Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bang head against wall, Part Deux

Bang head against wall; aye, sir.  Three bowls full.

Your humble correspondent (yah, sure!), always convinced that one more tilt at the windmill (the classic literary kind) might do the trick, clip-clopped over to Council Chambers tonight.  There we gave voice to “the impossible dream” yet again, illustrating the very essence of the term ‘quixotic.’ 

You might even think of us as P. C. Poppycock de La Mancha.  (Note to those seeking a diversion – the Sancho Panza billet is currently vacant; please submit your C.V. if you have any interest.)

Herewith we present the text of our statement.  But before we do, we should add that the School Superintendent stated (after we rode away) that the Teachers’ Union has approved the contract for the coming school year.  He cited some figures to suggest that the town made out better than the teachers, and that would be an outcome that defies all the projections we’ve made. 

Rather than endorse that view here and now, we will wait until we see the contract, and then render our analysis.  If our projections turned out to be wrong, we will respond appropriately.

Now on to the text of our statement:

Just a couple of quick points:

Point 1:

If we had increased per student costs for the last 10 years by 5% each year, a generous figure, our budget for the year now ending would be $4.5 million less, which would be a reduction of at least 15% in our property taxes. Funny, that’s the figure we were promised some years back when we approved LD 1; yet, somehow, it never happened.

And the budget for the coming year would be $3.5 million lower. That would be a decrease of about 12% in our property taxes for the coming year.

Pretty soon, we’d be talking real money. We might even be able to spend some of that real money on fixing our roads, many of which are in awful shape.

Sobbing and wailing over so-called ‘budget cuts’ are staged crocodile tears, meant, when you cut to the chase, to convince us to keep increasing compensation for the teachers just because they show up for another year.

Looked at another way, if increasing per student spending by 40% in five years, with nothing to show for it, isn’t enough, just HOW MUCH would be enough??

Oh, and WHY haven’t we been told about the new contract yet???

Point 2:

The “best teacher ever” calamity, whether the parents speaking up for her realize it or not, is a superb illustration of our dysfunctional and one-sided relationship with the teachers union. Still, we deceive ourselves into believing we’re all about ‘excellence.’

Protecting and rewarding teacher mediocrity trumps school excellence and doing the very best ‘for the children.’ The interests of the students, the community, and society be damned.

We celebrate, protect, formalize, and prioritize longevity over excellence. How can excellence even enter the discussion when we have no performance or merit measures?

The “last in first out” policy when reducing staff serves only the interests of entrenched union members, not those of the children and excellent teachers.

If we were committed to excellence, like these parents want us to be, they would demand reform and fix this problem; it is why an excellent teacher gets sacrificed, while less capable ones are retained, and with an increase in pay and benefits

Until those crying excellence demand this reform, all they demonstrate is naivet√© and lack of critical thinking. Instead of placing the children first, they play right into the hands of the union. And that includes, I might add, those who suggest seniors sell their houses if they don’t like their taxes going up ‘for the children,’ and for ‘school excellence.’

In the face of the foregoing, the theatrics and rhetoric we have witnessed in recent weeks is just so much agitation and propaganda. It doesn’t take much to see through it, and it would be most inspiring to see some leadership from our elected officials on these very obvious and very detrimental circumstances.

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