Saturday, August 26, 2006

Unions Serve Teachers, Fail the Students

The following piece appeared on the Real Clear Politics website. No commentary needed the piece speaks for itself.

July 23, 2006
Unions Serve Teachers, Fail the Students
By Ruben Navarrette
SAN DIEGO -- After five years of trying to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act, the nation's largest teachers union has decided that it can live with the education reform law after all -- as long as the legislation is gutted, its standards lowered and its accountability measures watered down.

Great. So we're making progress.

This month at its annual conference, the National Education Association voted to launch a nationwide campaign to lobby Congress to radically change NCLB when the law comes up for reauthorization next year. The goal behind the changes seems to be to wrest power away from government and put it back where the union thinks it belongs -- with educators and those who represent them.

Call me cynical, but I never thought for a minute that the NEA was really concerned about, well, education. I never believed the organization was eager to find new ways to empower students or to hold schools accountable for the educational products they turn out.

I always assumed that the NEA was focused primarily on what any union tends to focus on: the interests of its members. And since the education establishment has been trained to believe that it is not in the interests of teachers to demand more from them or tie them to the performance of their students, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that groups such as the NEA have reacted with hostility to No Child Left Behind.

That's exactly what's been happening since 2001, when the law -- perhaps the most significant domestic policy achievements of the Bush administration -- took effect.

According to a recent report by Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, the NEA has given more than $8 million to various education, civil rights and public policy groups that opposed or criticized No Child Left Behind. Lead researcher Joe Williams says that what the union did wasn't illegal, but it is clear that it "actively pursued partnerships'' with groups intent on fighting NCLB. And questions remain about whether the funding that was given to some of these groups influenced the research some of these groups produced -- research that was, to no one's surprise, critical of the education reform law.

Not that the law doesn't have its critics. When I hear from teachers, or even school board members -- some of whom have accepted campaign contributions from the NEA and other teachers unions -- I get an earful about how NCLB is single-handedly destroying the public education system due to its emphasis on testing, its punishing of underperforming schools and its one-size-fits-all approach.

And yet, knowing all that, it's still frightening to get a peek behind the curtain at the specifics of what the NEA, if it had its druthers, would do to make NCLB more palatable to its members -- or at least, some of them, as the more hard-line members won't be satisfied unless the law is repealed.

Convinced that there is too much emphasis on regular testing, and that low-performing schools are being unfairly punished when students come up short, the union would prefer a broader-based accountability system that relies on "multiple measures of success.'' Whatever that means.

The union is also queasy about the requirement in No Child Left Behind that schools test students in math and reading and then report scores according to race, disability, English proficiency and economic background. The NEA instead wants benchmarks that take into account students' differing abilities and demographics. It seems that many educators are less than confident in the job they've done when it comes to teaching minorities, those with limited English proficiency and the economically disadvantaged, and they're not eager to broadcast their failures.

It's outrageous. If these people get their way, the practical effect would be a lower bar for students of different racial, ethnic or economic backgrounds -- and by extension, those who teach them. And they would do all this not for the good of students but for the professional welfare of those who are supposed to be teaching them and who have, for too long, been coming up short.

And why does the nation's largest teachers union want to make all these changes in No Child Left Behind? It's so the truth does not come out about whom the public schools serve and whom they sacrifice.
(c) 2006, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Illinois is a high-tax state

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Southtown Newspaper.
In McHenry County School Districts must adopt referendum questions on or before September 5th. The last day to file in this office is September 7th. Will you be voting to increase the tax budern of your fellow Illinois residents?

Illinois is a high-tax state

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Despite the claims of some government employees and pro-tax political activists that Illinois is a "low-tax" state, the latest statistics from the non-partisan Tax Foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C., show that Illinois is a high-tax state; Illinois, in fact, has some of the highest tax burdens in the nation (

The Tax Foundation measures tax burden by taking taxes as a percentage of income. In 2000, Illinois' combined state and local tax burden was 10 percent, ranking 30th in the nation. By 2004, Illinois' state and local tax burden had climbed to 10.4 percent, the 16th in the nation. Two years later, in 2006, Illinois' tax burden for state and local taxes had increased to 10.9 percent, the 14th highest in the nation. Only 13 out of 50 states had higher state and local tax burdens than Illinois in 2006.

