Cynical Synapse

Mon, 05 Mar 2018

Misplaced Blame—The Failure of Parkland

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel blames the NRA

Image: CNN

Make no mistake: the murder of 17 innocent people, both high schoolers and adults, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, is reprehensible and unforgiveable. Something needs to be done to end such tragedies. We should give that careful thought and decide on what reasonable, effective actions to take based on facts.

Since the February 14, 2018 shootings in Parkland, there has been a hue and cry for more gun control. During the <a href="CNN Town Hall, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel denied responsibility and used the forum to call for gun control reform. The Town Hall turned into a bunch of bullies bashing the National Rifle Association (NRA) even though that organization had nothing to do with the perpetrator of the Parkland massacre.

Despite Sheriff Israel’s claims of amazing leadership, he seems to have only provided amazing leadership failures. He started avoiding responsibility during the CNN Town Hall when the NRA’s Dana Loesch asked why he didn’t use Florida’s Baker act to have the Parkland killer psychologically evaluated. Sheriff Israel’s response:

We’ve talked about the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and some other local agencies, and the FBI getting tips and what have you. America: there’s one person responsible for this act. That’s the detestable, violent killer. He is responsible for this act.

The Sheriff is right about who is responsible, but he also pointed out his office and the FBI both got tips about the killer. He never does answer the question about why his agency failed to follow up on numerous calls about the Parkland shooter. Israel admits his agency got 27 calls. In fact, Broward Sheriff’s Office received 45 calls about the killer or his brother from 2008 to 2017. Most peole don’t have that much contact with law enforcement in their entire lives! These calls should have prevented the Parkland shooter from being able to legally purchase any firearm.

As recently as January, the FBI received a tip about the killer, including his gun ownership, desire to kill people, and disturbing social media posts. Yet, the FBI failed to act. This was a specific tip that should have led to FBI to inform local law enforcement. Oh, wait. The Broward Sheriff’s Office already knew about the troublesome kid who would become the mass murderer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Teachers and the school district knew the Parkland shooter was troubled since at least middle school. The kid misbehaved and acted out, with the seriousness of infractions escalating over time to the point of assault. He was disciplined, suspended, and finally expelled. But the schools and school district never reported him to law enforcement to hold him responsible under the criminal justice system. This may be the result of an effort to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. Unfortunately, the Parkland shooter’s escalating and continuing aggressive and antisocial behavior should have shown he was not a good candidate to keep out of the criminal justice system.

The warning signs were all there. Violent tendencies. Signs of mental illness. Threatening social media posts. Yet, the actions taken by government authorities at all levels—school, local, county, state, and federal—completely failed the 17 people killed at Parkland as well as their families, friends, and the community and nation as a whole. The answer is not additional laws. The answer is to hold those who failed accountable to ensure the existing laws are followed and enforced. Let’s start with charging hypocritical Sheriff Israel with malfeasance and dismissing him from his post for the gross, amazing leadership failures resulting from his incompetence and arrogance.

Tue, 09 Aug 2011

Detroit Loses a Treasure in Focus: HOPE Founder’s Passing

Filed under: Civil liberties, Detroit, Education, Helping others, Heroes — cynicalsynapse @ 8:11 pm

Eleanor Josaitis

It’s no secret Detroit has its problems, but Focus:HOPE is one of its gems. Today we mourn the passing of one of Focus:HOPE’s founders, Eleanor Josaitis. While others fled Detroit following the 1967 riots, Josaitis moved into the city. She co-founded Focus: HOPE with Fr. William Cunnigham in 1968.

For the next 43 years, Josaitis worked to bring social justice, civil rights, and improved job skills to underpriviledged Detroiters. She cared about her community and its residents. Her goal was to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice. Josaitis frequently said:

There’s no greater way to eliminate racism and poverty than to see that people have education, skills, jobs and opportunities in life.

job training at Focus:HOPE

Josaitis’ legacy is an organization that provides an after-school photography program, gives people necessary and relevant job skills, and education, including engineering degrees.

Eleanor Josaitis “believed in Detroit and its people and believed each one of us can make a difference. … Her influence was felt from board rooms to soup kitchens.” Eleanor Josaitis was part of what makes Detroit great.

