Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dist. 158 board member calls for forensic auditor - 2 million dollars discrepancy who cares it is taxpayer money.

How much money is missing in your school and does anyone care? Probably not that is why voters blindly continue to vote yes on referenda. The following piece appeared in the Daily Herald.

Dist. 158 board member calls for forensic auditor
Posted Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Here we go again?

In light of concerns brought to light in an audit of Huntley District 158, board member Larry Snow said this week he plans to renew calls for a forensic audit of the district’s finances to determine whether district officials engaged in illegal activity.

Snow first called for a forensic auditor last year after all of the trouble caused by the district’s bid for a 55-cent tax-rate increase, and subsequent reports that the district’s financial team had bungled all manner of state documents.

Now, Snow said the time may again be right after reading the recent report produced by auditing firm William F. Gurrie.

In short, the report says the district needs to establish a procedure for tracking expenditures and reconciling the money spent with the district’s bank statements.

It took months for Gurrie representatives to complete the latest report, because there was a more than $2 million
discrepancy between the bank statements and the district’s own ledgers.

Board members have placed most of the blame on former fiscal services director Paul Halverson and his staff.

And although Snow has repeatedly said he hopes the district earns a clean bill of health from any forensic auditor, he also says it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Last time, calls for a forensic audit fizzled. We’ll see if this latest report adds fuel to the fire.

On the flip side: Board member Kim Skaja says Snow is something of a glass-is-half-empty guy.

Rather than focus on the negatives — and constantly blowing them out of proportion — Skaja said Snow should pay more attention to all of the good coming out of District 158.

To view the rest of the article go to the Daily Herald.

Jeffrey Gaunt covers school districts 300 and 158. He can be reached at (847) 608-2719 or by e-mail at

Friday, June 09, 2006

D-50 decides against accepting bid to outsource jobs

The piece below appeared in the Northwest Herald on June 7th. The difference between the two bids below is about 50,000 dollars. In a small district like Harvard 50,000 dollars goes a long way. There has been much in the news lately of new spending (primarily staff related) in District 50 but there has yet to be news about the purchase of new textbooks. Old textbooks were part of the plea for a yes vote when promoting the referenda in past elections. The primary interests of the District 50 board should first be the students and taxpayers. Have the children been thrown under the bus to please the employees once again. Kudos for the concessions but perhaps they did not go far enough. Northwest Herald.

D-50 decides against accepting bid to outsource jobs
Publication Northwest Herald
Date June 07, 2006


HARVARD - The custodial, maintenance and grounds workers of Harvard School District 50 no longer face a July 1 job-loss date.

The school board has voted not to accept a bid to outsource them.

The 18 district employees affected were notified in April that their employment with the district would end in June. That decision was reversed June 1.

The school board decided that the annual savings to be achieved by outsourcing the work would not be worth it after the union agreed to concessions.

The lowest bid to outsource the custodial and maintenance jobs came in at $725,820. The district plans to spend $774,283 on the services in 2006-07, Clow said.

"The dollar difference was not enough there to outsource, unlike the food service, which just came in at a tremendous savings," board member Diana Bird said this week.

The board voted to outsource the district's food service at a meeting May 22, saying the move would save the district about $390,000 over the next three years.

About 20 former food-service employees will have the chance to interview with the district's new food service provider, Arbor Management Inc., but they will not be guaranteed jobs, District Spokesman Bill Clow said.

He added that the union representing the custodial and maintenance workers agreed to take concessions so that workers could keep their jobs.

"Impact bargaining was able to close that gap sufficiently to make it worthwhile for the board to agree not to outsource," Clow said.

Lower costs negotiated with the local union, the Harvard Education Support Association, have not been calculated but will go into effect after the 2006-07 school year, Clow said.

The board signed a three-year contract with HESA on June 1 after two months of negotiations.

HESA Vice President Lee Peters, who is head custodian at Central School, said he was angry when he received the initial letter stating that he no longer would be employed with the district as of July 1.

To view the rest of the story go to the Northwest Herald.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Proposition 82 rejected in California - Socialism rejected -

Universal preschool for all failed in California.

