Saturday, May 27, 2006

Class size, tax promises bother District 93 parents

The article below appeared on Students First and in the Daily Herald. . The first mistake the parents made was trusting the school district and voting yes for the referendum. The following quote is classic and speaks volumes as to how this and most districts pass referenda. "Superintendent Hank Gmitro said the district had merely warned of class sizes increasing if the tax increase failed." They used fear and threats to pass the referenda and the voters of District 93 fell for it.

Many school districts will be back in November to try to pass referenda. Will you vote yes based on fear and threats or will you hold the people to educate and protect our children accountable for their actions.

Parents you need to do research. Pass grade 3 class size does not matter. What does matter is the quality of the teacher and parental involvement. See our resources page for information to read about class size.

Would you rather have your child in a classroom of 20 with an average to poor teacher or classroom of 30 - 35 with a good to great teacher? Which is more efficient and economical? We would take a classroom of 30-35 any day for our daughter. The fewer the teachers in a school the more likely you will have better teachers.

Class size, tax promises bother District 93 parents


By Jack Komperda

Daily Herald

Several parents of third-graders at Carol Stream's Heritage Lakes Elementary are upset because their children's class sizes will rise by at least six students come next fall.

The parents have met several times with school administrators to persuade them to lower the class sections from the current 24-student average.

Though school officials refute it, the parents say the unexpected spike is akin to a broken campaign promise Carol Stream Elementary District 93 administrators made shortly before a successful 2004 tax-hike referendum.

"One of the things they promised during the referendum was smaller class sizes," said parent Ginny Furioso. "Now we're being told the class sizes can increase. Such a sudden jump for these kids … it's an extreme shock."

Superintendent Hank Gmitro said the district had merely warned of class sizes increasing if the tax increase failed.

He said the districtwide average of 21 students per class will remain, though some classes will be larger. He pointed out it's an inexact science since the district can't control the number of students who show up.

"I'm the one who shared the referendum information (before the vote)," he said. "What I talked about was maintaining class sizes. From my perspective, we've kept our commitment."

Heritage Lakes isn't the only district school with some class sections that will surpass the average, according to district enrollment projections.

Six grade levels across the district's six elementary schools will see, on average, spikes of four or more students in classroom sections next fall.

Overall, administrators also identified nine cases at all six elementary buildings in which class sizes in an entire grade level could remain above 21 students.

"It's a moving target," Gmitro said. "Five to seven years ago, we had class sizes of 28 to 30 students. We have none of that size now."

Indeed, the largest class size projections are expected at Carol Stream Elementary, where the incoming fourth-graders will have class two sizes of about 25 and 26 students. Those students are now split into three third-grade sections averaging 17 students.

Next year's third-graders will also have larger classes. The students are projected to have one less section with classes of 22 and 23 students.

At Elsie Johnson Elementary School in Hanover Park, next year's third-grade classes will have 23 and 24 students, up more than six from the current second-grade average of 17 students.

And at Cloverdale Elementary School in Carol Stream, the incoming fifth-graders will see their class sizes jump from 20 students to about 24 per class.

That spike, though, is offset by next year's third-grade class sections, whose average class size is expected to fall from about 26 to 20 students each.

"Class sizes are always a sore point with parents," said Maria Balas, a PTA member and Cloverdale parent. "From other parents I've talked to, the ideal comfort level would be a class size of 24."

Gmitro said he expects hundreds of children will move in or out of the district by registration time in August. Some class-size averages could change depending on where those population shifts occur.

Mary Lynn Campagna, another parent of a Heritage Lakes third-grader, said she hopes more children show up in her child's grade so the district would ad a section.

"I only hope more kids move in to give us another teacher," she said. "At that point, what would they do?"

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tasteless journalism

The following letter appeared in the Northwest Herald.

Tasteless journalism

To the Editor:

The Northwest Herald's May 19 editorial about electioneering in District 300 truly sets a new low for tasteless journalism. A more appropriate title might have been "Why we love taxes and hate Jack Roeser."

No matter what one thinks of Roeser, the Northwest Herald's assertion that his inquiries are sour grapes is totally baseless. Pass or fail, the District 300 referendum had more than enough "unusual" activity to justify raising questions. When did Roeser ever claim referendums couldn't pass without election interference?