Previously on Focus: HOPE:

Wed, 20 Oct 2010

University Presidents in Dreamland

Filed under: Economy, Education, Michigan, Schools — cynicalsynapse @ 8:57 pm

Rising tuition costs

The 12-month consumer price index (CPI) is 1.1% for all items. Amidst that backdrop, University of Michigan President Mary sue Coleman accepted a 3% raise.

Wonderful that Coleman gave up a raise last year, but her compensation went from $783,850 to over $800,000 this year. And, while the President’s pay went up 3%, tuition at U of M was up 1.8% over last year and 68% since the 2001-02 school year. Since then, the CPI only rose 21%. So, U of M costs rose at 3 times the rate of inflation. Did I mention that Coleman is the 6th highest paid public university president?

0% tuition hike at EMU

Michigan has 6 university presidents in the top 185 of public institutions. Among public university presidents, the median compensation was $436,111 in 2009-10, with 4 of Michigan’s exceeding the median. Over the last four years, they’ve seen increases of 7.6% to 18.9%, which is quite substantial. And, on top of base pay, university presidents have additional compensatory benefits. Here’s how Michigan’s top universities stack up.

University President 2009 Compensation Rank 2010 Tuition Increase
University of Michigan Mary Sue Coleman $783,850   6 1.5%
Michigan State Lou Anna K. Simon $572,000  43 2.5%
Western Michigan John M. Dunn $459,439  78 7.4%
Oakland Gary D. Russi $436,650  92  
Central Michigan Michael Rao $418,857 107 2.1%
Wayne State Jay Noran $360,000 131  

If the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 1.1%, why did Michigan public university tuition rise anywhere from 1.5% (U of M) to 7.4% (Western), excluding EMU’s 0%? In the meantime, public university presidents enjoy exhorbitant salaries and benefits.

Tue, 30 Mar 2010

Granholm’s “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 6:15 am

Granholm pointing down

I’m not sure what Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has in her pipe, but she continues to say the wildest things, even if she means good. Granholm told MSNBC Michigan has “a big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our number of college graduates.” Now, what kind of phraseology is that with respect to higher education?

Of course, Granholm’s remarks, 29 March, are more about her call to extend Michigan’s sales tax to services. I’m sure the Governor is all the more anxious about this since the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a budget measure, cutting K-12 funds by $112 per pupil. Increasing taxes is the easy, but unsustainable, short-term fix to Michigan’s structural deficit.

The Senate’s cuts to K-12 funding follow on the heals of there chopping 3% from public universities and community colleges. So, how does Granholm expect to get more graduates with less money across all levels of education?

student hostages

“The long-term future of the state depends upon strong universities,” said Peggy Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. In an effort to double the number of college graduates who stay in Michigan, Granholm proposed a revised Promise scholarship. Michigan college graduates would be eligible for a $4,000 refundable credit on their income tax return after working a year in Michigan past graduation. Students don’t like it and the state Senate didn’t take the bait.

Education, and students, are being held hostage by state politicians, educational institutions, local school bureaucracies, and teachers’ unions. Per pupil funding is not the issue nor is the state’s stipend to community colleges and universities. The problem is per pupil costs, about half of which are not attributable to the classroom or education. There are a lot of cost reduction efforts schools should consider before raising taxes. Remember those so-called “legacy costs” of the automakers that were in the news a year ago? Guess what? Schools have “legacy” costs, too, and they’re blatant about it. Everyone wanted Big 3 retirees to give up benefits. How about school retirees? I choose whether or not to contribute to automaker retirees by what car I buy, but I have no choice with school retirees.

protest in front of MEA

Michigan didn’t fare well at all in Race to the Top, the Federal educational dollars competition. Michigan lost points, ending up 21st, because teacher unions didn’t sign on. They don’t care about education, they only care about member benefits.

Granholm’s problem is she has great ideas, but they’re all “blown away.” She wants to double college graduates, but both K-12 and higher education are under-funded. She says college graduates are key to Michigan’s future, but the Promise grants are gone. I’m seeing big and hairy, but I’m not seeing audacious coming through.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010

Contentious Millage Issues on Ballot

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Education, Government, Politics, Take action, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 10:39 pm

Voters locked in by taxes

In case you didn’t know, February 23rd is an election day in Michigan. For metro Detroit, 4 school districs and 2 municipalities have tax proposals on the ballot. Usually only about 5% of registered voters turn out for off-cycle elections in February and May, but officials expect anywhere from 25-40% in some communities. At issue? Raising taxes to counter declining property tax revenue. Public officials are claiming adding mills to the tax won’t actually raise your taxes because property values have declined. There are two problems with that logic. First, about half of homeowners haven’t seen tax cuts due to depreciated housing values because their property hasn’t been equalized or gone through a sale to adjust the tax levy. Second, even if they’re enjoying lower taxes, homeowners may be affected to lower pay or even unemployment, so a tax increase is still hard for them.

