Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tax increases you do not get to vote on.

The Daily Herald
hits another one out of the park. Below is a perfect example of how school boards continue to cheat taxpayers out of their hard earned dollars. School boards should not be allowed to pass these back door referenda without voter approval.

Refinancing will cost Dist. 15 taxpayers
By Ethan Grove
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, March 04, 2006

Restructuring Palatine Township Elementary District 15’s debt, which also will provide $5 million for life-safety improvements, will cost residents an additional $11.5 million over five years.

That figure — which includes $5 million in principal, the costs of restructuring about $5.5 million in debt, and fees and interest — was presented by David Schott and Ivan Samstein of LaSalle Bank to the school board Friday night during a special meeting for residents to comment on and ask questions about the refinancing.

The $11.5 million would be paid at about $2.3 million annually starting in 2021, Schott and Samstein said. All figures are subject to change until the deal is finalized.

District 15 is currently paying $4.9 million — which will remain consistent until 2020 — for a portion of its debt.

The board voted 4-3 at its Feb. 8 meeting for the restructuring, which will extend its debt five years.

Some residents who spoke at Friday’s meeting were in favor of refinancing, while some were opposed to it, and others wanted to know how much it would cost taxpayers.

The district’s life-safety survey results put a series of repairs into three categories — A, B and C, with A being mandatory and urgent — to be completed over about 10 years.

The A list projects are estimated to cost about $1.3 million, and the board voted in December to change the tax levy to move about 5 cents from the transportation fund into the life-safety fund — for a total of about $1.7 million — to make those improvements.

The B and C repairs will need to be made at some point, but are not as urgent, board members said.

“This stuff is so complicated, and to rush it through like this is a crime,” board member Tim Millar said before the meeting. “We’re manufacturing the need instead of managing it. We do need to do these things, but the roofs aren’t collapsing today, which is why they aren’t in A.”

“My feeling is we need to do some of those B things now,” Superintendent Robert McKanna said. “We’re going to need a fair amount of money next year and the year after just for building and grounds repairs.”

Board member Wendy Rowden questioned whether now is the right time to refinance debt.

“Right now the bond rates are favorable,” board President Scott Boucher said.

The district will shift the $1.7 million from the life-safety fund into the education fund so the district can rehire some teachers and administrators, McKanna said.

Friday, March 03, 2006

State Funding, Percentage Rankings, and Choice

John Biver of the Family Taxpayer Network wrote this great piece. Yet another reason to vote no on all education referenda.

State Funding, Percentage Rankings, and Choice
By John Biver

After reading the rants of those who want ever more of your tax dollars, you may think that anyone arguing for better financial management in the public schools hates children. Actually, Illinois taxpayers love kids – and have been showing it by increasing funding at twice the rate of inflation for over twenty years. Illinois schools are not poorly funded.

First, a note about “state funding” versus “local funding.” The state maintains the ultimate responsibility for funding public schools since local governments are subject to the state.

Some would have you believe that the current system results from the state government shunning its responsibility. On the contrary, it was the citizens of the state deciding that local control of public education funding was preferable to having all decisions emanate from Springfield.

The current hullabaloo over state funding results from the simple fact that the public school establishment doesn’t like that too many local citizens are saying ‘no’ to ever increasing taxes by voting down referendums. Since local taxpayers won’t give them what they want, they turn to calling the state government bad names.

Illinois’ rankings show that Illinois schools are not poorly funded: (Source: NEA Rankings & Estimates, 2004)

Nationally, Illinois is:

* 3rd in public school revenue as a percentage of combined state and local revenues

* 11th in K-12 public school spending per student (average daily attendance)

* 14th in public school revenue per student (average daily attendance)

To view the rest of the article click here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Yet another reason to vote no on referenda. Officials try to reform complicated state- funded pension system

The story below appeared in The Southern

Officials try to reform complicated state- funded pension system

BY JIM MUIR and Caleb Hale
Perhaps the best word to describe the myriad of state-funded pension systems in Illinois is "complicated."