By the Northwest Herald's logic, O.J. Simpson's prosecutors were petty, vindictive types who couldn't accept defeat simply because O.J. was acquitted.

How can a newspaper fail to value a citizen's right to ask questions?
Watergate anyone?

Without fail, most districts faced with a referendum defeat simply return months later for another. Why is there no "sour grapes" outcry from the North-west Herald over this unwillingness to accept defeat?

The reason is clear.

The Northwest Herald never met a tax increase it didn't like, a school district it didn't trust, or a taxpayer advocate it didn't denounce.

Taxpayers know better, and they certainly won't be cursing at Roeser when they get their latest tax bills.
Jim Peschke

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Former Teacher Tells the Truth - Hat tip Extreme Wisdom

The following letter appears at Be sure to visit Bruno Behrend's website for more letters. For those living in Lake County you can listen to his radio show on WKRS 1220 from 6 - 8 p.m.

Our Union Focused Only on the Teachers
Your May 4 editorial "rotten apples" expressed a belief I've held for almost 50 years; "... unions pretend their political actions are in the interests of "the children" -- except when that conflicts with their own economic self-interest."
Not once in my 35-year teaching career did the Union -- mine was the Michigan Education Association -- negotiate an item not having teacher benefit at its center. It did get me a perpetually better salary, a great medical plan, some extra duty pay for extra work, at least one class period to be devoted to preparation, and some other class-size control attempts. But I, even in retirement, still cannot find a direct correlation between these " negotiated" features and improved teacher classroom performance.
Everything was for me and my fellow teachers. We were all paid the same, a typical Union maneuver, which means no incentive for one to excel, even though some did. And the Union protected members equally regardless of competence. Certification rather qualification determined hiring practices. Most school administrators doing teacher valuations are only competent to assess those teaching in their own former area of classroom teaching. Morals were the only reason any teacher was ever released at my school.
I will eternally remember an admonition from a regional MEA leader to "take coil wires, put sugar in gas tanks, and let air out tires of scabs [teachers who had taken positions of strikers]" during an unusually bitter contract negotiation. Considering all of this along with what you cited in your editorial, it's a real stretch to find the Union rationale that "we care about kids."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Do you know the average monthly benefit of TRS recipients?

The average retirement annuity of those receiving monthly TRS benefits as of June 30, 2005 was $3043. The number of recipients is 73,464. Yep that is right the average benifit is $3043 per month for sitting on their behinds doing nothing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Taxing bodies unite to preserve funding aka Doing every thing we can to grab as much money as we can.

Nothing more than money grubbing. The following article appeared in the Illinois School Board Journal.

llinois School Board Journal
May/June 2006

Taxing bodies unite to preserve funding
by Robert Madonia
Robert Madonia is superintendent of schools for Frankfort CCSD 157-C in Will County.

One problem facing school districts, as well as other taxing bodies, is the constant requests by corporate and commercial properties for a reduction in their assessments. Compounding this concern is that these requests are filed after taxes have been collected.

Thus, if approved, these requests carry the potential of large rebates that can deplete fiscal resources. As this occurs, it also starts to shift the burden of taxation from commercial properties to homeowners.

That's why Frankfort School District 157-C has taken the initiative to organize and chair a "taxing body coalition" to help protect property tax revenue at the lowest possible cost. An additional goal is to make certain taxation is fair.

In addition to District 157-C, taxing body members include: the village of Frankfort, Lincoln-Way High School District 210, the Frankfort Fire Department, Frankfort Library, Frankfort Park District and Joliet Junior College.

"It is only through the Frankfort Area Property Tax Appeal Coalition that an institution our size can work for the fair taxation of commercial property within the library district," said Detlev Pansch, administrator at the Frankfort Public Library. "Fair taxation will result in an equitable distribution of support for the library and prevent an undue share from being born by the homeowners."

How does it work?

The process begins when the taxing bodies receive a legal notification of assessment reduction requests of $100,000 or more. The county board of review is the first group to review the commercial owner's request. Typically, the board of review supports the township assessor's valuation of the property.

