Saturday, April 15, 2006

Those seeking tax increases will never have enough

Those seeking tax increases will never have enough

By Jim Peschke

They didn't even wait for the ink to dry on their property tax increases.  Barely one week after browbeating homeowners into new taxes, Advance 300 joins Huntley's tax-n-spend crowd to demand even more of your money.  The state, not the county collector, will do their dirty work this time.
The plan follows the same formula used to get your property taxes.  A "citizens group" is being formed to provide the illusion that the plan is the result of community input.  In reality, the plan has already been determined.  I'll save residents the trouble of attending their meetings (Google "Delphi Technique") by explaining what they plan to do.
The plan, often called HB-750, is the work of Ralph Martire from the union-funded Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.  It has many variations, but its central theme is to raise state taxes with a promise to reduce property taxes.
It is euphemistically called a "tax swap."  In reality, the tax increases always outweigh the tax cuts, typically between four to eight billion dollars per year.  Under this plan, the new taxes and education spending levels would be guaranteed by law.  However, the property tax cuts are not.
Supporters of HB-750 spin eloquent yet flawed arguments as to why this is such a good idea, but cannot escape the simple reality that HB-750 represents an enormous tax increase with no accountability.  District 300's recent tax increase will cost homeowners hundreds of millions.  Where does it end?  Will they ever be satisfied?!
BEST and Advance 300 had better hurry.  Once residents feel the pain of their recent property tax increases, a state tax increase will become an even harder sell.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Laws for special interests groups by special interests groups.

The following article appeared in the Northwest Herald.

This is a perfect example of how special interests groups have boarded the public education gravy train. This legislation was initially proposed by of all people surprise surprise a legislator who is a dentist. It is time for Citizens for Reasonable And Fair Taxes (CRAFT) to propose a law that all students must purchase one CRAFT chocolate chip cookie each month for the teacher union price of 10 dollars each. CRAFT would make a killing. This law shows yet again how must legislation is to benefit special interests groups and not the children. This is yet again taking parental care out of parents hands in putting in the hands of special interests groups and the public education system.

Deadline for children's dental exam looms

[published on Fri, Apr 14, 2006]


If your child has not been to the dentist in the last 18 months, you may need to schedule an appointment before May 15.

Children in kindergarten, 2nd and 6th grades are required to have a dental exam by May 15 of their school year, or present proof that one will occur in the 60 days after that date, following an Illinois law that went into effect last summer. The exam may have been completed within 18 months prior to the May 15 deadline.

Children may qualify for a waiver from the requirement if their parents or guardians can demonstrate an undue burden or lack of access to the dentist.

Securing dental health at a young age is vital to secure overall health in the future, Illinois State Dental Society President Dr. Joseph Hagenbruch said.

"The back teeth, or molars, usually erupt during 2nd and 6th grades, allowing dentists the opportunity to apply dental sealants following the exam and helping to prevent future cavities," Hagenbruch said. "It is so important for kids to start seeing their dentist for regular checkups at an early age."

Though the state suggested withholding report cards as one consequence of missing the deadline, Woodstock School District 200 decided against that measure.

"It is not that much of a deterrent," District 200 lead nurse Barb Matlak said.

About two thirds of the children in Mary Endres Elementary, where Matlak works, have presented proof of dental exams, she said.

To help parents comply with the new law, District 200 sent out letters last spring with their registration packets, reminded parents about dental exam opportunities over the summer, and even brought a dentist into schools to perform exams with parent permission in February and March. They mailed more reminders to parents before spring break, Matlak said.

All parents also get a copy of the school handbook at the start of the school year, which includes info on immunization and other health deadlines, such as the new dental law, District 200 Director of Community Services Barbara Banker said. The information is also available on the district's Web site.

For the rest of the story go to Northwest Herald.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

President to rest of board: 'Keep quiet'

The following article appeared in the Daily Southtown and on the Student's First website on April 13th. We at CRAFT are glad to see the press covering this story. We have had complaints of this happening from taxpayers and board members in school districts across the state.

President to rest of board: 'Keep quiet'

4/13/2006 By Michael Drakulich Daily Southtown

Monday's meeting of the Orland District 135 school board erupted into a shouting match several times after the board president tried to prevent opposing board members from making comments.