Voters reject Prop. 82
By Dana Hull
Mercury News
California voters soundly rejected Proposition 82 Tuesday, crushing the hopes of early childhood education advocates who hoped to make universal preschool public policy in the nation's most populous state.

Throughout much of the evening, returns showed that 60 percent of voters statewide opposed Prop. 82 while just 40 percent supported it, making it nearly impossible for the measure to ever get the simple majority it needed to pass.

``It doesn't look good,'' admitted Hollywood director Rob Reiner, who spoke to about 200 supporters at a Los Angeles hotel ballroom shortly after 10 p.m. But he vowed to fight on, saying that the push for universal preschool would not go away. ``This is important, and if it is not today the train has left the station.''

Though voter turnout was low across California, by 1 a.m. it appeared that Prop. 82 failed in every county except Alameda and San Francisco. It was evenly split in Imperial County.

Many San Jose area voters took their skepticism about the measure to the polls.

``Prop. 82 sounded really good, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it was subject to shenanigans,'' said David Yomtov, a San Jose resident who said he voted against it. ``Kids should go to preschool, but it didn't sound like Prop. 82 would help the families who most needed the help.''

The ``No on 82'' campaign claimed victory shortly before midnight.

``We're grateful for this vote of confidence by California voters,'' said Pamela Zell Rigg, president of the California Montessori Council, which campaigned against the measure. ``In the meantime, the state education system can focus on serving K-12 students.''

Prop. 82 would have taxed the state's wealthiest residents to provide a free year of preschool to every 4-year-old. The tax-the-rich initiative, which had the support of Hollywood activists and labor unions, seemed a sure winner when it was first unveiled earlier this spring.

Proponents argued that making high-quality preschool available to the state's nearly 500,000 4-year-olds would be a huge boost to working families that struggle to pay for preschool, which often costs thousands of dollars a year.

Supporters also said investing in preschool would improve K-12 education by bridging the achievement gap separating wealthier children from their low-income counterparts.

Silicon Valley opposed

But Reiner and his campaign aides overestimated the breadth of their support -- and misjudged the depth of the opposition's.

Prop. 82 was attacked by anti-tax activists and Silicon Valley's vast venture capital community, which donated heavily to the ``No on 82'' campaign. Critics also warned that the measure would not do enough to help the state's poorest families.

Another salvo came from private preschools, notably many Montessori schools, over concerns that increased competition from a state-run program would threaten their business and their education philosophies.

The television commercials against Prop. 82 deftly capitalized on those fears, consistently warning it would do little to raise preschool enrollment while creating a ``preschool bureaucracy.'' The ads also urged California to fix K-12 schools before taking on the role of educating even younger children.

To view the rest of the story go to Mecury News newspaper.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Agony of American Education - How per-student funding can revolutionize public schools

The following story appeared at Reason online Free Minds and Free Markets.

The Agony of American Education
How per-student funding can revolutionize public schools
Lisa Snell

Imagine a city with authentic public school choice—a place where the location of your home doesn’t determine your child’s school. The first place that comes to mind probably is not San Francisco. But that city boasts one of the most robust school choice systems in the nation.

Caroline Grannan, a public school advocate and super-involved parent, lobbied hard to wear down the San Francisco school district back in 1996 and get her son William, then an incoming kindergartner, out of his assigned neighborhood school, Miraloma Elementary, and into a “more desirable” alternative school called Lakeshore. In 1996 Miraloma had low test scores and a low-income student body bused in from other neighborhoods; its middle-class neighbors shunned it. Lakeshore had a better reputation and higher student performance.

Once, Grannan remembers, it was conventional wisdom in San Francisco that there were only five decent public schools in the city; if you couldn’t get your child into one of them, it was time to move to the suburbs or to find a private academy. But a lot has changed since 1996. Today Grannan could send her child to any school within the city. What’s more, she would happily send her kids to Miraloma, one of many elementary schools in San Francisco that now attract eager middle-class clients. Miraloma has a new principal with a parent-friendly attitude, has begun to raise its test scores, and is more diversified. Families now feel secure taking advantage of Miraloma’s longstanding positive attributes, including its small size and its sheltered and attractive setting.