A representative of the coalition attends all public meetings of the board of review where assessment reduction requests are heard. This puts the public and commercial property owners on notice that the taxing bodies are aware of the assessment reduction requests and of their involvement to make sure that taxation is fair. This simple meeting attendance actually has caused many assessment challenges to be withdrawn.

If the taxing bodies are not going to be involved, sometimes the commercial owners will take a chance to get a refund without a challenge. The fact that some assessment reduction requests are withdrawn at this level makes us believe that, in these cases, the property was not unfairly assessed.

Once the county board of review rules on a case, a commercial property owner can appeal to the state-level Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB). Again, it is a legal requirement for taxing bodies to receive notice of any appeal to PTAB that is $100,000 or more.

After the taxing body receives this notice, it has 30 days to intervene. The coalition assesses the merits of intervening and will do so when it is financially appropriate. An intervention on a PTAB appeal means the coalition must engage the services of an attorney and secure an independent appraisal of the property in question.

Typically, in our experience, the independent appraisal supports the original township assessor's valuation of the property. Once an independent appraisal has been submitted to the commercial property owner, negotiations usually begin between the coalition and the appealing property owner.

Sometimes a deal can be struck for an assessment somewhere in the middle (below the assessor's level but above the property owner's request) or in some cases it goes all the way to the Property Tax Appeal Board for a decision. If PTAB rules and the property owner is not satisfied, the only other avenue is to appeal PTAB's decision through litigation. In our experience, this rarely occurs.

What has it meant?

As a rapidly growing community, Frankfort has new businesses move in annually. In 2004, we received a PTAB challenge that could have potentially cost District 157-C a $20,000 rebate. In 2005, a department store request potentially could have cost a $30,000 rebate, and the district anticipates a 2006 request from a large national chain of hardware and home supply stores for an assessment reduction that could cost us more than $50,000.

For District 157-C, chairing the coalition has been a proactive measure to preserve fiscal resources, support fair taxation and prevent the burden of taxation from shifting to homeowners. While all taxing bodies must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we cannot let our fiscal base erode.

As a coalition, we hope that being proactive instead of reactive will earn the community's respect.

"Since the tax cap and limited tax rates, this coalition of taxing bodies has provided a viable source to fight tax reductions," said Jeff Boubelik, director of the Frankfort Park District. "As part of a fast growing community, the Frankfort Park District relies heavily on the tax dollars we receive to operate and develop new parks, facilities and programming. We only want to collect on the fair assessments of properties in our district. We would be remiss if we did nothing to protect our tax base."

Important facts

If you also are in a growth area, before encouraging you to rush out and create your own taxing body coalition, we would be remiss if we did not share additional important facts about the process.

You must believe in the importance of being proactive rather than reactive and be able to form a working relationship with some ground rules. One of the ground rules is agreeing that the individual taxing bodies in the coalition pay the percentage of all costs at the same percentage level that their tax rate is of the total rate.

This process takes oversight and intervention, and you're never assured of success. The coalition never totally wins these challenges. The goal is just to control our losses.

Property assessments are made by a township assessor. This person is an elected official who is considered the expert in the area of valuing property. Property valuations are based on many factors that are reviewed by the assessor for accuracy. Because of the assessor's expertise, the coalition believes those assessment numbers should be upheld.

The county officials designated to fight these challenges have too many challenges to address and no funds to be effective. Little support is realized at the county level.

In some cases corporate and commercial property owners file automatically every year without any basis to justify that their assessment is accurate. The hope is that they will get money back without experiencing any cost to make the challenge. Some appellants have attorneys on retainer who handle this on an annual basis.

That's why it is so important that taxing bodies intervene in these challenges to preserve their revenue. This process is part of good fiscal stewardship.

Taxing bodies also owe it to their community to prevent the burden of taxation from being shifted from commercial properties to the homeowner.
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Monday, May 22, 2006

Property tax bills in Dist. 300 skyrocket

Is reality setting in for those who voted yes and those who did not get to the polls? Will we see improvement in graduation rates and test scores? We doubt it. This folks is why it is so important to vote and get involved. People must no longer be intimidated into voting yes for referenda that will do nothing more than increase spending and fill the pockets of teachers, administrators and those doing business with the schools.