The state has 15 retirement systems. All but two are set up to allow employees to mix services from different government agencies such as school districts, universities and other state employment. The retirement plan also allows an employee to move his or her years of service into the most lucrative plan available in order to garner the highest possible monthly pension.

In other words, there are numerous loopholes state employees can and do use to pad retirement benefits.

Jon Bauman, executive director of the State Teacher's Retirement System, recently discussed a retirement package that will pay James Hintz, a financial officer at Adlai Stevenson High School, more than $200,000 annually as long as he lives. Hintz received end-of-career stipends and pay raises of more than $100,000, which ballooned his final year salary that is used to determine his pension benefits.

Bauman called the retirement package "legal, but devious."

"In Mr. Hintz's case, the district has taken a small opening and driven a truck right through it," Bauman said.

And driving a truck through a small opening has been a common practice of schools and a drain on taxpayers for years according to Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. However, Carroll says new pension reform measures adopted by the Illinois General Assembly last session will put a stop to the end-of-career pay hikes designed to significantly boost the final pension benefits for teachers and administrators, that leave the state solely responsible for covering those benefit increases.

In some of the most egregious cases, these end-of-career increases have boosted salaries anywhere from 40 to 60 percent, sometimes doubling salaries, Carroll said.

A recent story in the Chicago Sun-Times reported some of the more glaring pension "sweeteners" that resulted in huge costs to taxpayers backed up Carroll's assertion the loopholes in the pension systems are being exploited.

The story reported Arlington Heights Superintendent Robert Howard received pay raises of $78,370 over the last two years prior to retirement, plus $45,500 for 91 sick days. In the Palatine Township Elementary District Superintendent John G. Conyers received a 60 percent salary increase over his last four years prior to retirement. This boosted his final pay to $350,000.

And in the New Trier Township High School District, Superintendent Henry Bangser received a series of 20 percent pay increases over his last five years before retirement, nearly doubling his salary to an estimated $346,000, not including other bonuses he was set to receive.

"Taxpayers are already paying incredibly high real estate taxes to cover school funding but some of these folks act like there is this hidden pot of money in Springfield," Carroll said. "And as long as the local school district isn't paying for it, then its okay."

Under terms of the new legislation that will go into effect in 2006, there will be a cap on salary increases at six percent which Carroll says will save the state billions of dollars over the life of the 1995 pension funding plan.

This means if school districts vote to increase salaries above the six percent cap, taxpayers of that district will be responsible for covering any of those additional costs. The legislation also eliminates the use of lump sum awards from unearned sick leave for pension credit beyond what is normally earned for contracts signed after the effective date of the legislation. This will also provide significant fiscal relief to the state, Carroll said. Additionally, a moratorium is now in place on any new benefits without a full funding source.

Carroll said another sweeping reform will take place in what is labeled as the 'alternative formula.' She said this formula was created for individuals in state law enforcement and correctional officers and other special risk jobs.

"Because the individuals in these positions operate in dangerous and life threatening situations, they deserve a more generous pension benefit," Carroll said. "This formula has been expanded through the years to include too many administrative positions that do not meet this kind of criteria."

Carroll said the new legislation will exclude all future hires in certain administrative positions that currently participate in this formula.

A pair of retirement agreements recently approved by two area community college boards has raised some eyebrows throughout the region.

The John A. Logan College Board, by a 5-1 vote, recently approved an early retirement for longtime JALC President Robert Mees - albeit a short retirement.

Under terms of the unique agreement, Mees will retire effective Sept. 30 and then be rehired Dec. 1 at a reduced salary. When the deal was approved by the board it was announced Mees will draw a salary of $78,750. The board, however, failed to specify that the $78,750 amount is only for the seven month period between Dec. 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. Beginning July 1, 2006 Mees will be paid $140,400 annually for a two-year contract.

Mees defended the agreement calling it "a positive thing."

"It's allowed us to approve a $4 increase for students in tuition, instead of a $7 increase," Mees said. "Our main focus was not to impact the students that much and not impact programming. It's a way to benefit the college."

Don Brewer of Carbondale has been on the JALC board for 32 years and cast the lone dissenting vote. Brewer emphasized that his vote was not against Mees or his fellow trustees.