When the federal tax burden is added to Illinois' state and local figures, Illinois has the 10th highest total tax burden in the nation for 2006 — 32.7 percent (taxes as a percentage of income).

Illinois' economic growth and tax increases have resulted in a flood of taxpayer dollars pouring into state coffers. For Illinois' fiscal year 2006, ending June 30, tax revenues were nearly $4 billion higher than in FY 2005. Illinois' total state revenue growth was more than twice the 3.3 percent rate of price inflation for the same period (

Unfortunately, in fiscal year 2006, the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich were responsible for accelerating the growth of spending. Total state expenditures increased by a huge amount, $5 billion, nearly $1 billion more than revenues — a spending orgy that threatens the long-term financial health of the state.

Illinois is a high-tax state plagued by runaway spending. This is a deadly combination for individual taxpayers and businesses alike. The high state and local taxes, combined with the state's irresponsible spending, are hurting its economy, driving small businesses out of state and enriching government employees at the expense of productive workers in the private sector.

Dennis Constant
Research director
Illinois Taxpayer Education Foundation


The following story appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Ex-school official must pay $40,000

Published August 24, 2006

SAUK VILLAGE -- A former Sauk Village school administrator was ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution this week after pleading guilty to one count of theft from the district. Former maintenance manager Edward Bernacki, who had been accused of stealing more than $100,000 from Elementary School District 168, also was sentenced to a year of probation.

Bernacki's plea comes on the heels of two other high-profile cases in the financially troubled district.

Former Supt. Thomas Ryan is serving 8 years after pleading guilty to theft in November. He paid $400,000 in restitution.

Former school board president Louise Morales pleaded guilty to official misconduct in February. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation and was forced to pay $350 to have her name removed from one of the district's buildings.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The solution: School vouchers

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Southtown Newspaper.

Letter to the Editor: The solution: School vouchers


By Timothy A. Van Eck, South Holland

Phil Kadner's column (Aug. 15) contends that the educational system in Illinois for some of the poorer districts is analogous to "a plane with an incompetent pilot at the controls."

His analogy is a ringing endorsement for school vouchers.

After deregulation, the airlines had to compete. Fares went down; service went up. New airlines began to compete with the established airlines and gave the passengers economic power they lacked before.

The same rang true for the telephone companies. We are no longer impressed when someone receives or makes a long-distance telephone call.

Once government got out of the way, costs were reduced and better service was demanded. The same can be done with the schools. Let the money follow the child, and let the schools compete for each student. Schools currently cannot succeed because their focus over the past 20 years has been on indoctrinating political correctness into the children, not on education.

One problem with the analogy is that with an airplane, there is a known destination. With the current educational system, we do not know where the children will end up.

According to Dr. Bruce Shortt, "If we have our children in public schools, the public school is indeed our children's teacher and, effectively, their parent. The federal courts agree. In Fields v. Palmdale, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals candidly stated that public-school parents ' ... have no constitutional right ... to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.' "

This is a main reason why a faction in the Southern Baptist church has repeatedly, with an ever increasingly favorable vote, tried to pass a resolution at its conventions to remove its members' students from the public schools.

If that resolution passes, the question then will be: Will Sen. Meeks continue to pursue his political agenda, or will Rev. Meeks follow the dictates of his denomination and abandon the public education platform that has given him so much media attention?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Newspapers not giving full details of District 158 contract.

Below is a partial post from Cal Skinner's Blog. We hope it is clear to District 158 voters that the referendum they passed two years ago was for the school employees and not the students. Shame on you who supported this referendum, which has frivolously spent your neighbors tax dollars against their wishes.

Christmas in August for Huntley Teachers

Now that teachers are learning some of the details of what's in the contract, many of them are jumping for joy.

The $4,500 "bonus" that negotiators agreed to give high school teachers for teaching a sixth class, (for work most do already) jumps to $6,750 in the 2nd year of the contract.