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald. It was also reprinted on the Students First Website.

Property tax bills in Dist. 300 skyrocket


By Jeffrey Gaunt

Daily Herald

When Linda Mitsch first saw her property tax bill this year, the Carpentersville retiree said she was floored.

"I was shocked," Mitsch said. "Totally shocked. A $1,300 increase."

Across the street, Mitsch said neighbors saw similar spikes in their tax bills - anywhere from $1,300 to $1,900 or more.

"We're on a fixed income," Mitsch said. "We have to save almost $600 a month just to pay for our real estate taxes. That's crazy."

Mitsch wasn't alone. Many area residents saw large spikes in their tax bills this year -from several hundred dollars to more than $3,000 in one year.

And like many perturbed homeowners, Mitsch looked to Community Unit District 300, where voters earlier this year approved two big tax increases.

"Just for the referendum vote alone, for the schools, it went up $700," Mitsch said. "Where is this money going?"

In fact, the District 300 tax increases are only a piece of the puzzle.

For starters, only one of the two voter-approved hikes hit tax bills this year. Homeowners are paying the 55-cent education fund tax-rate increase. But the $185 million bond issue won't hit until next year.

And while it's true the 55-cent tax increase is increasing taxes, there's more at play.

Namely, large increases in property values are driving the large increases in tax bills, independent of the voter-approved tax hikes.

The property tax cap limits the amount of money District 300 can collect from property reassessments - even when voters approve a tax increase.

But the tax cap doesn't protect against shifts in property taxes.

In other words, if your home value increases by 20 percent, and most property values in the district increase by 5 percent, you will pay a larger percentage of any tax increase.

Take Mitsch for example. The value of her home rose almost exactly 20 percent.

It's now worth roughly the same as the home of District 300 school board member John Court.

But Court's home wasn't reassessed this year. The value didn't change.

As a result, Mitsch is paying an extra $1,300 - from about $4,250 to $5,250. Court is only paying an extra $200 - from $5,180 to $5,380. And their homes are the same value.

Court didn't get off the hook because he was a school board member, though.

Superintendent Ken Arndt's tax bill jumped $1,610 - from $6,570 to $8,180. And board member Karen Roeckner's bill went up $3,390 - to a total of $12,760.

"If a particular part of the community hadn't been reassessed in some time, now they are hit big," said Cheryl Crates, District 300 chief financial officer. "It's a good news, bad news thing. The good news is their house is going up in value. The bad news is so are their taxes."

Rather than blaming District 300, property owners should be looking to the county, Dundee Township Assessor Daniel McMahon said.

"We did our job according to state statute," McMahon said of the assessor's office. "Knowing there were some places that we're going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent in value.

"The Kane County Board, they had an opportunity last March to enter into a 7 percent tax cap," McMahon said. "They chose not to do that."

Karen McConnaughay, who heads the county board, said she doesn't remember all of the details of that vote.

But she does remember the county analyzed the numbers, and decided the 7 percent cap wasn't in the best interest of property owners.

"We saw it as a flawed piece of legislation that did not, in fact, accomplish what it was supposed to," McConnaughay said. "We did our own research on the implications of the proposed freeze and came up with the same analysis a lot of other counties came up with.

"It was not a permanent freeze, it was a temporary freeze," she said. "That increase in assessed valuation would be realized, just at a later date."

Even though the board opted not to impose the cap on reassessments, county board member John Noverini said he understands the concerns.

"People are getting fed up," Noverini said. "It's scary. People are being taxed out of their homes."

Noverini said he would support legislation that eliminates all property reassessments until a house is sold.

"That's the way it should be," Noverini said, arguing that houses are the only capital investment where people pay more each year as the value of the asset increases.

"People are upset," Noverini said. "I don't blame them for being upset."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Has Public Education Been Damaged Beyond Resuscitation?

This excellent piece appeared in the Georgetown Times

Has Public Education Been Damaged Beyond
Date: 4/10/2006
Georgetown Times Editorial
By John Brock

In spite of the fact that many honorable folks in the
teaching field have tried their best, I fear that in
bureaucratic attempts to sustain a failing public
education system, we have become more concerned with
“filling the pail” than with the more important task
of “lighting a fire.” Public education in America is
at low ebb.