Grannan’s more recent experience with her children’s middle school also reflects how San Francisco schools have changed. Her son William just graduated from Aptos Middle School, and her daughter Anna started sixth grade there this year. This school is now in high demand, but in 1996 parents considered it dirty, dangerous, and academically weak. Today it offers enriched language, arts, and music programs, and its test scores continue to improve.

Grannan is more than just a concerned parent. She is a founding member of the San Francisco chapter of Parents for Public Schools, a PTA board member, and a prolific writer whose articles about local schools appear in the San Francisco Examiner and other publications. She has argued passionately against both vouchers and charter schools, and would wince to be portrayed as a partisan of school choice. Yet she has become an avid supporter of the San Francisco system and the benefits it brings to San Francisco families.

To view the rest of the story go to Reason online Free Minds and Free Markets.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why doesn't Blagojevich just sell the public school system?

The following piece appeared on Students First and in the in the Daily Herald.

Why doesn't Blagojevich just sell the public school system?

Monday, June 05, 2006

By Chuck Goudie
Source: Daily Herald Nobody asked any of us Illinoisans if we wanted our beloved lottery hung on the sale rack like a
melon-colored Nehru jacket.

It's not just the lottery either. The auction of the Skyway toll road wasn't put to a vote. The highway, dream child of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, was just sold off by his son as if it was a diamond pinky ring at his estate sale.

These may just represent a beginning of the pawning of public property to resolve short-term government cash flow problems, as the scheme seems to be gaining popularity among political leaders.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has announced his plan to sell control of the state lottery and then hand over some of the proceeds to Illinois' allegedly broke public schools.

Whether the financially flourishing lottery can possibly fetch $10 billion as Mr. Blagojevich's arithmetic presumes, maybe he is selling the wrong state treasure.

Instead of unloading the lottery to fund the schools, why doesn't Gov. Blagojevich just sell the public school system?

I am certain that some civic-minded, big-hearted, deep-pocketed company could turn around the schools in
a semester or two and still manage to turn a profit.

All of us who pay property taxes know that the amount of money coming into the schools isn't a problem and never has been. We're tapped out. So, the chronic quandary the schools face must be a result of how our property taxes are being spent after the bags of loot arrive at the school districts.

If the governor were to outsource administration of the public schools, the first thing that would happen is a complete review of the current administrators. This is what such a survey of State Board of Education files would reveal:

- There are more than 100 school district officials in Illinois who currently make more than the governor himself. More than 100 school officials are paid an annual salary of $200,000 or more. Three years ago there were only 15 making that much.

- All but a few of the 100 highest paid school administrators work for districts in the Chicago suburbs.

- They are not just district superintendents rolling in dough. Some are the district under bosses.

- According to state records for 2005, the highest paid Illinois public school district official is James Hintz, who worked in Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School District 125. Mr. Hintz' salary in 2005 was $361,146.

That was quite a feat, considering that Hintz was not even the superintendent. He worked as the assistant superintendent for business services, commonly known as the business manager. He made $100,000 more per year than the actual superintendent.

That wasn't always the case. Mr. Hintz' base salary ballooned as part of a lucrative retirement deal. Under the state retirement system, it is an employee's final year salary that is used to formulate pension benefits.

Therefore, since retiring at the end of last school year, Mr. Hintz has been receiving pension checks totaling $200,000 a year and will continue to do so until the day he dies.

How can this happen? John Bauman, the executive director of the State Teacher's Retirement system, told me that his personal opinion is Hintz' retirement package was "legal, but devious."

"That's his opinion," said Hintz, 56, who now works as an educational consultant in addition to collecting his $200,000 annual school pension. "Everything was done with the full knowledge of the school board and met all the provisions of the teacher retirement system."

Indeed, the practice of padding career-ending salaries to boost school administrators' pensions became so common that the Illinois General Assembly recently passed legislation capping pre-retirement pay increases at 6 percent.

But even that won't necessarily put an end to Hintz-style golden parachutes. Bauman says "in situations where school boards feel that they have a need to compensate extraordinary performance or reward an administrator for a job well done over a career of service to the district at rates above 6 percent, they may continue to do so at their expense."

