Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We’re like so much putty in their hands, whether we realize it or not…..

Everything is free for schoolies, right?

Color me embarrassed. I had no idea that the National Anthem words that say “o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave” meant that everything is free in this land.

I had assumed it meant America is the place where people have freedom, as in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Including the freedom to send your children to preschool, or not, on your own dime.

I can hear the laughing in response to that thought.  What, am I nuts?  Don’t I get that whatever parents want for their children should be provided, ‘free,’ by government?

A revealing disclosure of the mentality of the day in such matters was published last week in The Forecaster, entitled ‘Brunswick weighs public pre-school program.’  You can find it here:

The article is rife with the classic ploys and platitudes of the education lobby, who have honed their ability to bowl over the unenlightened for decades.  We’ll break things down for you, and translate them.

Let’s begin, class.

Since becoming the superintendent of schools in 2008, Paul Perzanoski has been an advocate for creation of a public pre-school program.

Translation: I’ve been told that if I don’t find a way to keep all the teachers employed, no matter how low enrolment goes, my contract won’t be renewed.

“They have shown over time that they help prepare kids for success in school," he said. "You get a lot of results for the money that you spent."

Translation:  No matter how badly our other reforms have worked out, you can trust us that this time will be different.  Forget the failures of open classrooms and outcome based education; if you give us the money, we’re sure we can make this idea work.  And if you don’t, you don’t care about the children.

Perzanoski isn't alone in his enthusiasm for public pre-school – 178 towns and school districts around the state have already approved the idea. He said he doesn't want Brunswick to fall behind, and this year he may get his wish.

Translation:  If nearly half the towns in Maine have swallowed the hook, it must be a good idea, right?  They’re all known for their intensive examination of proposals, and haven’t been influenced by education establishment platitudes.  If they’re going to spend all that money, how can you in good conscience deny the same spending here in the town of Perfect?

In the next few weeks, the School Board will decide whether to create a pre-school program to begin in this fall.

Translation:  We’ve already decided we’re going forward with this.  We’re just trying to figure out how to sell the idea, since the teachers union will be complicating matters by asking for a huge bump in labor costs for the Department.

A lot is undecided, including the scope, size and total cost of the program. But a survey by the School Department's pre-kindergarten committee last fall suggests there is significant community interest in such a program. A large majority of the survey's 109 respondents, 81.7 percent, said they believed that offering public pre-school is "somewhat" or "very" important.

Translation:  We carefully asked only those who would benefit directly from the new program, rather than getting the opinions of those who would have to pay for it, even if they would derive no benefit.  When asked if they would like a free babysitting service, these respondents said what’s not to like?  And no matter what we estimate the program will cost, you can be sure it will cost a lot more.

Several anonymous survey respondents said public pre-school is crucial to eliminating achievement gaps between students of different socio-economic classes. "Offering broad public access to early education for all children irrespective of their family income is a wise investment," one person wrote.

Translation:  Who among you is callous and self-centered enough to deny the funding for such a program?  Who among you would be cynical enough to point out that with all the major advances in education theory, and the associated costs, that achievement continues to decline in proportion to spending?  Who among you believes that while equal opportunity is a right, equal outcomes are not?  Who among you would dare question the validity of anonymous or ‘one person’ responses?

The cost of private pre-school was another major factor for many supporters of the program.  "It is so expensive to send two children to pre-school at the same time. I would be so excited to have them be able to go to pre-K for free, and I know a lot of their friends parents would love to have this option as well," another respondent wrote.

Translation:  We’re tired of having to pay our own way, and besides, isn’t this the land of the free?  But it’s not for me; its for all the others.  This is about fairness, and anyone who would oppose the idea is mean-spirited and not focused on community.

But others cited cost a reason not to create a public pre-school program. "There are enough challenges in the existing schools with the existing students. We should NOT be taking on something else," wrote one respondent.

Translation:  We’re throwing this in to create a sense of balanced discourse, but are you going to listen to ‘others’ and ‘one’ insensitive crank?

Paul Austin, director of student services, acknowledged that the up-front cost, more than $265,000 for a program that would be available to all 4-year-olds in Brunswick, could be hard to stomach, especially when the School Board is already facing a $3.84 million deficit.

Translation:  Paul is very good at playing the room, isn’t he?  That’s why we sent him to the training classes.  He’s a master at pointing out the decline in revenue without mentioning a much larger decline in student population.

But he said he strongly believes that the program would be an investment, and will save taxpayers millions of dollars in spending for criminal justice, special education, substance abuse treatment and other costs that could be avoided if more children had access to pre-school.

Translation:  Paul also strongly believes that tatoos cause gang violence, that smoking causes criminal behavior, and that dysfunctional adults and families have no effect on the outcomes of the children they spawn.

The pre-school program will also pay for itself in two to three years, thanks to a per-pupil tuition reimbursement from the state.

Translation:  The state derives their revenue from a money tree orchard, and it is our responsibility to pick as much of the crop as we can.  All that state and federal debt obligation you keep reading about is just a bunch of hooey.