"It was an honest difference of opinion," Brewer said. "It wasn't a sweetheart deal, but nonetheless, I felt it was professionally and ethically wrong and couldn't condone it. It was the most difficult vote I've had to make."

Brewer said Mees is one of the best presidents in the college's history.

"Bob and I are good friends and have discussed this," Brewer said. "Bob's intentions were honorable, and so were those of the board, which wanted to save money and looked at the bottom line."

College officials said Mees' contract change is part of an overall plan to cut back on upper administrative expenses while at the same time benefiting students and instructional programs on campus. The board also emphasized the total savings gained is $230,000. However, the brunt of that savings doesn't come from the Mees retirement package and instead comes from the elimination of three other administrative positions that had a combined annual salary of $210,000.

Mees was making $178,039 prior to his retirement meaning that he will draw 85 percent of that amount ($151,300) in an annual pension. Coupled with the newly negotiated salary of $140,400, taxpayers will foot the bill for a total annual salary of more than $290,000 for Mees.

The Rend Lake College Board also approved a unique pay hike/retirement package for two longtime administrators earlier this year.

The board approved pay hikes totaling more than $46,000 for its two top administrators, President Mark Kern and Vice President of Finance and Administration Robert Carlock. The 20 percent pay increase came after the two longtime RLC employees announced prolonged retirement plans. Kern will retire on June 30, 2008, while Carlock plans to retire on Dec. 31, 2007. The pay hike will raise Kern's salary from $128,109 to $153,730 and Carlock's from $103,604 to $124,324. Not factoring in any future pay raises the increase will raise Kern's pension by about $22,000 per year and Carlock's pension by $17,000 per year.

Noting Kern is the longest-serving president in the history of the college, board chairman Randall Crocker said the pay increases are justified and actually brought the two administrators much closer to industry standards for community college administrators. Kern has served as president for 14 years and has 36 years with the Ina-based community college.

"There are a lot of ways to look at it but when you look at the numbers statewide they (Kern and Carlock) are both far below salary-wise what those positions pay," Crocker said. "Throughout the years they have always taken a modest pay increase and this just gets them closer to what everybody else is making."

The average salary for community college presidents statewide in 2004 is nearly $146,000 while those holding the same position as Carlock average a salary of $100,000, according to statistics released by the Illinois Community College Board. Prior to the salary hike, 31 of 39 college presidents in Illinois made more annually than Kern and 18 of 34 holding the same position as Carlock made more money.

Factoring in the increase, Kern is now the 12th highest paid community college president and Carlock is the third highest paid dean of finance.

The state contributes $10 million annually to fund the pensions and health benefits of retired lawmakers or their surviving spouses - a number that is expected to increase dramatically during the next decade, according to state officials.

Each member of the General Assembly with 20 years or more of service receives health insurance free while others are pro-rated based on the amount of years of service they had. Each member is required to pay for each dependent.

Legislators who have 20 years of service can draw a pension of 85 percent of their final salary.

Factoring in an automatic 3 percent increase each year, state records show that more than half of the 250 retired lawmakers are currently paid more annually in their respective pensions than the final salary they received as a state legislator.

According to state records former Sen. William L. O'Daniel of Mount Vernon was drawing a salary of $57,619 when he lost a re-election bid in 2002. O'Daniel is currently receiving a monthly pension of $5,309 or $63,715 per year.

Regardless of previous salary the pension amount is based on the final salary and allows employees to take an average of the top four years from the final 10 years of employment.

Along with feeling a financial strain, the pension system for retired legislators is also open to loopholes - a practice that has been referred to as 'double-dipping.' And several lawmakers have taken advantage of those loopholes.

As an example, former Sen. Jim Rea of Christopher retired in 1999 with 20 years in the General Assembly. According to state records, in 2004 Rea received a pension of $5,752 a month or $69,024 a year.