With layers upon layers of bureaucracy, the prime goal
of which seems sometimes to be justifying a
bureaucrat’s job, we have hamstrung those trying their
hardest to educate our children by taking the
initiative from teachers and placing too much emphasis
on style rather than substance. Our children suffer as
a result.

Remember the old black-and-white television sets with
a host of manual controls? Once you set the
vertical-hold control, it necessitated adjusting the
horizontal hold, which in turn called for the
manipulation of yet another control, until the picture
was thoroughly torn apart and the repairman had to be
called. That’s what we have done to the public
education system. We have “adjusted” it to the point
it is no longer effective as a whole.

This is no less true in South Carolina. ABC’s John
Stossel produced a national segment recently entitled,
“Stupid in America,” pointing to our state as a poster
child for failed public education. Many teachers,
superintendents, and school personnel are doing an
admirable job, but on the whole, the public education
system is not offering quality education to all
students commensurate with the amount of money being
thrown at it. But, whenever someone professes
improvements to American public education, their
solution seems always to be: more money! This is
hogwash. We spend more money per pupil on education
than any other country but our ranking is far below
many smaller, less-developed countries. We have
sufficiently proved to rational minds that more money
is not the solution.

Many citizens fear that public education has reached a
point of no return. The entire procedure needs to be
scraped and a new model started from scratch — based
on ancient principles of learning. Since the
powers-that-be will never agree to a complete
makeover, then our only course of correction appears
to be allowing parents to transfer their children from
failing schools to schools that actually teach. In
many cases this would be private schools, which charge
tuition. We have a responsibility to parents at
under-performing schools to help out with vouchers to
cover the cost for alternative education.

But there is opposition to this approach because
schools will actually have to compete for students.
Competition works elsewhere. But many public educators
vehemently oppose this plan because it means they just
might lose their jobs. Good teachers will always be
able to get work whether in public or private venues.

Suppose we lived in a nation of socialized medicine.
You are assigned to one doctor and one hospital. Never
mind that the doctor is a quack and the hospital has
death rates triple that of other nearby institutions,
you must go to them unless you are wealthy enough to
go to another physician or hospital of your choosing.

Outrageous? You bet. But this is exactly the same
socialized public education situation in which parents
find themselves today, because government dictates
that your child must attend this public school or that
one, regardless of how bad the school might be.

Public school systems today have become huge
bureaucratic caverns where less than 40 per cent of
school personnel actually face students as teachers.
The others are engaged in ancillary functions,
including planning new ways to complicate the
otherwise simple process of teaching.

After careful thought and study, I have concluded that
public education in most parts of America has been
tampered with, adjusted, added to, micro- managed, and
further maligned far beyond our ability to repair it.
Our state is no exception and until we start all over
again or offer an alternative, our children will
continue to be undereducated.

It’s time to re-think the whole process of public

But for South Carolinians, the future is bleak —
especially when the head honcho in the state’s public
school bureaucracy declares in the ABC television
special that South Carolina is seeing great progress
in some areas. “We are ranked No. 1 in the country on
improvement on SAT,” State Superintendent, Inez
Tenenbaum, boasted.

“That’s great” the television show’s host remarked but
added, "when you’re ranked at the bottom, improvement
doesn’t mean much, and South Carolina, even after it
is No. 1 in improvement is still last among states,"
(and then noted) "in government monopolies, that’s how
bureaucrats think.”

The television special concludes that the American
public is pretty much stuck with inferior public
education system unless drastic measures are taken. I

We must expect more from public education.

An excellent opportunity can be found in offering
parents of school children a choice of which school
their child can attend. What better way to accomplish
this than through vouchers? This will result in
spending no more (perhaps less) money than is now
spent but will restore sanity to public teaching. If
public school systems suffer, so be it! They have had
their chance. It’s time to offer every child the
opportunity of attending an excellent school.

It’s a win/win situation: all parents will have a
choice — regardless of income — public schools will
improve in order to survive and most importantly our
children will be educated!

Competition made America great. Why not give it a
chance to work its wonders in public education?

Mr. Brock lives in Georgetown County. He can be
reached by mail at this newspaper or by e-mail at