Still, there are way too many highly paid "public" school bosses in Illinois. Even a one-eyed corporate hatchet man could easily cut down the number of superintendents, assistant superintendents, business managers, assistant business managers and assistants to the assistants.

Under a business plan, district managers' positions would be consolidated, second tier administrators would be eliminated and private sector executive pay would be scaled back and decreased to public service levels.

The money that would be saved on this alone could result in the hiring of hundreds of new teachers to carry out the core function of our schools: educate children. There might even be a few bucks left over to start a performance incentive program for teachers, which would link improved test scores to bonus checks.

Judging by the most recent results of statewide science testing, something needs to be done. Almost three-quarters of Illinois' fourth- and eighth-graders flunked the test on physical, life and earth sciences. The results were even lower than five years and worse than the national average.

Selling the Illinois Lottery might be an easy answer. It certainly would be politically expedient for the governor if it could be tied up with a neat ribbon before the November election. It would pump some fast money into the schools. But if the cash just ends up fattening administrators' wallets, why not leave the Lotto alone?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Reckless Sale of State Assets By Senator Chris Lauzen

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.” - attributed to Alexander Tytler, Scottish historian

The following is a letter from Senator Chris Lauzen click here to sign up for his news letter. Thanks to our friend Dave for the heads up on the above quote.

Reckless Sale of State Assets

By Senator Chris Lauzen

One of the saddest personal tragedies in life is to see a person addicted to alcohol, drugs, or gambling destroy the financial base upon which his family relies. The way it usually goes is an initial euphoria of hype as he doubles the mortgage debt to mask the problem. The next step is running all his credit cards so high that his credit rating is severely damaged. Eventually, he begins to sell his most marketable family assets at flea market prices. And, during all this time, he refuses to admit that he even has a problem.

The same is true about the current administration of the State of Illinois. Their addiction is to excess government spending. George Ryan, who was known as a prolific spender, increased state spending by $2.5B during his four years. Rod Blagojevich has increased spending by $3.5B-more than $1B more over four budgets. Both are in denial that they have done anything wrong. The reason why this is so important to all of us is that we will eventually have to pay back the mortgage, the credit cards, and will lack cash-producing assets that he sold cheaply.

Careful readers of this publication are already aware of the doubling of the state general obligation debt in the past four years to over $20B. You are aware of the accumulation of unpaid Medicaid provider bills that currently exceed a staggering $2 Billion that has New York credit rating company Fitch warning Illinois that they will downgrade our finances. Now we're starting to see the final desperate step in this "financial meltdown" pattern, i.e. the sale of state assets that have been paid for by generations of taxpayers and are now being offered at rummage sale prices.

For example, thank goodness that Attorney General Lisa Madigan stopped the ill-advised sale of the State of Illinois Building to a group of French investors about a year ago.

The state lottery is "on the blocks" as a bargaining chip in the negotiations to keep Reverend/Senator James Meeks from splitting the statewide Democrat vote in the current governor's race. Twenty years after the lottery was sold to unsuspecting state taxpayers on the false promise that "The lottery will go to education", apparently my friend Senator Meeks has fallen for that one again!

It is simply amazing to me that the Illinois Student Assistance Commission which holds a portfolio of $3,500,000,000 of student loans that you and I have paid our taxes to develop for decades, is being proportionately sold for $300M-$500M. If the portion-to-be-sold is practically given away for the equivalent of $350M, that transaction represents yard sale prices of a dime on the dollar (10¢ for what is clearly worth $1). This irresponsible fiscal decision is like selling a home that is worth $250,000 for $25,000. This isn't petty theft, its grand larceny! Don't be surprised when you see the investors who ultimately steal this asset show up on the list of "experts" who provided the incredibly low valuation and also show up on the Governor's campaign contribution reports.

But the real whopper is the sale of the tollway. This asset belongs to the people of this region and has been paid for by tollpayers for over a half century in nickels, dimes, and quarters. What right does an obviously reckless Governor have to sell this regional asset and distribute the money among political allies and to spend it around the rest of the state? This is a ransacking and pillaging of the Suburban region to benefit Chicago and Downstate.