However, when Rea left the General Assembly he wasn't through working for the state. Only weeks after resigning his Senate seat, Rea was hired by longtime friend and political ally Secretary of State Jesse White as a contractual employee who is paid an additional $5,000 monthly. His total yearly income from the state is $129,024.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar is also taking advantage of the process. Edgar draws two state-funded salaries that more than double what he made as governor. Edgar's state pension is $9,411 per month or $112,937 annually. After Edgar left office he was hired by the University of Illinois, where he is paid $152,000 annually as a lecturer. In all, Edgar makes $264,937 per year.

Illinois lawmakers can retire at age 55 with eight years of service or at age 62 with four years of service. The retirement benefit is based on the last day of service, another loophole that many lawmakers used to their advantage.

As an example, former Sen. Larry Woolard retired last year after more than 18 years in the General Assembly and was immediately appointed by Gov. Blagojevich to head up the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

According to state records Woolard's final base salary as a state senator was $57,619. Based on his 18½ years of service Woolard's final salary would have resulted in a monthly pension of $3,841 or $46,095 annually. However, since being appointed to his new position - a position with an annual salary of $100,000 - his pension will now be 85 percent of that amount. And Woolard would only be required to work 12 months in his new position in order to be eligible for the increased benefit.

The increase will bump Woolard's annual pension to $85,000 or nearly $40,000 per year more than he would have received if he had remained in the General Assembly.

Former U.S. Glenn Poshard retired last July as vice chancellor at SIUC and receives a pension based on his $162,000 annual salary. According to state guidelines, Poshard receives 75 percent of his final salary, or $121,500.

State records also show that Poshard is listed as an inactive member of the General Assembly Retirement System, where he has 84 months of accrued service. Based on those 84 months, Poshard would also be able to draw 23 percent from his final salary as a state legislator and will also draw a federal pension from his 10 years as a U.S. Representative.

All state workers in Illinois can qualify for a pension that equals 75 percent of the average salary they earned during four of the last 10 years they worked on a job but must have 30 years total to receive the full benefit.

Legislators and judges must work only 20 years to receive a maximum benefit of 85 percent of their final salary.

The state's convoluted pension system has been under-funded since its inception in 1970. Despite a constitutional guarantee, state lawmakers didn't make the required contribution to the pensions a single time during a 25-year span. In fact, the state not only didn't pay enough to cover the annual contribution, it didn't pay enough to cover the interest.

In 1995, the General Assembly attempted to address this problem - a $19 billion deficit in the pension systems- -and passed legislation requiring the state to make annual contributions. The legislation also required the state to continue to make the normal annual contribution on top of repaying this debt. This debt repayment plan would stretch out over 50 years - through 2045.

The new legislation didn't change anything regarding the pension systems as the state failed to make contributions. Between 1995 and 2003 the state's liability increased an additional $24 billion bringing the total amount the pension system is under-funded to $43 billion.

Carroll listed four examples why the state's pension liability grew by another $24 billion from the time 1995 law was passed to 2003:

· Pension "sweeteners" added $5.8 billion to the pension liability during this time - and were added without a revenue source in which to pay for them.

· An early retirement incentive package passed in 2003, ended up costing the state $1.8 billion more than was expected when the initiative was passed.

· The state's annual contributions were $10.6 billion short from 1995 thru 2003.

· Investment losses, despite generous gains in the late 1990s, added $6.4 billion to our pension liability between 1995 and 2003.

Carroll said when Blagojevich took office in 2003 the state's pension system was the worst funded in the nation and steps were taken to "stop the bleeding."

"The governor worked to get a $10 billion Pension Obligation Bond passed to help shore up the pension funds and ensure that the state would make its required contribution to the pension system for the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years," Carroll said.

Carroll said when Blagojevich took office the state's pension system was only 48 percent funded and it has now increased to 61 percent funded, however that's still worst in the nation.

"That's just how bad things were," Carroll said. "People want to criticize the legislation that was passed in terms of pensions, but the governor and the Democratic leaders looked at this as a unique opportunity to pass something rather than do nothing. What we got passed is still the most significant pension reform ever passed in the state. When it's all said and done, we still save more than $2 billion through pension reform."

