Saturday, February 24, 2007

Apple CEO lambasts teacher unions.

Our friend Pete the Finance Guy forwarded us the following information. A similar article can also be found on the Star-Telegram website.

The "Issues and Insights" page of Investors Business Daily, February 26 edition carried an excellent piece, which opened with:

"Steve Jobs recently addressed a forum on education reform in Austin TX. Jobs could contain his tough diagnosis no longer", according to the editorial:

" 'I believe what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,' Jobs charged. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the charts crazy."

The editorial continues:

"It was what you'd call a throat-clearing moment. Absorbing Job's comment, the room erupted into applause, even as another panelist, competitor Michael Dell, sat politely nearby. Assessing his impolitic outburst, Jobs grinned: "Apple just lost some business in this state, I'm sure."

"Maybe more than that. The Associated Press carried the story across the fruited plain. In teachers' lounges throughout the 50 states, iPod earplugs popped onto slumped shoulders as tenured pedagogues pondered life without their precious Macs.

"Jobs said a little more on the subject, comparing school principals to corporate CEOs: "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" He answered himself to uproarious applause: "Not really great ones because if you're really smart, you go, 'I can't win.'"

"It took the estimable Dell seconds to seize some good will:

"Unions were created," Dell argued, "because the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good. So now you have these enterprises where they take good care of their people. The employees won, they do really well and succeed."

"Dell vaguely prescribed a shot of competitive spirit to be imbibed by the school principals' employment market. So the longtime Jobs-Dell rivalry now rises from the respective merits of their products to the historic debate over organized labor's contributions-or lack thereof-to our economic health.

"It's a debate worth reviving, as has been discovered by the academic blogosphere, where one commentator even accused Jobs of abandoning corporate responsibility to Apple's shareholders by alienating such a large market for his computers.

"It's hard to know if Jobs intended such bluntness beforehand, but that kind of impromptu bravery should be saluted. Apple's chief has struggled lately with his own set of compensation issues, enough to have interested regulators, so he could be charged with diversionary bravado.

"But he adds his vision to other critics -- futurist Alvin Toffler and Microsoft's Bill Gates come to mind -- who've called for replacing government schools as we know them with a system friendlier to market principles.

"Jobs may be overenthusiastic about the prospect of scrapping textbooks for online, Wikipedia-like educational content. But he does grasp, tatter than most unionized and tenured end majors, the mental cybernetices of learning.

"His ideas are at least dynamic, theirs static. He's now advanced the revolution, deserving cheers far beyond that Texas auditorium."

Quote of the Day

" 'I believe what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the charts crazy." Steve Jobs

Friday, February 23, 2007

SB 541 Lowers Comupulsory Attendance Age

The following piece was sent to us by the Home School Legal Defense Association. Please contact your legislators and tell them to vote no on SB 541. This is not only important for homeschoolers but all parents who choose to raise their children as opposed to having the government raise their children. For more information on compulsory attendance age legislation visit the Home School Legal Defense Association website.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

Senator Kwame Raoul is back. He is attempting, once again, to pass a bill to lower the compulsory attendance age from seven to five years old and to require all school districts to establish kindergartens for children who are five years old. This bill, SB 541, is a step towards Senator Raoul's continuing goal to lower the compulsory attendance age to three. Senator Raoul expressed this aim in the committee hearing last year.

Last year, Senator Raoul introduced SB 409, which was opposed tirelessly by hundreds of homeschoolers. The homeschoolers were so tenacious in their continued calls in opposing the bill, that even though Senator Raoul thought he had the votes, he was never able to pass it out of the House Educational Committee. Even though the bill passed the Senate, it never got to the floor of the House after numerous delays due to the constant barrage of phone calls.

Your phone calls and constant pressure made a difference last year. You won the uphill battle; even though the compulsory attendance age bill was targeted for passage and should have been passed, considering the make up of the legislature.

Once again we are calling on you to oppose the lowering of the compulsory attendance age to five and the establishing of mandatory kindergarten which would result from Senator Raoul's new bill, SB 541.

We are working closely with Ralph Garcia and the Christian Home Educators Coalition to oppose this bill.


Please call as many members of the Senate Education Committee as possible. You can give them this message:

"Please vote against SB 541, which lowers the compulsory attendance age two years and mandates kindergarten. This bill is unnecessary and restricts parental choice, and wastes tax payer's money since there is no study showing any long-term positive benefits from children attending school early."