If a high school teacher made $45,000 last year, then this teacher would receive a 4% pay increase--$1800--plus $4,500 for teaching a 6th class.

That's a $6,300 increase or a 14% increase to $51,300.

In the year after this, their $46,800 base salary would go up by another 5%, a comfortable $2,340 increase.

But, they would also receive a $6,750 bonus for teaching a 6th class.

That would bring the total salary to $55,890.

In 2 years, the $45,000 high school teacher will be making $55,890.

That's a 24.2% pay increase.

To view the rest of Cal Skinners post visit McHenry County Blog.
We also suggest you read his post on the contract titled Huntley District 158 Teachers’ Contract: Payback Time.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A warn for those thinking of supporting future referenda. This too will happen to you.

A note from one of our email subscribers who unsuccessfully tried to defeat a referendum in her community last spring.

FYI - here in Waterloo, Illinois, as you may recall, the tax referendum passed last spring. Already the education fund portion of the referendum has been added retroactively to this year's tax bill! People in the community are up in arms about it. They didn't think they'd get hammered with higher taxes until next year. The community didn't listen to us when we fought the referenda -- now all the sudden when it hits their wallet they're questioning the original sales pitch of the school board. The increase in taxes is much higher than they were told it would be. We tried to warn them . . .


The following letter to the editor appeared in the August 20th edition of the Northwest Herald.

Fat raises, fewer teachers
[published on Sun, Aug 20, 2006]
To the Editor:

Re: District 15 administration raises.

I recently read an article stating that the District 15 administrators gave themselves 4 percent increases in their salaries.

To me, this is truly unacceptable. I can't help but feel duped. I voted yes to the referendum so more teachers would be hired to alleviate the high student-to-teacher ratio; to bring back programs that were cut or would have been cut; and to keep the buildings and their property open so students would be able to benefit from after-school activities.

I did not vote yes to give the administrators raises.

The school board is not accurately reflecting the feeling of the community by doing this.

I now can see them hiding behind closed doors, wringing their hands and twisting their evil mustaches while congratulating each other on their recent coup.

I am personally happy that my kids will be eating peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for dinner so the already-overpaid administrators of District 15 can further fatten their wallets.

I never will vote yes again. Sorry District 15, you messed up big time.

Marjie Lullo

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lawrence Miller is voting no on the District 225 referendum. Are you?

District 225 is going to referendum in November to issue $94 million in bonds. They have said what they want the money for, but have not answered the question, “why is a referendum necessary?”

The question arises because it is not necessary to obtain voter approval to issue bonds for building additions and repairs to existing schools, or for refunding bonds -- things the District says it wants to do with the $94 million. District 225 has built huge additions to schools without asking voters if they approved. Refunding bonds were issued in 2003 without voter approval. The fact is, referendum approval is only required for building bonds to build separate new schools, and there is no hint of that here.

The answer to the question, “why a referendum?” is that taxes levied to pay bonds approved by referendum are not subject to the tax cap limitation. And bonds issued in the future to refund referendum approved bonds will also be exempt from the tax cap limitation. This $94 million referendum is a scheme to bust the tax cap.

Tax revenue to pay bonds that were part of the district’s total bond debt as of March 1, 1995, when the tax cap law came into effect, or replacements for those bonds, is also excluded from the tax cap.

In 2005, the District reported long term outstanding bond debt of $ 44.7 million which it proposes to pay off with part of the new $94 million referendum bond proceeds. The proposed refunding will add the “referendum-approved-bond” tax cap exemption to the “existing-debt” tax cap exemption to allow the District to issue approximately $139 million in debt outside the tax cap and triple current taxes for bond debt service and related allowances to approximately $6.4 million annually. This increase will be on top of annual tax increases allowed by the tax cap.

The tax cap law is designed to limit increases in total property taxes billed. The limitation slows the growth of property tax revenues to taxing districts when property values and assessments are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. As a whole, property owners have some protection from tax bills that increase only because the market value of their property is rising rapidly, as it has in District 225. The tax cap law is a good law, and it is working.

Taxpaying homeowners should vote No in November and save the tax cap.

Lawrence T. Miller
Glenview, IL.