On Wednesday of this week, I listened to more than two hours of testimony where one of the preliminary estimates was that the tollway is worth $15-$25B, according to the most prestigious investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. Yet, on May 8, 2006 in "Barron's Financial News On-Line", it was reported that investment banking firms "led by Goldman Sachs, are descending on state capitols" to buy up tollway opportunities. I learned painfully a long time ago not to play poker for money with people a lot smarter than me. As I applied the toll increases permitted under the Chicago Skyway sale of 7% per year for the first 11 years and approximately 5% for the remaining 64 years to the proposed 75-year Illinois Tollway Lease, my rough calculation for the discounted cash flow at a reasonable 5% internal rate of return yielded a lease price closer to $35B. We may not see the fangs and claws yet, but I feel like the three little piggies locked in the blood-thirsty glare of that big bad wolf! Let's not go there.

The result of personal addiction is despair, disappointment, and destruction. The result of public addiction to excessive spending and reckless sale of the state assets is further backbreaking tax increases.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Feds probe company over use of gift cards

CRAFT has always said investigate and you will find either corruption, patronage, waste and/or fraud in your schools. The Federal Government is now doing some investigations of their own. We can not stress enough you must investigate your schools before voting yes. The following article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 3rd. Buy a copy or several copies and send it to all your friends who do not have email or read the paper . School employees or spouses are getting kickbacks from companies doing deals with schools. Schools are big business and mean big money for those doing businesses with schools. According to the article in 1998 alone a company handed out 1.5 million dollars in gift cards. It would have been much better for the schools if these companies charged 1.5 million less for their products or gave 1.5 million dollars in donations. Essentially our taxes are higher because schools are getting kick backs. Hat tip to Cal Skinner of McHenry County Blog for pointing us to the article. Cal is the leader of investigative reporting. I have reposted the article here because of its importance.

This can not be said enough as pointed out in the article below "Officials with government entities are not allowed to accept money or gifts in return for doing business with companies." That includes teachers. If you find this is happening in your schools document everything and report the matter to the authorities.

Feds probe company over use of gift cards

June 3, 2006

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

Federal authorities are investigating a Des Plaines-based company after allegations surfaced that salespeople were handing out bribes in the form of gift certificates to secure contracts, court records show.

Individuals within the company, which the Sun-Times is not naming because it hasn't been charged, allegedly handed out $1.5 million worth of gift certificates in 1998 alone. The company was doing it to secure sales contracts, in some cases with schools or local municipalities, according to an FBI affidavit. Officials with government entities are not allowed to accept money or gifts in return for doing business with companies.

To evade suspicion, salespeople at the company would sometimes send the gift certificates to people's homes in the names of their spouses, according to the affidavit.

The Des Plaines company used Winners Choice gift certificates, which can be redeemed at any of a number of different stores, from Sears to Eddie Bauer to Sam's Club to Toys R Us. Salespeople allegedly used the gift certificates as a form of kickbacks, federal authorities allege, with the thought that they were less traceable than cash.

"[The company] was using these gift certificates to reward purchasing agents of public and private companies for awarding it contracts," an FBI agent states in the affidavit.

'Not traceable'

One cooperating witness told the FBI he accepted $2,000 worth of gift certificates in return for giving the company work with a school district. The amount of the gift certificates corresponded with the amount of the contract; one customer reportedly received $10,000 worth, according to records.

An FBI agent also worked undercover to record a conversation with one salesperson who told him that the gift certificates were "not traceable, and it's cash . . . you want to store them up for 10 years, they're still good."

Records show a second North Shore company helped process the gift certificates to the salespeople. An undercover FBI agent also recorded an executive of the North Shore company. In a conversation, the executive tells the undercover agent to give out gift certificates as kickbacks -- not cash.

"You get caught and you're gonna have those f---ing feds going over every . . . nickel and dime and checking account you got," the executive unwittingly told the federal agent. "That's all those bastards do."

No one has yet been charged in the investigation.

"We are cooperating with the government and will continue to do so," a representative of the Des Plaines company said.

The company reported sales of $420 million last year.