Chair Kimberly A. Lightford, (217) 782-8505
Vice-Chair: Deanna Demuzio, (217) 782-8206
Jacqueline Y. Collins, (217) 782-1607
William Delgado, (217) 782-5652
Susan Garrett, (217) 782-3650
James T. Meeks, (217) 782-8066
A. J. Wilhelmi, (217) 782-8800
Dan Cronin, (217) 782-8107
J. Bradley Burzynski, (217) 782-1977
David Luechtefeld, (217) 782-8137
John J. Millner, (217) 782-8192

According to the 2005 NAEP test scores, children from states that have low compulsory attendance ages (5-6) did not score any higher than children from the other states, and in some subjects their average was actually lower.

Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child's formal education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic performance later.

A report published February 6, 2007 by the Goldwater Institute examines Stanford 9 test scores and finds Arizona kindergarten programs initially improve learning but have no measurable impact on reading, math, or language arts test scores by fifth grade.

The data show that students in schools with all-day kindergarten programs have statistically significant higher 3rd-grade test scores, but there is no impact on 5th-grade scores. This finding is consistent with previous research. Forcing children into school early delivers short-term benefits at best.

Another significant impact of expanding mandatory schooling is the inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. When California raised the age of compulsory attendance, unwilling students were so disruptive that new schools had to be built just to handle them and their behavior problems, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our
memorandum at the Home School Legal Defens website.

Thank you for standing with us in this fight for freedom.


Christopher J. Klicka

Quote of the Day

Friedrich Engels, who in an 1847 draft of the Manifesto called "Principles of Communism" wrote as one of its tenets:
"Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother's care, in national establishments at national cost."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

School Board Elections

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Northwest Herald.

To the Editor:

I’d like to remind everyone that there are elections coming up for some local school boards.

I think school boards have gotten pretty complacent with handing out exorbitant raises and bonuses, all under the guise of it being “for the kids.”

It is the responsibility of everyone to get out to vote and let them all know how we feel about their ethics.

Larry Schultz


Quote of the Day

"This is about money and contracts and selfishness." Senator Chris Lauzen on the recent contract of U-46 Stupidintendent Neale.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Butt out, government

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Northwest Herald.

Butt out, government

To the Editor:

State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, recently introduced House Bill 382, making it state law that school children wash their hands before eating.

I’m not anti-hygiene, but where does government nannying stop?

In 2005, Illinois passed a law (Public Act 093-0946) requiring kindergartners through second-graders and sixth-graders to have dental exams. It was sponsored by state Rep. David Miller, D-Dolton, who, by coincidence, is a dentist and president of the Illinois State Dental Society’s Political Action Committee.

Gee, I wonder if Flowers owns stock in an antiseptic soap supplier.

It’s clear parents are incapable of electing ethical officials who understand the concept of limited government.

Are parents also completely incapable of raising children without the government telling them what to do every step of the way?

Why stop with washing hands?

Chris Jenner


Quote of the Day

"If it is wrong for you to take money from someone else who earned it, to take their money by force for your own needs, then it is certainly just as wrong for you to demand that the government step forward and do this dirty work for you."
Neal Boortz

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

U-46 Super's pay far outpaces peers across the nation

The following piece appeared in the Daily Herald. This article points out very well one of the major problems that plagues our public education system. Administrators across Illinois are playing a ratchet game with their salaries with threats of quitting for higher paid districts and jumping around districts across the state of Illinois ratcheting up salaries. The salary increases are not market based but based on a ratchet game played by the administrators themselves. In their path the leave a wake of broken budgets, pension deficits and a terrible tax burden for current and future taxpayers.

U-46 Super's pay far outpaces peers across the nation

Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Connie Neale this year will be paid at least $100,000 more than any superintendent in the country directing a district of similar size and wealth.

The Daily Herald analyzed the annual salary, benefits and bonuses of superintendents in school districts that have enrollments within 5,000 students of U-46 and median family incomes within $5,000 of U-46. Nine districts in the nation fit that description.

According to U.S. Census data, U-46 enrolls 38,936 students and has a median family income of $68,037, placing the district squarely in the middle of the sample group on both measures.

But Neale's contract isn't middle of the pack.

She makes 43 percent more than the group's next highest paid superintendent, Don Stockton from Conroe, Texas.

The salary and extra payment totals for the other nine districts ranged from a high of $230,000 to a low of $160,479.
Neale's current package weighs in at $329,667.

A current proposal would inflate that package to $391,403 to lead Illinois' second largest school district.

The disparity stunned some educators and legislators.

"This is about money and contracts and selfishness," said state Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora. "What this does to damage the reputation of public education is just disgraceful."

If U-46 board members formally approve the $20,000 raise and 10 percent tax-free bonus they agreed to during Neale's annual review last month, Neale will make about $161,403, or 70 percent more, than Stockton.

