Friday, April 07, 2006

Taxpayers don't stand a chance

Chris Bailey eloquently states why we will see more referenda pass in the future. To view the complete article go to

Taxpayers don't stand a chance
Posted Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Even as many head to the polls to choose between their kids or their wallets, their medicine or their grandkids, police and firefighter unions are dreaming up new ways to take more of their money, too.

House Bill 1816 is the latest incarnation of the 20-20-20 retirement plan- the one that unnaturally inflated the salaries of teachers, superintendents and other public servants just before they retired, all but guaranteeing they'd make nearly as much for not working as they did for working. HB 1816 proposes a Deferred Retirement Option Plan for police officers and firefighters, but it truly is misnamed. A better name would be Daffy Optimum Pay Effect, that acronym also being a pretty spot-on view of how those at the public trough view taxpayers, often correctly.

Basically, the DROP plan would allow people to declare they are retired when they aren't. They begin collecting pension money at the time they make such a declaration, but they actually keep working at the same level of pay for up to five years. This is double-dipping risen to an art form. Though 20-20-20 was designed to clear out educational deadwood, DROPs are designed to hang onto valued employees who are eligible to retire. Given the physical nature of their jobs, one has to question the wisdom of extending physical careers like those of police officers and firefighters into therealm of higher disability and workers compensation claims. Even worse, DROPs often cost more, too. The formulas involve complex mathematical and actuarial tables, but if you are interested in learning the details, go to or Then multiply the thousands of dollarsextra times the number of firefighters and police officers in Illinois and you'll get the picture.

"For the collective good of Illinois taxpayers, it's a bad thing," said Elgin Assistant City Manager Sean Stegall, who is heading to Springfield next week with Mayor Ed Schock.Worse, Mary McKittrick, the legislative chairman for the Metro West Council of Governments, of which Elgin is a part, said in a memo to those governments that the proposal violates a promise made by fire unions in 2004. In exchange for an enhanced widow's pension that Stegall said cost Elgin $600,000, the equivalent of seven firefighters, the unions promised not to ask for any more pension enhancements until atleast 2008. They obviously couldn't wait to fleece us again. Given the current state of public pension funding in Illinois, considered among the worst in the nation, it's hard for the mentally sound person to grasp why anyone would propose an idea that would make it worse. That's simple. Police andfire unions want more, and they deliver votes.

"No more pension sweeteners" is the supposed mantra in Springfield these days, but that doesn't mean lawmakers wouldn't create the obligation for somebody else. Like the municipalities that employ these firefighters and police officers. That would solidify the votes of union members whilemaking somebody else pay, the ideal solution in politics.

Municipalities all over the state have been alerted to that possibility. Lawmakers would lose little sleep over the fact that most municipalities don't have the money to pay for it, either. Or that municipalities are funded by the very same taxpayers. You again. So get out that wallet, even if it means you'll no longer be able to afford to contribute to your own 401(k) retirement plan as a result. If you think anybody cares about you, forget it. You don't vote often enough to scare anybody. It was about a year ago that everybody, just everybody in the General Assembly felt the tax cap lawneeded more safeguards for taxpayers as a result of a Daily Herald series on the issue. There are still no new protections for taxpayers.Why? Because teachers unions and administration groups, those who benefit most directly from education fund tax hikes made bigger by the current law, have dug intheir heels. They vote, too. While taxpayers remain docile, awakening momentarily when theirreal estate tax bill arrives or there's a referendum at the polls. Too late, of course. Until they quit playing the DOPE, taxpayers really don't stand a chance.
- Chris Bailey is the Fox Valley Editorial Writer.You can reach her at or (847) 608-2729.

To view more of the great Chris Bailey's columns go to the Daily Herald.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Threats, threats and more threats

This past election we saw one of the greatest numbers of school referenda pass in recent history. On March 21st 66% of referenda passed statewide. Typically at least 60% fail statewide; sometimes as many as 80% fail. What was different about this election? The level of threats from the very people entrusted to protect and educate our children while not in parental care made the difference.

D-300 superintendent Arndt stated he did not use threats, that he was going to follow through with cutting programs and going to split shifts. Seems like he did not use a dictionary much when he earned his Ph.D. A threat is a threat whether you follow through or not. One definition of threat - "A statement of intention to inflict pain, injury, damage or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done."

D - 158 in Huntley took the lead in using threats to pass referenda.