- Caleb Hale contributed to this report

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Politicization of Teacher Education

The article below can be found at the website Students for Academic Freedom.
The article below points out why we must get rid of teachers colleges. The quality of education provided to the students in this country is dismal. We can improve the quality by having teachers become masters of the subjects they teach. Einstein and Feynman would not be qualified to teach physics in a high school class because they would not have a teaching degree. Would you rather have a teacher with a teaching degree teach your students or someone with a masters degree in math, biology, art, physics, english, etc teach your children? It is time to get rid of the teaching degree and move toward subject mastery to improve the quality of education in our schools.

The Politicization of Teacher Education

(The following remarks were delivered by Candace de Russy, a trustee of the State University of New York, at a panel discussion titled “Political Bias in Education Schools.” The event was sponsored by the New York Association of Scholars in New York City on May 15, 2005.)

The thoroughly politicized state of teacher education should be of grave concern to us all. Alluding to James Loewen’s book, Lies My Teacher Taught Me, education critic Sheldon Stern wrote of the danger which this poses to our society: “…[T]ruth and democratic institutions [will not] flourish if young people swallow the distortions and half-truths promoted by leftist ideologues like Loewen, who dominate the social studies establishment in our schools, the faculty in our graduate schools of education, and the history and ‘studies’ departments in our colleges and universities. Young Americans are being consciously taught to hate and be ashamed of their nation’s history and to believe that America is a uniquely evil and oppressive society.” Such indoctrination, Stern warns, is all the more “destructive” at this time of War on Terror.

Teacher colleges have long been scathingly criticized, as noted by Charles J. Sykes’s in Dumbing Down Our Kids. Critics from the 1960s onward – such as James Koerner, James Conant and Charles Silberman – characterized education curricula as “puerile, repetitious, dull,” …”stultifyingly…trivial,”…intellectually barren and professionally useless.”

But one of the first to speak out against political bias in these programs was Rita Kramer. In her 1991 study Ed School Follies, she criticized their mindless adoption of multiculturalism. This ideology, she wrote, is part of a broader movement to replace “the measurable learning of real knowledge” with “politics….” Expanding on Ms. Kramer’s point, Sykes called this fixation on racial, ethnic, and gender identities “a heavy club wielded against traditional curricula, reading lists, ability tracking, grades, standardized tests, discipline policies, and attempts to raise academic standards (which can be denounced as ethnocentric if they result in lesser rewards for any racial group).”

The virulence of classroom politics – its potential to instill resentment, divide society, and destroy self-reliance – is apparent in texts used to educate teachers in multiculturalism. One text cited in a recent study by the Pacific Research Institute instructs: “We cannot afford to become so bogged down in grammar and spelling that we forget the whole story.” This story, the text states, is one of “racism, sexism, and the greed of money and human labor that disguises itself as ‘globalization.’”

This is the twisted mindset so pervasive in today’s teacher colleges, which mold those who in turn mold our children and children’s children. In Sykes’s dire phrase: “Into their hands we commend our future.”

Were it not for entrenched special interest politics, the problem of teacher colleges could be solved by abolishing them. Sound teacher preparation could easily, and much more cost-effectively, be provided within traditional departments. Absent such radical restructuring, greater school choice (unlimited charter schools and school vouchers) would force those who prepare our teachers to compete and improve.

But a revolution of this sort is unfortunately glacially slow in coming.

Other solutions include calling upon governing boards to reform teacher colleges. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has launched an initiative named Trustees for Better Teachers (TBT), which I have the honor of chairing. In Teachers Who Can: How Informed Trustees Can Ensure Teacher Quality, a TBT publication by Michael Poliakoff, the group urges trustees to inquire whether textbooks used in these programs are “fair, balanced, and factual,” to obtain the data needed to assess these programs, to ensure future teachers know the subjects they will teach, to interpret state teacher certification exam results with the appropriate skepticism, to combat grade inflation, to guard against the limitations of accrediting agencies, and to distinguish “best practices from malpractice in education methods courses.”