Neale would collect nearly 2¨ times the compensation of the group's lowest-paid superintendent, Bradley Barrett of Gilbert, Ariz.

Neale refuses to further discuss her contract, though she had defended it by saying it simply is a reflection of the market.

Critics say the Daily Herald's findings refute that assertion.

"As you begin to examine what other school districts are putting in the compensation packages, it just doesn't match up locally or, apparently, nationally," Elgin Teachers Association President Tim Davis said.

Board surprised

Neale's contract has been scrutinized since board member Dan Rich resigned last month, saying he could not support the board's decision to sweeten Neale's contract.

Taxpayers, teachers and legislators all expressed outrage as more and more details of Neale's compensation and benefit package came to light.

The remaining six school board members publicly have stood by Neale's contract, citing the competitive market for superintendents as justification for a pay package that teachers and residents have deemed overly generous.

"I am convinced that she is a very marketable employee," school board President Ken Kaczynski said the day after Rich resigned and made public the board's closed-door debate over Neale's contract.

"I believe we have a responsibility to the kids to make sure her compensation is competitive," Kaczynski said.

But competitive with whom?

School board members emphasized that as superintendent of the second-largest school district in Illinois, Neale has few in-state peers.

The district's law firm advised school board members that Neale's pay likely ranked among the three top administrators in Illinois - even without the proposed raise and bonus worth about $60,000.

"I understand community-wise, it raises an eyebrow because there's no one here to compare her to," said longtime board member Karen Carney, who sat on the board that hired Neale in 2002 from a 15,000-student district in Texas.

"Our board members have been exposed to national board members outside of Illinois," Carney said shortly after Rich's resignation. "We're well aware that there are other superintendents out there that are getting more."

Rich said he pushed the board to commission a study of the national market before voting on her raise and bonus, in order to verify Carney's information.

"By everyone's admission, we simply didn't have the comparables in front of us," Rich said. "I wanted to find out what the market would bear out, and there simply wasn't any interest in doing that."

Yet in a district whose improvement plan places a priority on data management, Kaczynski acknowledged the board relied on word of mouth, rather than hard numbers, to gauge where Neale's salary placed her relative to other superintendents.

"It's mostly based on what we hear and talk to people about," Kaczynski said Friday.

Kaczynski, whose district just emerged from a $40 million deficit, said he wouldn't have expected Neale's salary to place her out of range with superintendents from other districts.

"I guess that surprises me," he said. "I really don't have a comment for you."

The 'market'

School search firms say the pool of qualified superintendents is small and getting smaller.

This year, about 3,000 superintendent spots will open up, according to Bill Attea of the national search firm Hazard Young, Attea and Associates "and there just aren't that many people with experience and a proven track record applying."

Attea advises his clients that to attract quality candidates, they should expect to pay 10æ to 20 percent more than the candidates are making at their current jobs.

"It's a seller's market," Attea said.

Compensation experts say the market should figure prominently in determining how much to pay a top executive - whether that executive runs a school or a business.

But experts also caution that corporate boards and school boards alike must be realistic about how they define that market.

"What boards tend to do is pick firms that are not really comparable, but rather firms they'd like to be," said Susan Gates, an economist with the California-based Rand Institute who specializes in the applications of economic management principles to public sector organizations.

Kent Johansen, a former superintendent, teaches educational leadership at Western Illinois University. He also works part-time for the search firm School Exec Connect.

He tells school boards to create a salary range based on the pay of superintendents of districts with similar enrollment, housing value, and tax base.

A large, urban district, for example, can't necessarily compensate its executive the way a wealthy suburban community would, Johansen said.

"That's not a comparable district," he said. "You've got to make a data-driven decision."

Kaczynski agreed data is important, but so are more subjective measurements of a superintendent's worth.

"You have to judge what you're paying in terms of what value you perceive that product or person brings to the organization, and a lot of that is judgment," Kaczynski said.

But in education, more than in other industries, it's challenging to peg what a top executive is worth, said Mark Rosen, a North Carolina-based senior vice president with Clark Consulting who specializes in helping boards of public companies and academic institutions set executive compensation packages.

"It's difficult if not impossible to establish meaningful performance measures," Rosen said.

As a result, the best measure of whether a superintendent is underpaid or overpaid is a benchmark analysis of comparable districts, Rosen said.

"That's the evidence. If you can show that, it's over."

Information is power

That kind of objective data, however, often eludes school boards.

Former Elgin state Sen. Steve Rauchenberger said the Illinois General Assembly has long been concerned with the independence of school boards.

