taxpayer doesn't know about, doesn't understand, has never been told about, and couldn't possibly be expected to explain, justify or favor if he were asked to.

"And you think just because the taxpayers are too stupid to understand the importance of what my department does, that's a reason we should be closed down?" he asked.

Even though I had not proposed any specific department be "closed down," I wrote down his words, because I couldn't possibly have invented such a succinct summary of bureaucratic arrogance if I'd tried.

It's apparently fine to require the great unwashed masses of cud-chewing taxpayers, at gunpoint, to pay for all this bureaucratic overhead (the fellow's department apparently double-checks to make sure private contractors are building new school buildings properly). But the bureaucrats should in no way be subject to the whims of those taxpayers, should they try to stop funding functions they don't understand, which have never been explained to them, and which have never been tested against any free-market competitive model to find out if they're truly necessary, or even being done at anywhere near as low a cost as possible.

(Care to compare administrative and maintenance costs at the average private or parochial school to those at a tax-funded campus?)

"Leeches?" my supercilious caller shrieked, pretending to laugh but instead issuing forth with something more like the chattering of an African pack scavenger. "There are no guns involved," he sneered. "Taxes are paid voluntarily."

"You're telling me that if I refuse to pay the property taxes that prop up the government schools, men with uniforms and guns won't eventually come and surround my house with yellow police tape, set my belongings out on the sidewalk, and auction it off?" I asked.

"Well, of course," my caller replied. "If you don't pay your taxes you have to pay the consequences. That's the free choice you have -- to pay your taxes or to face the consequences."

That was his definition of "voluntary," as opposed to coercion. Comply or get evicted from your own home -- and if you resist that, run the risk of getting shot or burned out with incendiary grenades.

"He lost the argument right there," volunteered a visiting Arizona Baptist minister of my acquaintance, with whom I happened to have dinner the following evening. "If you're not willing to admit that taxes are mandatory, that they're collected by the coercive use of force -- even if it's only applied to the occasional protester to 'set an example' -- then there's no common moral ground on which you can continue that discussion."

My chortling caller next tried to get me to admit that building new government school buildings was necessary.

Just the opposite, I said. New York state (government) teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto, in his book "The Underground History of American Education," cites statistics from the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirming that the literacy rate in this country in 1940 was 96 percent for whites and 80 percent for blacks, but fell over the next 60 years to 83 percent for whites and 60 percent for blacks.

"Put another way," Gatto reveals, "black illiteracy doubled; white illiteracy quadrupled," despite the fact that "We spend three or four times as much real money on schooling as we did 60 years ago."

Why this change since the 1940s? It was during the Second World War that the government schools began to abandon the old, tried-and-true, phonetic method of teaching reading, Mr. Gatto reports.

If we built fewer government schools, that would increase pressure on parents to either home-school or get their kids into private schools, which would rescue more millions of souls from the enervating government youth indoctrination camps.

My caller could respond only by alternating between snorting, chuckling and cackling his disbelief that I could actually dare to say such things. "Where would all these private schools come from?" he sputtered.

"That's the same question they used to ask in the Soviet Union when it was suggested the state get out of the food distribution business and allow the private sector to take over: 'Where would all these so-called "private grocery stores" come from?! The greedy capitalists would charge such high prices that millions would starve!' Yet it turns out the free market works just fine, as always; in America everybody gets more and better food for less."

For the rest of the story go to Las Vegas Review Journal

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of the books "Send in the Waco Killers" and "The Ballad of Carl Drega."