Early in the meeting, board president John Paul admonished some board members for publicly embarrassing outgoing Supt. Linda Anast-May and hinted that they tried to hurt the district's chances of hiring a new superintendent.

So, he's not letting them talk. For Monday's meeting, Paul removed a section of the agenda that allowed for board member comments.

In his speech, Paul did not name any board member but his comments appeared to be aimed at Kathy Svabek and Suzanne Cachey, who've clashed with the board majority and at the March 9 meeting revealed that Cook County prosecutors had requested a copy of Anast-May's contract.

Because the state's attorney's request was made in October, Paul questioned the timing of Cachey and Svabek's comments, saying it nearly ruined the district's chances of attracting qualified candidates to replace Anast-May.

"Do you realize how close we came to blowing this? Do you realize how close we came, with all this garbage that was written about this district? The fact (is) that we could have ended up in a situation where we wouldn't have had any candidates to choose from. Thank God, we were lucky there," Paul said.

When they tried to speak, Paul repeatedly interrupted Cachey, Svabek and board member Tom Cunningham.

But Cunningham managed to voice some criticism of Paul, saying Paul had "sandbagged" other board member's attempts to rebut his comments and accusing Paul of often withholding information from board members.

"This is insane. Too many times I've come to the table here and not known a thing about what we're voting on," Cunningham said.

Cunningham, Svabek and Cachey all asked for the portion of the agenda allowing board member comments to be reinstated, but Paul refused, telling the three that "when you know how to use (it), we will put (it) back in."

Svabek said Tuesday that she was not surprised by Paul's attempts to prevent the three board members from speaking.

"Unfortunately, for the past year with him as president, it's been common practice," she said. "It (Monday) was one of the most sophomoric displays of bullying by a school board member I've seen."

The growing division within the District 135 board prompted former board member Priscilla Galgan to read a prepared statement Monday, saying she was disappointed by the board's recent behavior and urged members to start behaving better toward each other.

"The business of educating these children is the community's business and should be conducted in front of the community," Galgan said. "The board should give the community a voice. Your work should be transparent, professional and above reproach."

She thanked Cachey and Svabek for "attempting to keep the board's actions legal and public. They are working in the public's best interest while trying to do what's best for our children."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Do teachers really want you to know what is happening in the classroom?

John Stossel sent out the following email.

Last week I wrote you to say that this week I would teach school.

Last month, 500 angry schoolteachers assembled outside my office. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was furious that "Stupid in America" suggested that some union teachers were lazy. Randi Weingarten, head of New York City's union, took the microphone and hollered, "Just teach for a week!" She said I could select from many schools. "We got high schools, we got elementary schools, we got junior high schools!"

I accepted. I even said I'd let the union pick the school. I thought I'd learn more about how difficult teaching is. Above all, it was a chance to get our cameras into schools--something the N.Y. bureaucracy had forbidden -- so we could show you what was really going on.

But like most of our dealings with the union, nothing was easy. It took weeks of phone calls to make any sort of progress. I suspect this will not surprise public-school parents.

Finally, the union picked a school: Beacon High. Unfortunately, it's not a typical public school--it's "special." Beacon doesn't have the full incentives or flexibility of a private school: It can't go out of business, and it is burdened by bureaucratic rules and a union contract. But Beacon offers a limited form of what the union opposes: school choice. As with a private school, you don't have to go there, and they don't have to take you. Applicants must submit portfolios, and if too few chose Beacon, it wouldn't be able to remain special. To remain what it is, it must compete.

Beacon students have taken field trips to France, South Africa, and tellingly, Venezuela and Cuba. Beacon has rooms filled with computers. Ninety percent of Beacon's students graduate, while the average graduation rate for New York City public schools is only 53 percent.

I guess they didn't want me to look at a normal public school.

But this is the school the UFT picked, and I was up for the challenge. Who knows what I might have learned by teaching?

My producers went to a meeting at the school. The union representative didn't come, so we were told no decisions could be made. Lots of people came to a second meeting at the school: four people from the union, one person from the city Department of Education, and administrators and teachers from Beacon. They decided I might teach history classes and "media studies," but they would have to talk to more people.

You would think my teaching had been my crazy idea.