Here’s my first concern with this election. It’s a special election. Usually there is only the general election in November, but there can be 3 additional elections each year under Michigan law. There is a cost to hold elections. From my perspective, each special election has an unnecessary cost because the matter could and should have been deferred to the general election. Needing a special election is evidence of poor planning by officials. Except for elections in Van Buren Township, which involves voting on recalling 2 trustees, the clerk, and supervisor, and Hamburg Township’s vote to fill a vacant clerk’s term, metro Detroit’s elections are all about tax increases.

666--highway to hell

Most egregious of the millage requests to me is the one for Pinckney Schools. They’re asking the current 7.35 mills for about 10 years to 2037. That should support a $59.5 million dollar bond issue the district wants to use for building improvements, technology upgrades, and to replace a 50-year-old athletic facility. My issue with this? Voters turned in down last November. Why is the district wasting money on a special election when voters already said no? Superintendent Don Danosky says they have to sell the bonds by June in order to take advantage of being able to save $375,000 in interest payments through the federal Stimulus. What’s different today from last November? Nothing! I hate how schools continue to put millage issues on the ballot until they wear voters down and it passes. Pinckney voters need to get out and ensure the school district understands the word no.

Next up on my list of despicable voter bludgeoning are the millage proposals in Troy and Bloomfield Township. Troy seeks a 1.9 mill increase while Bloomfield Township is after an additional 1.3 mills. That’s about $190 and $266 extra per year, respectively. In both cases, officials are using public safety as human shields. Troy says 150 positions, including 50 police officers, will be eliminated, along with closing the library, community center, and historical museum. Similarly, Bloomfield Township threatens 25 positions, saying 2/3 of their payroll is police and fire/EMS. Opponents of both of these millage requests say officials haven’t done enough to reduce costs. In Bloomfield, a 2009 Plante + Moran study said the township could save $10 million over 10 years by consolidating DPW services with surrounding communities. Opponents in Troy suggest cutting management before cutting workers, reducing hours at the library and community center, and using volunteers instead of paid staff.

the old school

Berkley schools are asking for a whopping 4.27 mills to raise $167 million so they can upgrade buildings and build a new middle school. The cost is about $213 per year for a typical $100,000 home. Officials claim energy efficiency improvements will save operational costs, but I’ve already posted on the fallacy of such cost savings. Opponent Bob Williams, 62, who has lived in the district his entire life, says there’s no need to spend a lot of money on the buildings.

I’m an architect, and I know a little about buildings. I think they’re trying to scare the public into thinking we have to do it this way or the buildings might not be safe or appropriate for a kid’s education.

Chippewa Valley and Hartland Consolidated Schools are both asking to extend existing millages for 5 years. Chippewa’s 7.65 millage would last until 2031 while Hartland’s 7.6 mills would be extended to 2035. Each district says they need the millage extensions to fund school security and technology improvements. In both cases, homeowners would continue to pay about $380 per year for an additional 5 years. The question for voters is whether they’re getting their money’s worth.

If you live in one of the jurisdictions holding elections on 23 February, you need to get out and vote. You have no right to complain otherwise, and you deserve what you get.

Sun, 31 Jan 2010

Michigan Politicians Don’t Make the Grade

Filed under: Budget, Detroit, Economy, Education, Government, Hypocrits, Life, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 2:23 pm

Contrary messages

It’s no secret Detroit Public Schools have serious problems. In fact, they’re the worst in the country. It’s also not news the city of Detroit is in decay and has been for decades. Since moving to the metro area in the mid-80s, I’ve believed fixing education is the solution to Detroit’s problems. Now, according to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan is spiraling downward as well.

The Freep charts Michigan’s falling educational levels and prosperty. In 1970, Michigan ranked 32nd educationally and 13th in per capita income. Back then education was less important to income. It was also the height of manufacturing in Michigan. By 2007, Michigan’s education ranking dropped 3 places to 35th, but per capita income plummetted to 28th, a full 15 point drop. In fact, today the top 10 states in education are also the top 10 in per capita income. The message is clear and validates my perspective on solving Detroit’s problems.