According to Jim Oikle, business manager at the Brunswick School Department, the Department of Education would reimburse Brunswick's pre-schoolers at the same rate as they would elementary school students, approximately $3,083 per student. The rate of reimbursement is intended for a six-hour school day, but the pre-school program will only last 2 1/2 hours. That means that Brunswick could educate two children for the price of one.

Translation:  The way I see it, state bureaucrats are so dumb that we can double bill them, and they’ll never notice it.  Let the good times roll!

With this amount of tuition reimbursement, Austin estimated that the program could be turning a $100,000-per-year profit within two to three years.

Translation:  Profit may be a dirty word in the private sector, but here in the school department, we’re always looking for a way to turn a buck.  And if I’m right, ten years from now, the schools could be paying for road repaving.  And if you thought profit was the difference between revenue and costs in the private sector, you are so yesterday.

While pre-school has been discussed before, this is the first year it has been formally proposed. Austin said that's because, in spite of the economy, he believes the 2011-2012 school year is an especially good time for Brunswick to begin such a program.

Translation:  We have to find work for the excess teaching staff resulting from major enrolment declines, and we think we’ve found the silver bullet.  We can’t see how anyone could deny the need to improve Brunswick School Department performance, and we’re going to leverage that into even more spending.

Between the loss of 140 Durham high school students to Regional School Unit 5 and more than 600 from the closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station, the schools have more space now than in the past. Fewer children also means the pre-school program would be smaller now, requiring less seed money from the town.

Translation:  Sure we’re dying.  The demographics in the area are dismal, and there is nothing positive on the horizon.  So why not give us more money now, when we really have no legitimate rationale for it?

Both Austin and Perzanoski said they want Brunswick's schools to remain competitive and attractive to new families, and they believe creating public pre-school will help.

Translation:  It’s not jobs or the local economy that brings people to town.  It’s the high tax rate, and we need to do whatever we can to keep it going up, because we can advertise that we provide more free services.

“Over time, (universal access to public pre-school) has to be a reality if our kids are going to compete on a level playing field with everybody else," Perzanoski said.

Translation:  But Mom, everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?

Austin cited research linking pre-school attendance to success later in life.

For example, the Highscope Perry Preschool Study found that by age 40, adults who attended pre-school earned more money, were more likely to be employed, had committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have graduated from high school than those who did not go to preschool. The Carolina Abecedarian Project linked pre-school attendance to higher test scores, higher achievement in math and reading and an increased likeliness to attend a four-year college.

According to Janine Blatt, early childhood consultant at the Maine Department of Education, this research has spurred a national trend toward creating universal access to public pre-schools in the past decade.

"Maine has pretty much followed those trends, and over the last six to seven years there has been growth each year," she said. She added that Aroostook County has led the charge in early creation of public pre-school, while Cumberland County is coming late to the game.

Translation:  So what if these are the same people and organizations that said open classrooms would lead to success later in life?  They’ve learned their lesson, and their conclusions simply can’t be questioned now.  Unless you are anti-children.  You should know that the potato-heads up in the county are way ahead of us on this; you’re not going to allow that to stand, are you?  They’re backwards up there, and we’re supposed to be the beautiful people.

Brunswick is still a long way from approving a universal pre-school program, especially in a year with an expected large school budget deficit. But Austin is optimistic." If not this year, I think eventually it will go," he said.

Translation:  Sure we haven’t told people about the decline in enrolment and how that  has changed the balance between costs and revenue.  But I’m convinced that if we keep harping on the subject, the taxpayers will give in if only to stop us from beating on them over and over on the same thing.


There ends our analysis of the article.

In related news, the President proposed a pre-Social Security program, and People Plus is currently seeking Consultants who can help them design a pre-middle age program to serve as a stepping stone to their planned pre-senior program.  Both are expected to be free, because those surveyed said that’s what they want. 

The surveys were conducted by OPM Associates, Inc.  They specialize in dollacodone dependency, and its application to vital services for the common good.

No matter how few people they benefit, or how tortured the rationale.


  1. Brunswick's mission statement is "to keep up with the Joneses"; which is clearly evident in how the Council spends (as you'd say Mr. Poppycock) OPM.

  2. This is not unlike the approach where various towns use each other in round-robin fashion to create an unassailable moral imperative for raising teacher salaries.

    One year, Brunswick might claim that Topsham teachers make more, and "we've got to catch up to them for retention and hiring purposes." The next year, Topsham might find themselves on the other end of that assertion, and use the same rationale to drive their salaries higher.

    Best anyone can tell, Brunswick has never had anything close to a retention problem, at least not as normally interpreted. You might even say we have a retention problem in the other direction: we hire back teachers who 'retired;' and we haven't come close to reducing staff in proportion to enrollment decline.

    Same thing for hiring; I remember hearing several years ago that hundreds of applications were received for an elementary grade opening. I think it's the same one that was filled with a 'local resident.'

  3. It will be telling when we watch the School Board,and notice which ones have a glazed look, and a silly grin on their faces, then you will know which ones don't know which end is up.Based on past experience all of them fall into that category. They should be reminded that they represent the taxpayers and not the "children".