Trustees are of course obliged and empowered by law to ensure the integrity of all curricula, including that of teacher colleges, but all too typically they elect not to do so. A primary cause of this failure is the fear of even appearing to tell professors what they can or cannot teach, of intruding upon faculty prerogatives. At the same time, however, the professoriate is largely failing to play by its own historic rules, to uphold its end of its compact with the public: While basking in the privilege of self-governance, it forsakes the public trust.

What did the profession’s own representative organization have to say on this subject? In its 1915 “Declaration of Principles” (among many other pronouncements) the AAUP warned that if the professoriate “should prove itself unwilling…to prevent the freedom which it claims…from being used…for uncritical and intemperate partisanship…it is certain that the task will be performed by others.”

But in reality governing boards shrink from confronting partisanship and ideology on campuses. Take, for example, a recent meeting of the Academic Standards Committee of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, where I repeated my essential objection to SUNY’s touted reform of its 16 teacher colleges (which, I might add, is said to educate more teachers than any other institution in the world). I reiterated that such initiatives are meaningless unless they are grounded in an honest and through assessment of the curricula (disciplinary and pedagogical) used in these programs. System Provost Peter Salins’s response to this, unchallenged by any other trustee, was: “It is not our role to critique existing programs.”

“It is not our role….” Therein why failed programs such as teacher education endure and endure. Neither faculty nor administrators nor boards are in fact in charge. No one is ensuring high curricular and other academic standards. For this reason the governance of the academy today has rightly been labeled “organized anarchy.”

Until such accountability is instituted, our future will remain in the hands of ideologues hostile to our best traditions, and this nation will remain at risk.

Candace de Russy, Ph.D., a trustee of the State University of New York, writes on educational and cultural issues.

Another Episode of a School Employee Allegedly Gone Bad.

The story below appeared in the Chicago Tribune
on March 1, 2006. Another reason why transparency is so important in school districts. We encourage people to investigate their own school districts.

Bail set for alleged school embezzler
By Tracy Dell'Angela and Jeff Coen
Chicago Tribune

While a former Chicago Public School manager remained jailed on felony theft charges Tuesday, the high school that entrusted her with its finances is struggling to recover from a loss of nearly half a million dollars.

Marilyn Jenkins-Evans, 47, was ordered held on $200,000 bail by Criminal Court Judge Thomas Hennelly, a day after she was arrested on allegations that she stole $457,000 from Simeon Career Academy High School, where she once worked as business manager. Investigators alleged that she wrote herself 319 checks, forged the former principal's signature and deposited them in her personal accounts over more than five years at the school.

"How is this school going to recoup that money?" asked the interim principal of the South Side school, Leonard Kenebrew. "That's $90,000 a year for five years. That could have been novels. Or microscopes. Or training for the teachers. Or field trips for the students. It's so depressing."

It was Kenebrew's arrival at the school that led to Jenkins-Evans' arrest. Kenebrew asked for an audit, a relative routine request when a new principal starts at a school-about the same time he started noticing some "red flags" about Simeon's bookkeeping.

At the time, Kenebrew didn't know that Jenkins-Evans was acting as the unofficial business manager at Simeon, a role she volunteered for on top of her central office duties supervising 10 regional business managers at 100 schools.

Kenebrew couldn't understand why several checks on school accounts were written out to Jenkins-Evans or why a high school would continue to hand-write checks and ledgers when computerized programs are widely used. He also realized that many bills had gone unpaid for a year or more, even when there was money in the account.

Former Principal John Everett has said he knew nothing about the missing money and trusted Jenkins-Evans to control school spending because she was an expert from the central office.

Sylvia Jones, a member of Simeon's local school council, said she too had questions about the way Simeon was spending money. But she said the former principal refused to share detailed information about school accounts. When she pressed for answers, she said, she was dismissed as a troublemaker.

District officials said they would work with law enforcement to recover any funds stolen from the school, including using forfeiture laws to seize assets from Jenkins-Evans if she is convicted. Spokesman Mike Vaughn added that the district will investigate whether Jenkins-Evans had access to funds at the dozens of other schools where she supervised business managers and if any money was misspent at these schools.