3 stooges

With such clear evidence, I have to wonder why the 3 stooges in Lansing don’t seem to get it. In June 2009, the Republican-controled Michigan Senate proposed cutting Promise grants, which award up $4,000 to Michigan college students. Senate Majority so-called Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) is the first buffoon in the latest war on education. The next, State House Speaker Andy “Two-Faced” Dillon (D-Redford) agreed to the Promise cuts as part of rather one-sided deal to balance the 2010 state budget. Never mind that Dillon repeatedly said he wouldn’t agree to cutting the Promise grants. Many think Bishop and Dillon became best buds in the interests of their political ambitions.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) continues to call for restoring Promise grants. The third buffoon, she claimed she would veto budgets that came to her without funding for the Promise grants.

The triad of idiots

So the Republican-led State Senate cut Promise grants, effectively making it harder for Michigan students to get college degrees. And the Democratic-controlled State House and Governor were complicit and willing accomplices. Colleges are not the only educational institutions under attack, however. The State Senate cut per pupil funding by $165 for K-12 schools during the budget process and the House went along. Then Granholm slashed $52 million from the state’s richest districts. Another $127 per pupil cut by Granholm is on hold. That’s not a reprieve, though, and there are rumors more may be coming.

Now, I’m not a math whiz, but the way this adds up to me, Michigan’s politicians are against maintaining, let alone improving education. As a result, they want to continue to drive Michigan and its citizens to the bottom. Party affiliation has nothing to do with it. Throw them all out next election.

Sat, 19 Dec 2009

Michigan Legislature in a Race to the Bottom

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Education, Government, Hypocrits, Indecision, Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 2:33 pm

burning head

Once again, everyone in Lansing said Michigan’s legislature would reach agreement on education reform by the end of the day yesterday. The chicken-little media claimed if they didn’t Michigan would lose out on a chance at about $400 million in Federal money from the Race to the Top education stimulus program. State Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor) had this to say:

The best aspect about this is it helps the children of the state of Michigan. But another aspect of it, after this terrible year for the Legislature, is it shows that this institution can come together and work on legislation that benefits the state of Michigan.

Apparently Geiss hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been happening this week. In fact, legislators went home last night without voting. Seems they spent most of the day waiting for the bills to show up. It’s been a week of high drama and fingerpointing.

Bull turtle fights

After a week of rosy predictions and failure to deliver, what’s next? Why more adversarial politics, of course. The State Senate decided midnight tonight is the deadline. If the bills don’t pass both houses today, Senators won’t come back until Dec. 31st. Conversely, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) is willing to say in session until then to pass the legislation.

No matter what happens with school reform legislation, this year’s state budget is still not resolved. And the politicos say they want to have next fiscal year’s budget settled before campaign season sets in. I think I have a better chance of winning the lottery. And the same old jokes out of Lansing aren’t funny anymore.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009

If Nothing Else, Michigan Politicians are Consistant Bozos

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Indecision, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:55 pm

3 clowns

Yesterday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) lamented the legislature wouldn’t restore funding for K-12 education and Promise scholarship grants before the end of the week. That’s when the second-highest paid state legislature in the country begins its Christmas break, which lasts until mid-January. Never mind the State House, under Speaker Andy Dillon’s (D-Redford) supervision—leadership doesn’t really seem to apply—took most of the summer off when they should have been working on the budget. Which brings me to one of the more bizarre things Granholm has said. In case you’re not aware, Michigan’s budget battle for FY-2010 still isn’t done. Granholm hopes it can all be settled before election season. She said:

It’s feasible to do it by the end of February, if they are serious. Look how quickly they have responded to the Race to the Top opportunity. So, if we get that finished this week, which I think we will, it should be a signal that the Legislature can get it done, but they have to agree.

Is Granholm even on the same planet as the rest of us? “Look how quickly they have responded to the Race to the Top opportunity.” I hate to point out the Race to the Top concept came out in February and the program was formally launched in July. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think starting to work on the required legislation in December (4+ months later) really fits my idea of quickly.

