Friday, November 4, 2011

Worried about your job?: post script

We came across this quote recently, and were fascinated by it.  The words speak to our own affliction: 

There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write. -William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (1811-1863)

With this as prelude, we remind you of a post we published yesterday that included these words:

Assuming the figures are valid, there was one school employee for every 8.47 students ten years ago, and one employee for every 6.47 students in the most recent fiscal year.  In so many words, department employment has remained largely flat in the face of a 27% decline in enrollment. 

Can you think of any other ‘profession’ that would be able to hold employment steady with a 27% decrease in ‘clients?’  Keep in mind we’re operating two fewer schools than just a few years ago.

As we laid our head upon the pillow last night, we realized that the government school ‘profession’ is unique, because even though the client base is down 27%, the revenue base is not.  Ten years ago in Brunswick, the school budget was $24 million; now it’s $33 million.  It’s been flat in the last few years despite major enrolment (‘client’) declines.

Jobs are not at risk because the revenue base for the school department is completely adjustable, independent of the number of students.  It’s a simple matter of using the ‘power of persuasion’ over a largely clueless, fawning, or scared public taxpayer base. Combined with the force of law to secure the revenue.  Property taxes are raised as necessary to provide the revenue the schoolies demand.

This situation is akin to the “he’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB'” concept we’ve been discussing in recent posts.  In so many words, “schools in Maine may be underperforming, but this underperforming school is OUR school.”

Another way to look at it is through the 99% vs 1% paradigm currently in vogue. Let’s describe the  99%, or more, in the terms mentioned above.  To whit:

  • The clueless:
    • “you mean we pay taxes to support the schools?”
    • “what are you gonna do; taxes are always going up.”
    • “I don’t have any idea how much we pay; our taxes are impounded as part of our house payment.”
    • “who knows what the right amount to pay for schools is?”
    • “I don’t have the time or the interest to worry about this; how much could it cost?”
  • The fawning:
    • “We moved to Brunswick because the schools are the absolute best.”
    • “People buy homes here because the schools are so good.”
    • “My child’s teacher is the best we’ve ever had.”
    • “There’s no amount of money that’s too much when it comes to the schools.”
    • “You simply can’t measure teacher effectiveness; it’s way too complicated to judge in such simple terms.”
    • “These are professionals, and we need to give them the latitude and compensation they deserve, even if we can’t measure their results.”
    • “I don’t care how much more the schools want; I'll gladly pay it.”
    • “The school board doesn’t have to disclose contract negotiations with the teachers’ union; we elect them to do that and we shouldn’t question what they do.”
    • “The children are our future; if you aren’t for the children, you should move elsewhere.”
  • The scared:
    • “I don’t want to speak up because I’m afraid of what might happen to my tax bill.”
    • “I spoke up in the past, and it didn’t make a bit of difference, other than my neighbors said I was anti-school and anti-children.”
    • '”What’s the use?; they’re just going to do what they always do, and why should I bother getting scorned in public?”
    • “If I speak up, they’ll take it out on my kids.”
    • “Who wants to be written up in the local paper as against ‘school excellence?’”

After you account for the above, you’re left with what might seem like the 1%, but is actually far less, who are willing to stand up and challenge the powers that be and the annual theatrics surrounding the budget.

Which is why our annual per student cost has grown from less than $7,000 to more than $13,000 in the last ten years. 

‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’, to borrow a phrase from Seinfeld.

And judging by what we read in the press about the current field of school board candidates, we can count on more of the same, or more.

No one seems interested in managing the school enterprise on behalf of property taxpayers.  Instead, they seem only to be interested in who can spend the most to prove they care the most. 

Or more.

2 comments:

  1. Your figure of $13,000 is way off. The reason is that the total costs of education are hidden from the public and difficult to come by. In order to get the correct amount you have to include the taxpayercost of health insurance which the theacher pays only 8%, the pension benefit which the teacher contributes only 8% and the pensions currently paid and to be paid for already retired teachers. When you tote this up you will probably get closer to $20,000 per student.

    As for the actual work of teaching, if you look at their class schedule you will find that they spend only a little over 50% of their time in front of a class.

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  2. AND, ADD TO THE FACT THAT JORDAN AVENUE HAS BEEN "MOTHBALLED",YOU KNOW WHATS GOING THROUGH THE FERTILE MINDS OF "EDUCATORS", THAT AT THE END OF 2 YEARS THE PUBLIC WILL HAVE FORGOTTEN THE TRICK WE PLAYED ON THEM FOR THE OLD HIGH SCHOOL, SO, OF COURSE THE SAME PLAYBOOK WILL WORK....WE NEED A NEW SCHOOL, "FOR THE CHILDREN",GOSH THAT MAKES ME WEEP!!

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