Every year, the district audits about 10 percent to 15 percent of the system's 600 schools. Last year, 50 of the 67 audits revealed that a school's financial accounting either "needed improvement" or was "out of compliance." Evidence of misappropriation is referred to the office of inspector general.

However, the district does not plan to start micromanaging the spending of funds that are raised by individual schools to pay for extras the district does not provide. The money is expected to be managed by principals, with oversight from local school councils.

At Jenkins-Evans' bond hearing, the judge said he was distressed by the betrayal alleged in this case.

"I am disturbed by the fact of her position, and the victim in this case, the schoolchildren of the city of Chicago," Hennelly said.

Assistant State's Atty. Patricia Woulfe told the judge that Jenkins-Evans admitted to the theft when she was first questioned and then later resigned her manager job.

Defense lawyer Michael J. Monaco said Jenkins-Evans has no criminal history and worked for years at a bank before working for the school district. She also is active in her church, New Heritage Cathedral on South Princeton Avenue. Pastor Katie Peecher and other parishioners came to the court hearing to support Jenkins-Evans.

"She is a wonderful woman," Peecher said. "She is not a criminal."

Monday, February 27, 2006

How the Teachers Unions and Politicians work to keep one group elected and the other group millionaires in retirement.

The post below is from our friend Bill Zettler. Below you will read yet another reason to vote no on referenda. The 20 million dollars given to politicians are your tax dollars working against you. As property taxes increase, teachers unions and the like have more money to buy politcal power from the legislators. It is time for campaign reform to include no longer taking money from the teachers unions and like associations that contract with school districts and essentially the state.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways …

When poet Elizabeth Browning wrote this to her husband Robert in the 19th century she was speaking of her undying love for him.

Here in Illinois we have a similar situation except it is the politicians who are worshipping at the feet of their most prolific political lover, the teacher unions.

And it is not unrequited love either – the teacher unions love to give money to politicians (over $20 million since electronic records have been kept) who in turn give money back to them multiplied a thousand fold. Oh, how romantic! It must be political Valentines Day.

Today we have more examples of this illicit love affair and it is regarding the recently passed law limiting teacher (and administrators) raises to 6% per year over the last 4 years of their career. School districts are still allowed to the exceed 6% limit but then the district becomes responsible for the pension liability beyond the 6% meaning the local taxpayers would have to be notified that another teacher has just been made a pension millionaire at their expense. Chicago suburban school boards much prefer taxpayers in Peoria and Carbondale and other Illinois areas pay for the obscene pensions granted to their teachers. Besides if they have to pay for the pensions out of local funds they might have to cut back on the salaries and the union would not like that.

The teacher union monster has mobilized their Democratic Party storm troopers for another all-out blitzkrieg of the taxpayer’s pocketbook. Here is a sample of the current attacks on this 6% limit law. The first one, SB2158, pretty much eviscerates the original bill. The others just add a long list of excuses to ignore the intent of the law.

The funny thing is, I thought the Democrats were the party of the poor people. They certainly seem to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money keeping millionaires happy.

1. SB 2158 - Increases that are part of a collective bargaining agreement would be EXEMPT from the 6 percent final average salary contribution. This can occur as a result of a negotiated salary schedule based upon the completion of a master’s degree.

2. HB4160 - The legislation EXEMPTS salary paid to the Regional and Assistant Regional Superintendents by the Illinois State Board of Education. Teacher salaries that are paid by grants received from the U.S. Government would also be exempt under the legislation.
a. TRS estimates that 14,000 members are currently paid totally or partially from federal funds (full-time equivalent approximately 7,000).
b. TRS estimates that 700 members are currently Illinois State Employees. (ISBE, TRS….)

3. HB4164/SB2150 - The legislation provides a 6 percent final average salary employer contribution EXEMPTION for payments or stipends a teacher may receive from National Board certification. Teachers will receive a $1,000 if they provide 60 hours of mentoring and/or $3,000 to assist candidates teaching in academically at-risk schools or schools located in economically disadvantaged communities.