Paid pro-referendum activist Cheryl Meyer contributed to these despicable acts to pass referenda in both D-158 and D-300. Schools network through school boards, associations, teacher unions and administrator associations. You can bet they well be sharing the idea of using threats to pass referenda. These same tactics will be used in November.

Referenda passed because of fear. Ordinary citizens are now afraid of their own government. This is the turning point for the Illinois public education system.

Our government run schools a.k.a. our public education system has now become even more powerful. Until the people are willing to stand up to our government run schools and the very people charged with educating and protecting our children, property and income taxes will continue to rise.

The level of waste and corruption in our government run schools will continue to rise. Government schools refuse to be accountable with our tax dollars or the education of our children. With every referenda and tax increases that passes, government school employees hold more power over our legislators in the form of lobbyist funds, campaign funds and threats to their legislative seats.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Texas takes up school "reform"

The following article appeared at Below Mr. Murchison points out why real reform will not occur.

Just after Easter, the Texas Legislature convenes in special session to address -- yes, again -- the state of public education hereabouts.
 Our lawmakers have their eyes specifically on the overhaul of school finance: a really, really good idea, inasmuch as the old finance system has been partly invalidated by the state Supreme Court! But that's only our latest venture into educational improvement.
 We've been "reforming" the public schools for two decades -- ever since Ross Perot, in early messianic mode, wrote and partly dictated a plan meant to make schools more accountable and, therefore, successful. More recently, our lawmakers have played with school finance (the Robin Hood plan for transferring big bucks from "wealthy" districts to "poor" ones) and established statewide uniform testing.

 Now, as I say, it's back to finance, with -- possibly -- some reform thrown in. A fall date for school board elections is one notion that keeps surfacing, the idea being to encourage more voter participation. Hardly radical stuff, when the impression grows that some radicalism of the right sort would find a welcoming audience.
  A researcher for the Texas Public Policy Foundation says that "Approximately half of all students in ... (Texas) universities and colleges need remedial classes. Meanwhile, 35 percent of entry-level job applicants do not meet eighth-grade skill levels on a competency test administered by Texas Instruments ..." Last year's National Assessment of Education Progress found just 31 percent of Texas eighth-graders proficient in mathematics, and just 26 proficient in reading.
  Ross Perot, call your office ...
  It's hard to be glib -- and it's no fun -- in terms of the sorry state to which public education has fallen in the whole United States, of which even a state so grand as Texas is only one part.
  What strikes me as the underlying problem is that public education is so, well, public.
 That is to say, it's government-owned and government-run. This government stuff used to work, generally speaking. That was back before the chief commitment of government was to the servicing of short-term voter wants and demands. Government wasn't yet an instrument for the leveraging of social change and economic redistribution. It was likelier to give voters what they needed (roads, postal service, meat inspection, sanitation, education) than to pass out goodies and social uplift to organized blocs.
 A student could fail in the old schools. He can fail in the new ones, also, except that government doesn't let it show. For one thing, knowledge and performance standards are generally lower than 30 years ago. (One day last year, I discovered that not a single student in one upper-level class I teach had ever heard of William Jennings Bryan.)
  Because government social policy requires every student to succeed, government practically forbids you not to procure a high school degree. That's if you stay in school -- something huge numbers of students don't do. Likewise, government education policy forbids even the most awful schools to fail absolutely. The teacher unions wouldn't like it if dues-paying members lost their jobs.
 As a remedy, government-funded vouchers for students who transfer to private schools make absolute sense. As a political expedient, no way. The education unions won't allow in public education the sort of accountability the free market enforces in commercial situations: i.e., succeed -- or go out of business.
  Yes, back to the Capitol comes the lawmaking power of the mighty state of Texas. To make a few deft procedural adjustments, lower some taxes, raise other taxes, then -- all too likely -- adjourn, leaving the big questions unsorted: How can teaching and learning standards be raised across the board?
 In these self-esteeming times of ours, can we learn to penalize failure as well as reward success? Can we get across to students, in breadth and detail, that which they need in order to function in the most challenging moral and economic environment ever known?
  Can we even suggest the necessity of knowing the name of the presidential candidate who bade us not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold?

To view the rest of the story go to

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The news media

The following piece appeared at Hat tip to our friend at Family Taxpayers Foundation for directing us to the article. This article reminded us of many of the staff writers at the Northwest Herald.