Michigan state representatives working on the budget

The Race to the Top Phase I application is due Jan. 19th. For those not selected, Phase 2 applications are due June 1st. But, before that, there’s a Jan. 11th State Fiscal Stablization Fund deadline. We’ve not heard anything about that in the media. I don’t know if Michigan will meet the Jan. 11th deadline, but politicians are only talking about the Jan. 19th deadline. State Education Superintendent Mike Flanagan said he’d stop the application process if lawmakers didn’t pass the necessary bills. In his early December testimony, Flanagan said:

I’m willing to compromise, on some of the nuances of this in order that you pass some legislation quickly or here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pull my guys off the application. I am not going to have them work 24/7—and that’s exactly what they’re doing—and pulling them off everything else to make this work if I see that we can’t actually pull of the legislation, or if there’s so many bombs thrown in the way that we have no chance of winning, then I’m going to pull them off. But we can win this.

As holiday break looms for Michigan’s legislature, how are we doing? Surprise! He said, she said. Deadlocked over charter schools and blaming the other party. Michigan’s legislature is the most pathetic, blamethrowing bunch of nincompoops ever in recorded history! They all need to be shit-canned next election, no matter what they’re running for.

No budget, no education, no excuse. No re-election to anything

Sun, 13 Dec 2009

Education—Time to Walk the Talk

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Detroit, Economy, Education, Government, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:57 pm

Empty classroom

I’ve long felt the solution to Detroit’s problems—and any urban core, for that matter—is to ensure quality education. That’s the foundation for a quality workforce and productive members of society. Thus, money spent on education is money invested in the future of society. This point came to a head Tuesday with the announcement Detroit Public Schools test scores were the lowest ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, a prestigious nationwide program.

In fairness, this is the first year Detroit Public Schools participated in the NAEP tests. But that doesn’t meant they’ve done well with Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests, either.

Robert Bobb calls scores an academic crisis

There’s no doubt Detroit Public Schools need immediate help. Detroit’s NAEP scores “are only slightly better than what one would expect by chance as if the kids had never gone to school and simply guessed at the answers,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban school districts. Casserly added:

Only a complete overhaul of this school system and how students are taught should be permitted at this point, because the results … signal a complete failure of the grown-ups who have been in charge of the schools in the past.

Detroit schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb blamed principals and a failing curriculum. Noting that two action plans have largely been ignored by the Detroit School Board, he added:

If we had implemented 60 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent of what’s in those plans, there wouldn’t be a need right now for an emergency financial manager.

The problem goes beyond Detroit Public Schools and its school board, however. Successful schools have a lot of parent involvement, which Emergency Financial Manager Bobb2 is calling for. Detroit Parent Network Executive Director Sharlonda Buckman yelled, “they can’t read; they can’t count!” at a public meeting, saying parents should be irate their tax dollars aren’t educating their kids. The challenge for Detroit is parents who may be functionally illiterate. Nonetheless, parental involvement is a key to success.

Dazed and Confused

While some would say Detroit’s corruption is the problem, there’s no doubt Bobb2 has cracked down on corruption in Detroit Public Schools. Thus, throwing more money at the problem isn’t necessarily the solution. In fact, based on data from National Center for Education Statistics, Detroit Public Schools spends 50% of its funds on instruction in 2007, ranking 491st in the state. That’s above the average of 46% spent by Rochester, Pontiac, and Plymouth-Canton. It’s more than Ann Arbor’s 39% and Royal Oak’s 33%. Detroit ties with Wayne-Westland and is just below Hazel Park, Bloomfield Hills, and Dearborn at 52%. So the problem is not a question of money. Rather, it’s a question of commitment to the children.

Gov. Granholm (D) and Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) both claim education is an important issue and vital to Michigan’s future. Yet both rolled to education funding cuts by Michigan’s Republican Senate. In fact, Granholm cut even more. How does that square with education, especially higher (college) education, as the solution to Michigan’s future relevance? Looks like the Democrats don’t truly believe, to me.

Still, Michigan—well, at least the Senate—is hustling to cash in on some $400 million in Federal funding. To date, the Senate has passed four school reform bills, all largely along party lines. These include:

  • S. 0925—Public school academies: 23-12-2 (For: R-21, D-2; Opposed: R-4, D-9; Excused: R-1, D-1)
  • S. 0965—Alternative teacher certification: 36-0-2 (For: R-25, D-11; Opposed: 0; Excused: R-1, D-1)
  • S. 0981—Restructure failing schools: 28-8-2 (For: R-22, D-6; Opposed: R-3, D-5; Excused: R-1, D-1)
  • S. 0981&msash;Collective bargaining in failing schools: 23-12-12 (For: R-21, D-2; Opposed: R-4, De-9; Excused: R-1, D-1)

As for Michigan’s House, they have voted on two measures so for.