I prepped for my history classes. We had more meetings. The school principal had me sit in on a class with a "superstar" teacher. It was supposed to a history class, but he seemed to teach "victimhood in racist America." On the class door he posted a New York Times column denouncing the president for spending too much money on war. Can we say "left-wing"?

Then there were more meetings. Finally, after I sent last week's e-mail, they canceled. They said that it might "set a precedent" that would open their doors to other reporters.

Too bad. Letting cameras into schools would be a good thing. Taxpayers might finally get to see how more than $200,000 per classroom of their money was being spent. Maybe that's not something the government school monopoly wants people to see.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A response to Time magazine's "Dropout Nation"

Dear Time Magazine:
I am surprised at the shallowness of the analysis in your “Dropout Nation”
article in which you lay the blame for our high dropout rate on high schools and their students. The fact that a child can legally bolt for the first time at age 16 does not mean that his/her problems started in high school.
Our public schools have taught us to blame educational failure on the child. If Johnny can’t read and consequently has behavior problems, his school will more likely drug him and hire a remedial specialist than ask whether his regular classroom teacher might be inept. In keeping with this paradigm, our legislators propose to solve our dropout problem by penalizing dropouts or forcing them to “graduate” by making it illegal to drop out. No thought is given to the possibility that perhaps the problem isn’t with the children.
What if our elementary and middle schools are the true source of the failure? During the past century, the “progressive” education ideologues that control our teachers’ colleges have been training elementary school teachers to eliminate virtually every shred of useful curriculum content. Many elementary schools no longer teach the skills that a child needs in order to enjoyably read a book or write a coherent paper. Most of our teachers use inept reading instruction techniques and suffer an aversion to teaching handwriting, punctuation, grammar, arithmetic and other basics, rendering the typical elementary school graduate both functionally and mathematically illiterate. No wonder high school is a bore.
Our dropouts are probably mostly just tired of being in the company of adults who are wasting their time. Decades of unionization and “progressivism” have reduced most of our elementary and middle schools to nothing more than overrated day-care facilities, where achievement and excellence are not only unrewarded but often reviled. Why would any intelligent kid want to spend a few more years in such a place?
So here’s a suggestion: let’s ditch the system that fails to inspire scholarly aspirations in our children and replace it with a system of school choice, where mostly only competent schools and educators will survive. If we keep wringing our hands and leaving our kids in the schools we have now, things can only get worse.
David Ziffer
Batavia, IL

1. Most elementary schools are inept at teaching reading: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been reporting since 1992 that approximately 40% of our fourth-graders are “below basic” (i.e. functionally illiterate) and an additional 30% are “below proficient” (i.e. struggling) in reading, for a total failure rate of 70%. Please refer to National Center for Education Statistics.

Ninety percent of American children are in public schools. Proven curricula and methods were available and in widespread use until the dawn of the “progressive” era in the 1930s. Even better curricula are available today, but few schools use them read Project Follow Through, then return to the table of contents for the issue containing this article and read the rest of the publication.

1. “Progressive” aversion to basics: two excellent books on the progressives’ devastation of our schools are:
1. “Left Back” by Diane Ravitch:
2. “Ed School Follies”
by Rita Kramer:
1. Excellence reviled in our schools: the heroes honored by our teachers’ colleges are people who have made a name for themselves by convincing teachers that the conventional wisdoms held by most sensible people are, in fact wrong. Sadly, teachers seem to subscribe to these notions without question (perhaps it boosts their self-esteem to hold what they believe to be superior knowledge). The ideas are lunacy: Rewards are punishments. Teachers shouldn’t teach. Grades are “degrading.” If you think I’m making this up, visit the web site of one of our teachers’ favorite heroes, Alfie Kohn: and click on “topics.”

Yes, this is what your kids’ teachers probably actually believe.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Reforming education - By Mitt Romney

This is a great piece by the Governor of Massachusetts that appeared in the Washington Times. Sent to us via email.

For more on Mitt Romney click here.