4. SB4168 - The legislation provides a 6 percent final average salary employer contribution EXEMPTION for salary increases as a result of an internal promotion for which the State Board of Education requires additional certification. Additional certifications are needed for positions such as Principal, Superintendent, and Assistant Principal. As a result, any earnings due to an internal promotion received in the final four years of service would be exempt from the 6 percent final average salary contribution.

5. HB4160 - The legislation provides a 6 percent final average salary employer contribution EXEMPTION for the following scenarios:
a. Any payment from the State of Illinois, the State Board of Education, or U.S. Government
The legislation exempts salary paid to the Regional and Assistant Regional Superintendents by the Illinois State Board of Education. Teacher salaries that are paid by grants received from the U.S. Government would also be exempt under the legislation.
b. Internal promotion that requires additional certification by the State Board of Education
Principal, Assistant Principal, and Superintendent
Accepting additional duties outside of the normal workday, as defined in the collective bargaining agreement, contract, or employers’ personnel policies.
6. SB2147 - The legislation provides a 6 percent final average salary employer contribution EXEMPTION for salary increases as a result of movement to a position of authority over others within the department, school, or district. As a result any earnings due to movement to a position of authority in the final four years of service would be exempt from the 6 percent final average salary contribution.
7. HB4166/SB 2151 - The legislation provides for the following 6 percent final average salary employer contribution EXEMPTIONS:
a. National Board Certification
b. Master Certificate
c. Accepting school-sponsored or extra-curricular assignments, Coach, assistant coach, club sponsor, etc.
d. Movement to a position of authority within a department, school, or district
i. Principal, Assistant Principal, and Superintendent
e. Part-time staff increasing their workload
i. Increasing workload from 50 percent to 100 percent
f. Earned as a result of a negotiated salary schedule
i. Completion of a master’s degree resulting in a two lane increase in salary
g. As a result of the teacher
i. Accepting additional workload or accepting to tech summer school

Here’s the link on the : TRS website

Sunday, February 26, 2006

“Pre-School for All” Isn’t Just Expensive, It Doesn’t Work Either

The policy analysis below was written by The Illinois Policy Institute.

“Pre-School for All” Isn’t Just Expensive, It Doesn’t Work Either

(Springfield, Ill.) “Pre-school for All” is expensive, ineffectual and probably inappropriate. Yet, one wouldn’t have known it, listening to the Governor’s February 15 budget address. Early childhood education in Illinois should be expanded, the Governor dramatically announced.. It is proper, he declared, that state government undertake this enterprise. And he has asked the General Assembly to extend to all the state’s three-and-four year-olds access to the public education system, in the form of voluntary preschool.

Illinois would ‘lead the nation,’ in this effort. It would surpass even the expansive state-sponsored preschool programs already years underway in New York and Georgia. Illinois would be the first state, and Rod Blagojevich the first governor, to open its and his state’s doors of public schools to toddlers.

Illinois must welcome into the fold of government-education this responsibility, he said. Gone unmentioned though, was that early childhood education – especially in the form of preschool – has yet to have been proven to have the effects commonly presumed. One must trust that the governor’s office has consulted the wide and differing body of professional opinion in the matter, being as that they at least allude to “countless studies.” [1]

If this were the case, one must assume that the governor – in touting the benefits of his proposal – is not telling the whole truth. If the Governor, given his apparent passion for the issue, had undertaken to study the matter, he could not have helped but notice that Early Childhood Education is as contentious as any. “Countless,” his office has claimed, are the studies that have demonstrated the benefits of preschool. [2]

Equally numerous, though, are the claims that early formal education is ineffectual and that it can even be harmful to a child’s development. So insufficient is the evidence to support initiatives such as the governor’s, that "No authority in the field of child psychology, pediatrics, or child psychiatry

advocates formal education, in any domain, of infants and young children. In fact, the weight of solid professional opinion opposes it." [3]

To read the rest of the policy analysis go to The Illinois Policy Institute.

Please contact your representative and senator and tell them to vote "NO" on pre-school for all. If you need assistance contacting your representative or senator go to WLS Radio -- Legislative Action Center.