  • S. 0981—Restructure failing schools: 78-28 (For: R-22, D-56; Opposed: R-21, D-7)
  • H. 5596—Alternative teacher certification: 79-27 (For: R-41, D-38; Opposed: R-25, D-2)

So, the Senate has approved 4 measures to secure additional Federal funds while the House has only acted on one of them. What’s up with that? I thought the Dems were the pro-people, pro-education party. Never mind that Gov. Granholm cut per pupil funding as part of Michigan’s budget fiasco. Never mind that Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, agreed to Senate cuts to the budget, including education.

If we’re going to fix education, especially in Detroit, politicians need to stop the showmanship. Instead, they need to walk the talk, putting the money, oversight, and attention where it needs to be. Shell games and partisan politics won’t cut it any more.

Tue, 08 Dec 2009

Berkley School Funding Plan Doesn’t Add Up

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Education, Government, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:14 pm

Berkley High School

School funding is definitely a concern in Michigan, especially after the State Senate and Gov. Granholm cut per pupil funding. In fact, Granholm says more cuts are coming. Detroit northern suburb Berkley wants to shift costs to a bond proposal. The district plans to ask voters to approve a $169.1 million bond issue for energy and maintenance improvements. The measure includes a new middle school and administrators expect to save $2 million from the annual operating budget.

Berkley schools are pretty good, rating 8 out of 10 and the district made adequate yearly progress, except at the high school. I bring this up because the bond proposal doesn’t pass the common sense test. The district wants voters to indebt themselves for $169.1 million dollars to save about $2 million in yearly operational costs. Now, although these are big numbers, my elementary school math tells me the breakeven point is 84-1/2 years. And Berkley says they need the bond because the district’s 11 buildings average 65 years old. So, let’s see. Return on investment is almost 20 years longer than the current age of buildings? There must be something really simple that I’m missing here.

Pipefitter repalcing water pipes in Avery Center

Small potatoes in the big scheme of things, but why is this question going on a special election February 23rd? Why didn’t Berkley Schools’ brain trust figure this out, put it on the ballot for the general election last November, so they could save Berkley voters some money? That’s what annoys me about school millage votes. They hold special elections and they keep holding them until the voters get tired and pass the millage.

Not to throw stones at Berkley’s glass house, but if the primary emphasis of the bond measure is to cut energy costs, why didn’t the district hold its hands out for Stimulus money? They could have cut the $2 million from operational costs without asking Berkely residents for a single dime!

Beyond the mathematics of the bond issue and its return on investment (or lack thereof), surrounding districts haven’t really made out on this type of venture. Consider Hazel Park Schools, which passed a similar measure in 2002. Since then, the district has closed elementary schools and plans to cut programs to balance the budget. So much for energy efficiency benefits to the operating budget.

The real problem with school funding is the amount districts have to pay for benefits, such as retirement. In most districts, it’s more than what’s spent “on books, buses, computer technology and building maintenance combined,” according to the Detroit News. As a result, short-term solutions become long-term issues. Hazel Park is offering early retirements to reduce the number of top-scale teachers, who make about $80,000. In their place? A retiree who gets about $50,000 and a new teacher who makes about $34,000. Net savings? How about minus $4k? No wonder Junior can’t add or subtract.

Our schools cannot continue to see increasing non-educational costs taking a bigger share of per pupil funding. At the same time people were denigrating the automakers and the UAW, Michigan teachers had similar benefits. What’s up with that? Never mind that State Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland) didn’t see a problem with the $2 million additional costs for schools. The magnitude of the problem varies by district size.

If we value education, let’s fund it. If we don’t, then we’re probably good. And we should continue to expect Michigan to slip further behind the rest of the US and the US to rank lower than other developed countries. Never mind that state education experts think this kind of smoke-and-mirrors game is “the right path.”


14 Dec 2009

According to data from National Center for Educational Statistics, Berkley spent 53% of its money on instruction, which is higher than Michigan’s average of 46%.

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