Reforming education
By Mitt Romney
April 10, 2006 - Washington Times OpEd

I was in high school when Sputnik happened. Russia's lead in space frightened us. It also woke us up. President Kennedy issued a call to boost science and math education, to produce more engineers. His vision: Put a man on the moon. America, as always, rose to the occasion.
    One could argue that there have been quite a few Sputniks lately, but that we haven't noticed. Tom Friedman's flat world is tilting toward Asia, taking investment and jobs. Of 120 new chemical plants worldwide with over $1 billion in capital, 50 are planned for China, only one for the United States. Bill Gates says Microsoft's best new ideas are coming from his Asian team. And last year, America bought $160 billion more from China than China bought from us. America is still way ahead, but in the words of Will Rogers: "Even if you're on the right track, if you don't move, you'll get run over." It's time we get moving, starting with education. First, close the Excellence Gap. American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 OECD countries in math literacy and 19th in science. Fifteen years ago, the United States and Asia produced about the same number of Ph.D.'s in math and physical science: 4,700 a year. Today, we graduate 4,400; Asia graduates 24,900. Second, close the Achievement Gap. Failing urban schools are a dead end for too many minority children. This is the civil rights issue of our generation.
    How to close the education gaps? The teacher's unions have their answers: simply spend more money and hire more teachers for smaller classroom size. But the data show that those are not the answers at all. Massachusetts tests our kids regularly; when studentproficiencyis matched with classroom size and per-pupil spending, there is absolutely no relationship. In fact, the district with the highest per-pupil spending in our state -- almost $19,000 per student -- is in the bottom 10 percent of our state in student proficiency.
    We found our education prescription by interviewing parents, teachers and principals, studying actual data, mining lessons from successful districts and charter schools, and digesting the recommendations from commissions and experts. Here are some of the real answers:
    1) Make teaching a true profession. The 19th-century industrial labor-union model doesn't make sense for educating children. Teachers aren't manufacturing widgets. Better teachers should have better pay, advancement opportunities and mentoring responsibilities. Better pay should also accompany the most challenging assignments -- needed specialties like math and science, advanced placement skills and extra effort.
    2) Let the leaders lead. Superintendents and principals must have authority to hire, deploy resources, assign mentors and training, and remove nonperformers. Seniority cannot trump the needs of our children.
    3) Measure up. Over union objections, Massachusetts implemented standardized testing and a mandatory graduation exam. With measurement, we finally see our successes and failures and can take corrective action. Without measurement, we were blind.
    4) Let freedom ring. When parents, teachers and kids are free to choose their school, everyone benefits. Charter schools free of union restraints and, yes, even home schools, teach lessons we can apply to improve standard public schools.
    5) Pull in the parents. Teachers tell us that the best predictor of student success is parental involvement. For our lowest-performing schools, I've proposed mandatory parental preparation courses. Over two days, parents learn about America's education culture, homework, school discipline, available after-school programs, what TV is harmful or helpful and so on. And for parents who don't speak English, help them understand why their child's English immersion in school is a key to a bright future.
    6) Raise the bar. Our kids need to be pushed harder. Less about self-esteem; more about learning. I have proposed advanced math and science schools for the very brightest (the one we have is a huge success, but we need more); advanced placement in every high school, more teachers with serious science and math credentials, and laptop computers for every middle- and high-school student. We've also added science as a graduation exam requirement, in addition to math and English.
    These ideas should sound familiar -- they turn up in virtually every unbiased look at education. The opposition comes from some teachers unions. They fight better pay for better teachers, principal authority, testing and standards, school choice and English immersion. With their focus on themselves and their members, they have failed to see how we have failed our children. But that will change as testing produces data and data debunks the myth that more and more spending is the answer.
    A continuing failure to close the excellence and achievement gaps would have catastrophic consequences, for individual human lives left short of their potential, and for our nation. Students around the world are racing ahead of ours. If we don't move, we'll become the France of the 21st century, starting as a superpower and exiting as something far less. Education must be one of our first priorities, as it was when Sputnik was launched the last time. We succeeded before. We will do it again.
    Mitt Romney is governor of Massachusetts.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wall Street Journal-Courts Flunk the Civics Test

The following article was sent to us by our finance guy Pete Speer and appeared in the April 8th edition of the Wall Street Journal.
For a review and information to order Mr. Sandler and Mr. Schoenbrod book go to

Wall Street Journal
Courts Flunk the Civics Test
April 8, 2006; Page A9
On March 23, a New York appellate court ordered the state legislature to provide an additional $4.7 billion for operating the New York City schools, plus another $9.2 billion for construction. These are immense sums, even in the Empire State. The advocacy group that brought the suit, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, declared the court's decision would "get real action" because the legislature must "come up with a solution now, right now." This was good spin, but it's not true.