The news media

By Michael Barone

Apr 3, 2006

Let's say you were part of a group designing the news media from scratch. Someone says that it would be a good idea to have competing news media -- daily newspapers and weekly magazines, radio and television news programs. Sounds like a good start.

Someone else says that it would be a good idea to staff these news media with people who are literate and well-educated. Check. Then someone says let's have 90 percent of the people who work for these organizations be from one of the nation's two competitive political parties and 10 percent from the other.

Uh, you might find yourself saying, especially if you weren't sure that your party would get the 90 percent, maybe that's not such a good idea. But that's the news media we have today.

Surveys galore have shown that somewhere around 90 percent of the writers, editors and other personnel in the news media are Democrats and only about 10 percent are Republicans. We depend on the news media for information about government and politics, foreign affairs and war, public policy and demographic trends -- for a picture of the world around us. But the news comes from people 90 percent of whom are on one side of the political divide. Doesn't sound like an ideal situation.

Of course, a lot of people in the news business say it doesn't make any difference. I remember a conversation I had with a broadcast news executive many years ago.

"Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" I asked.

"Oh, no, no," he said. "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news."

"So what you're saying," I said, "is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans."

He quickly replied, "No, then it would be biased."

I have been closely acquainted with newsroom cultures for more than 30 years, and I recognize the attitude. Only liberals can see the world clearly. Conservatives are prevented by their warped and ungenerous views from recognizing the world as it is.

The New York Times and The Washington Post have often hired as reporters writers who have worked on liberal publications like The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The American Prospect -- and many of those writers have produced fine work. But they have never hired as reporters writers who have worked on conservative publications like National Review, The Weekly Standard and The American Spectator. News media executives like to brag about the diversity of their staffs, but there is precious little political diversity in most newsrooms.

And of course this affects the work product. Consider two stories in the New York Times last month. On March 8, the Times ran a long story about a woman from Biloxi, Miss., and her problems getting aid from the government after Hurricane Katrina. Turned out she wasn't from Biloxi, was not a Katrina victim and had been fraudulently obtaining government aid.

"For its profile, the Times did not conduct adequate interviews or public record checks to verify Ms. Fenton's account," the Times admitted in a correction on March 23.

On March 11, the Times ran a story about an Iraqi identified as the man in a famous photograph of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Turned out he wasn't the man in the photo. On March 18, the Times ran another correction: "The Times should have been more persistent in seeking comment from the military."

Both of these too-good-to-check stories of course reflected badly on the Bush administration, which seems to be a requirement for getting your story in the Times these days. The relentlessly negative coverage of Iraq in most news outlets falls in the same category. Stories about American heroes, stories about soldiers building schools and water systems, stories about the successes of Iraqis -- you have to look awfully hard to find them in most news media today. What you do see is a determination to make Vietnam and Watergate happen again.

All of which brings to mind an old politician's comment on an idealistic young colleague: "He actually thinks this place is on the level." The good news is that many Americans have caught on. Newspaper circulation is down, and so is viewership of broadcast TV network news.

For the rest of the article go to

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Cost of Remedial Education.

Our public schools a.k.a. our government schools continue to fail our students. Below is an excerpt from part of the The Cost of Remedial Education study done by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Although this study is about the Michigan government run school system. Public government run schools continue to fail students across the United States.

Other experts place the blame squarely at the door of the public schools. They argue that basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills are necessary for anyone who intends to function in society, not just those who are college bound. Janet Detloff, chair of the Math and Sciences Division at Wayne County Community College, is worth quoting at length:
The Detroit-area public schools are terrible. Most of the students who come to us not only lack math and English skills, but they lack basic academic skills. They have no idea what is expected of them at the college level. They don't know how to take notes. They don't read the assigned material. And many of them don't even come to class. How did they get through high school without these skills? Many of them were promoted for social reasons—they were getting too old; they had repeated the grade three times; they would otherwise fail-out. So they graduate without the skills they need to succeed, not only in academics, but in the workplace. Local employers often find the same problems with their employees that we are addressing here—truancy, lack of attention to detail, inability to complete tasks. I remember one student who called me complaining that she had received an 'F' in a course even though she had attended every day. She didn't understand that she actually had to master the basic course material. That was foreign to her.

To view the rest of the study go to Mackinac Center for Public Policy.