"Superintendents control all the information. ... There's no independent staff for the U-46 school board to decide if a contract is reasonable," Rauchenberger said.

Neale presented the board at her annual review a memo titled "Considerations 2007."

Under the heading "Immediate Salary Realignment," Neale noted her 2005-06 salary ranked her 40th in the state.

"I believe that doesn't fairly represent my work or the challenge of U-46," she wrote, adding a $50,000 raise would be necessary to put her among the top 10.

Neale did rank 40th on that particular list, but the list is widely regarded as incomplete and in its original form is labeled as unreliable for comparison purposes. And the district's law firm had made the board aware that Neale's total package likely ranked third in the state.

Even when board members do have the relevant information at their disposal, it can be difficult for them to act independently.

"It's hard to separate your role as adviser and supporter and champion of the administration from that of board member as supervisor who needs to act as a check on compensation," said John Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas of Chicago, an outplacement consulting firm for executives.

Ultimately, Challenger said, it's the public that serves as a check against runaway executive pay.

"The brakes come when that candidate runs for office, and the opponent says, 'There's no check here, they're letting the district run wild.' "

Quote of the Day

How much is enough? Bud Fox

For educrats it is never enough and that is why we must seek school choice and end the monopoly of the public education system as it is today.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Time to write or call your legislators and tell them to vote no on SB541

The following post is from our from Dave Ziffer.

February 19, 2007

State Senator Kwame Raoul
1013 E. 53rd St., Second Floor
Chicago, IL 60615

Dear Senator Raoul:

I am deeply distressed to learn of your sponsorship of bill SB541, which would lower the compulsory schooling age in Illinois from seven to five. This is part of a seemingly endless series of similar bills that have failed in the past due to their justifiable unpopularity. Clearly the strategy here on the part of certain members of the legislature is that the will of the people can eventually be subverted if only the legislature can mount enough attempts.

Our educational system in Illinois is not failing because of hordes of irresponsible, clueless parents who are keeping their kids out of the public schools. It is failing because we have assigned the task of education to a mindless, heartless bureaucracy that has a near monopoly on our education dollars.

I am a parent who has spent the past eleven years observing the behaviors of the public schools. I find both the urban and suburban varieties afflicted with the same problems:

top-heavy self-serving administrations whose priorities are driven more by political interests such as the teachers’ unions (IEA) than by educational priorities;
introspective school boards whose agendas seem more directed by their appointed administrators than by the desires and needs of the public;
poorly trained staff (teachers) who themselves are the victims of our failed system of colleges of education;
a self-serving system of teacher “support” organizations (NCTM, NCTE, NAEYC, IRA, ASCD, etc.) that appear to be controlled primarily by unscrupulous curriculum publishers who influence our teachers to adopt an endless series of bizarre fads conceived by the lunatic fringe of the education field;
and consequently a teaching “profession” steeped in irrational belief systems and curricula that serve nobody.

We are not going to fix things by forcing kids into this dysfunctional system at ever-earlier ages. If you are truly interested in improving the quality of education in Illinois, look to the model of Utah, where the legislature and governor recently passed the Parent Choice in Education Act, which empowers parents rather than treating them as ignorant serfs.

Future generations will look back on the legislators of our time to see who among us was looking forward to the future, which is school choice, and who was looking backward to the era of corrupt, monopolistic educational paternalism. I am hoping, for the sake of your legacy if nothing else, that you will consider joining the forward-looking group.

David Ziffer
Batavia, IL

Quote of the Day

"Future generations will look back on the legislators of our time to see who among us was looking forward to the future, which is school choice, and who was looking backward to the era of corrupt, monopolistic educational paternalism."
Dave Ziffer

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thank you District 50 Board Members

The Northwest Herald is reporting that only two school districts in McHenry County are running referenda. The two districts that are running referenda only serve a small portion of McHenry County and they are Barrington Community Unit School District 220 and Belvidere Community Unit School District 100.

A big thank you goes out to Ken Book and the rest of District 50 for not running another referendum. Good luck to Steve Miller, Mark Stricker and Ken Book who all deserve to be re-elected because they have managed to control costs and balance the budget while improving student performance in District 50 schools.

As Ken Book reported in the March 27, 2006 edition of the Northwest Herald
"We have tightened our belts and done what the public has asked us to do in terms of balancing the budget."

District 50 has not run a referenda since it seventh defeat of a referenda on April 5th 2005. Despite threats of cancellation of programs if the referenda failed the board has since balanced the budget and reinstated programs.

Quote of the Day
""We have tightened our belts and done what the public has asked us to do in terms of balancing the budget." Ken Book District 50 School Board President.