Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hand Over Your Wallet, Or The Kids Get It

I recently received a well produced piece of propaganda in the mail from my local school district (Robbinsdale). It seems that they want to raise per student referendum funding levels by a mere 74% (from $848 to $1473 per pupil). An interesting aside is though per pupil funding is proposed to increase by 74%, the fee to taxpayers is up 82%. That means there are either more kids than before or more properties are being taken off the tax books. The pamphlet gives no details to show which is true.

Before writing me off as another anti-tax crank, I'd actually like to thank the bureaucrats from the district for putting together an informational mailing that contains relevant financial data. I don't mind too much that they have spun it, since someone with time and a calculator can decipher the truth, at least for the most part.

So why increase funding per pupil by 74%? They claim that it is due to a funding shortfall from the state. There is a neat little chart that says state funding hasn't kept up with inflation. Now the numbers on the chart are round, so I will have to estimate, but it looks like the state is giving the district about $60 million this year. It looks like the 1991-92 figure was $45 million. That is an increase of 33.3%, or 2.1% annually. Inflation over that time period was indeed closer to 3% than 2% (the blue line on the graph). However there is one big problem with this claim. The district just passed a levy in 2001, which should have taken into account state funding shortfalls that they claim began in the early 1990s.

So the district wants you to vote them a big raise. If we don't, they promise (among other things) to:

1 - Close one elementary school
2 - Eliminate elementary art
3 - Eliminate the gifted and talented program
4 - Increase class sizes for secondary and middle school
5 - Eliminate middle school activities and athletics or increase fees
6 - Eliminate elementary and secondary non-teaching positions, including transportation and administration

The best part is they claim that this only saves $5 million, so they will be making more draconian cuts next year. This sounds like the budget decisions people in the private sector have to make all of the time. Too bad they can't just pass a levy on their customer's neighbors instead of managing to a budget.

I'd like just a minute to rebut the Gore-like hysteria regarding how the sky will fall if these cuts are made.

1 - Closing a school: the school district has 17 schools and 10 "learning centers." I have no idea what a learning center is, but if I counting this as 27 schools, then closing one would result in an impact to less than 4% of facilities. And if a learning center isn't the same thing as a school, then why not close a bunch of them to save the money. I don't remember going to learning center as a kid.

2 - Eliminating art: what a tragedy it would be if little Sally doesn't bring home a picture of a turkey next month that she drew with her hand print. Art is nice, but not necessary.

3 - Eliminate gifted/talented program: gifted/talented kids in Robbinsdale? I jest. Out of 899 teachers in the system, 3 (not 3%, 3, as in 1-2-3) are dedicated to gifted and talented kids, so maybe I'm not joking. How many of the 12,673 students interact with the 3 gifted and talented program teachers? If this gifted/talented program really does exist and isn't just thrown in as a good sky is falling headline, they could find the funding to save these 3 jobs by cutting somewhere else.

4 - Increase class sizes: this accounts for 28 teachers out of 899, just over 3% of all teachers. Increasing class sizes by 3% equates to adding less than one kid to a class of 30. Scoot the chairs over.

5 - Eliminate activities and athletics: we may have a moral and constitutional obligation to educate the kids, but we don't have any obligation to provide them with dance line or lacrosse. Let their parents pay if they want that.

6 - Eliminate administrative or transportation positions: why haven't they done this already? Cutting bus drivers would be a tragedy? The district is only 30 square miles. Let more kids walk!

Finally, a message to all the kids impacted by this referendum: stay the hell off my lawn!


Anonymous HappyToHaveYouPayMore said...

Why do you hate the children?

3:28 PM  
Anonymous john f not kerry said...

Maybe if we vote all the levies down we could bankrupt the whole education system!

7:38 PM  
Anonymous The Ghost Of Paul Mirengoff said...


How many kids have you killed this week?

3:43 PM  
Blogger R-Five said...

Not that I needed any more reasons to vote no, but nice analysis NIGP.

9:18 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

Most likely there are far more administrators that are really needed, and eliminating them would not only save money but improve the functioning of the school system.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous john f not kerry said...


You are right about that, but they would not eliminate administrators, just secretaries. The education system is a kingdom set up by and for the chosen few with the correct degrees.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Joey said...

They're trying to do the same thing to us in Bloomington. Raise the amount per student by some 60%. I don't own property yet, so this wouldn't affect me. landlord pays property taxes, and don't tell me property taxes don't affect my rent! I'll be showing up at the polls, and the school district cronies won't be happy with my vote.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloomington Ridgeview elementary had their annual Halloween party last night. The kids, parents and teachers dress up in costume. This year it seemed to be an effort to lobby the parents to vote yes. They were handing out Vote Yes buttons, flyers and had a new Apple IMac playing a very polished video production promoting the Vote Yes campaign.

For a district who is pleading such poverty, they certainly have the funding to promote and campaign for this referendum. I complained and said that it was rather exploitive to turn a party into a political event. I said I was voting no. Let's just say it didn't go over very well. To be fair, they should allow the opposition to have an opportunity to speak at this event.

After all, it's for the children, never mind that those of us who work in the private sector deal with budgets, salary freezes, benefit cuts and increased workloads on a daily basis and our tax dollars are going to ensure a special class of citizens are immune from such things.

10:19 AM  

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