Contrary to a widespread misconception, courts have no power to force a state legislature to appropriate money; nevertheless the ersatz order, coming as it did in the final days of the state's budget process, could tilt the legislators towards more spending. This is apparently what is happening in Albany, where, in a partial tip of their hats to the court, legislators authorized $11.2 billion in new debt to pay for school construction in New York City.

And what was pulled off in Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. New York seems to be part of a pattern. Last July in Kansas a similarly timed judicial decision prodded its state legislature to pony up a hefty increase in school funding. This year Texas is under a June 1 deadline to change the source of school funding. Before the scam spreads further, it's time to lay it bare.

In New York, the courts found that the government is violating a state constitutional clause that the legislature "shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of the state may be educated." The Kansas case was to enforce a similar clause. That most children in New York City and elsewhere in the state are not getting much of an education is not the question. What to do about it is.

Plausible suggestions include freeing the schools from rigid union contracts and bureaucratic procedures that make it all but impossible to fire incompetent teachers, reward good ones and remove disruptive students from the classroom. Other potential solutions include more charter schools and vouchers. One strand of thinking relates school failure to cultural norms rather than lack of money. In New York City, spending per pupil is among the highest in the nation, $13,400, and the educational results among the worst. The plaintiffs chose, however, to focus on the solution -- more money -- that delights teacher union allies. The courts played along.

Most people assume that the legislature must cough up the cash because courts have the power of contempt, which allows them to punish those who disobey their orders. In the school case, however, the courts can't punish anyone. State legislators are not defendants in this case, and even if they were, they can't be punished because they are immune from suit. The state's treasury is immune because the court lacks authority to appropriate more funds and can't fine the state for the legislature's unwillingness to do so. The remaining defendants are officials, including Gov. George Pataki. They can't be held in contempt for failing to produce the money because they are powerless under the state constitution to spend money the legislature has not appropriated.

Longstanding impediments to coercing legislators and governors have never stopped courts from nullifying statutes that violate constitutional rights by, for example, segregating schools, or suppressing free speech. But courts rightly have a tougher time when they want to exercise the legislature's power of the purse.

There are, to be sure, cases where courts have indirectly pressured legislators to spend more. The leading one was in New Jersey, in 1976. After the state Supreme Court found that the state had violated a constitutional requirement that all school districts have equal per-pupil funding -- and the legislature failed to give more money to the poorer districts -- the court ordered state officials to close all the schools until the legislature equalized spending. Faced with that prospect the legislature passed an income tax to raise the extra money.

The New Jersey court argued that its job was to vindicate the constitutional right to equal spending and, if the legislature would not achieve that result by increasing spending, the court would get it done by reducing spending for everyone to zero. The argument has a certain cold logic, but it's a nonstarter in New York and Kansas, where the right being enforced is to a sound basic education.

If a New York court closed the schools, it would be the judges who violated the state constitutional right, by denying any education to all students. That would undercut the only leg the court has to stand on, the rule of law. Nonetheless, when the Kansas court raised the question of whether it should close the schools, the threat was enough to pry some money from the legislature.

New York's high court made a grave mistake when the judges transferred the power to decide what is a sound basic education from the legislators to themselves. Assuming it is too late to admit its error, the court should stick to issuing a declaratory judgment that the state does not deliver a constitutionally adequate education rather than ordering the legislature to do anything. This, as it happens, is precisely the position urged by both Gov. Pataki as defendant, and his counsel, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The coercive force behind such a declaratory judgment would come from all those who want to improve the schools, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who demanded and got responsibility for the city's schools, and the voters of the state, for whom there is no more important issue.

When courts claim that they have power to make legislatures spend more to vindicate a constitutional right to basic education, they tamper with a basic tenet of our democracy -- no taxation without representation. Voters are entitled to hold political officials accountable for the taxes they levy, the money they spend, and the education they produce. When judges pretend that legislators are their marionettes, the legislators can escape accountability, but only if the voters are fooled. They shouldn't be.

Messrs. Sandler and Schoenbrod are professors at New York Law School and authors of "Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government" (Yale University Press, 2003).