Thursday, October 24, 2002

Education Short Takes

So many education stories, so little time: here’s what’s going on, short but sweet.

Be sure to visit http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com to mark the progress of the fight against the OPS tax increase that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. Blocking it would inspire grassroots opposition to new taxes pushed by school districts across the state . . . and the fresh winds of fiscal accountability and a focus on cost-effective academics would sweep across the plains.

We hope. :>)

If I can use your name on a list of opposition to the OPS tax increase Nov. 5, please email me to that effect: swilliams1@cox.net

Please forward this to anyone interested in Nebraska education issues. Cheers!

-- Susan

Election Day Education Picks

Please consider last-minute donations to these worthy candidates in key education-related races. They will stand for children’s best interests and doing what’s right for all of us:

State Board of Education

Omaha area: Kathryn Piller (kkpiller@yahoo.com) faces a war chest of teachers’ union money given to her opponent, Joe Higgins, that totaled $8,288 as of May (see www.followthemoney.org). The Nebraska State Education Association didn’t even interview Ms. Piller, a highly-effective incumbent who made her mark as a courageous school leader who stood up to the educrats in the South High School student violence debacle a few years ago and has a distinguished voting record on the State Board of Ed. Why wouldn’t the union support such a strong incumbent? Because she won’t knuckle under to them, and Higgins, a past NSEA president and NEA official, always has and always will. He led the charge in the Legislature for the ill-advised and incredibly expensive early-retirement bill for educators. Our kids today are paying dearly in the classroom for the union’s “Rule of 55” (full pension at age 55 with 30 years of teaching) which caused an exodus of the state’s best teachers out of our schools and saddled taxpayers with enormous ongoing teacher retirement costs. His ideas are straight out of the 1960s, while Ms. Piller is young and an education professional who knows first-hand about today’s challenges. He’s the past, and she’s the future. Vote for KATHRYN PILLER.

Western Nebraska: Kathy Wilmot (kwilmot@swnebr.net and www.kathywilmot.com) is another great incumbent who should be kept on that board. She’s for local control, a focus on academics instead of socialized schooling, and fiscal accountability. Her opponent, Kandy Imes, also is union-backed, with $4,000 from the NSEA donated as of last May. Mrs. Wilmot’s able leadership about abstinence-only sex education was vindicated bigtime earlier this month by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, www.medinstitute.org, in a report that proves that the way schools teach sex ed is anything but safe for kids. She also has been a leader in making sure schools practice the Americanism provisions in state law. Her leadership should be rewarded. Put KATHY WILMOT back in office.

State Legislature

District 10, northwest Omaha: Mike Friend (mfriend61@juno.com or www.mikefriend.net) is a good conservative who faces a heavily-financed, liberal opponent in Deb Suttle. She’s vice chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee but has basically followed the union party line instead of making decisions that would improve learning for children. Put MIKE FRIEND in her place.

District 38, south-central Nebraska, Scott Scheierman (shy@inebraska.com and www.scottfordistrict38.com) is a highly-principled young farmer and father who is a fiscal conservative and would represent the best interests of individual voters rather than special-interest groups. The incumbent, Ed Schrock, has accepted the party line of the education establishment in the Legislature’s Education Committee. This would be a good chance to knock off a big spender from that key committee and put a true conservative in the Unicameral. Vote for SCOTT SCHEIERMAN.

OPS Cash Funds Total $88.7 Million

A check of the annual financial report posted online for the Omaha Public Schools at http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm shows that the total amount held as cash in their various funds, including the operating fund, is $88.7 million.

You’d think a modest reduction in that would be enough to cover any extra spending over the next few years. With that amount of cash in hand, the demand by OPS for voters to let them override the Legislature’s reasonable spending lid for the next five years is puzzling.

An Omaha-area tax advocate looked at that $88.7 million figure in cash reserves, and said:

“Don’t just tax me to put it in the BANK!”

Lincoln Public Schools Grants Raises

According to the Oct. 9 Lincoln Journal (www.journalstar.com) the board of the Lincoln Public Schools has approved raises of 6.02 percent for its instructional staff this year and 6.25 percent for next year.

The board also approved equal percentage raises for its district executive team this year and a 4.5 percent raise for Superintendent Phil Schoo. His pay and benefits package total $160,301: a salary of $143,931, car allowance of $5,310, fringe benefit allowance of $5,310, tax-sheltered annuity of $11,500, and longevity stipend of $3,250.

Other top salaries:

Marilyn Moore, associate superintendent for instruction, $122,555; Dennis Van Horn, associate superintendent for business affairs, $103,261; Nancy Biggs, assistant superintendent for human resources, $105,161; Virgil Horne, administrative assistant to the superintendent, $108,042. All have additional benefits of car allowances, longevity stipends and fringe allowances; all but Horne have tax-sheltered annuities and life insurance policies.

According to the Lincoln Independent Business Association, over the past four years, inflation totaled 10.2 percent while LPS compensation grew by 27 percent. This year's teacher and administrator salary increases in LPS were roughly twice that of local private industry, a group spokesman said.

Are Educrats Acting . . . Adolescent?

State Auditor Kate Witek spoke to the Southwest Omaha Women’s Republican Club Wednesday and said, “Adolescence is becoming a norm in America, and it’s alarming.” Think of the educrats when you consider her definition of how adolescents act:

“They want to do what they want to do but they want you to pay for it.”

Now that the Omaha Public Schools’ budget tops a half-billion dollars and yet they’re coming back to voters Nov. 5 to override a reasonable lid on spending for even more . . . should we send some Clearasil and headphones for the OPS staff?

The Southwest Omaha Women’s GOP Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Millard Library. To check the schedule and for more information, email Lisa Botkin, membership chairman, lisa@botkin.org

Be sure to visit http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com and read last week’s stories:

Go Big Ed: A Better Game Plan for Nebraska’s Children and Schools . . . Go Big Ed becomes a PAC; email me at swilliams1@cox.net to join, with or without a donation. Also let me know if I can use your name on a list in opposition to the OPS tax increase Nov. 5.

Repairing the Damage Schools Cause . . . Private tutor Rhonda Couch of Bennington is doing for kids what the public schools haven’t: teaching them to read.

The Lie About School Spending . . . Nebraska ranks 10th in academic achievement, but only 32nd in school spending, proving once again that giving schools more money does not correlate to improved learning for kids.

OPS Spending Tops a Half-Billion Dollars . . . $311 million in the operating fund plus $233 million in construction spending figures out to $13,500 in spending per pupil. Uff da!

Can OPS Avoid the Great Paradox of Education Spending? . . . see some great stats from the American Legislative Exchange Council, www.ALEC.org, which debunk the claims of the educrats by showing that some of the states that spend the least on education and have the largest class sizes have the highest student achievement.

Is OPS Making Kids ‘Special Ed’ On Purpose? . . . How much of that $47.5 million a year is for true special-needs kids with medically-diagnosable conditions, and how much goes for phony learning disabilities that weren’t there when the child started school and would be cured with proper teaching methods?

Have We Been Generous Or Stingy With OPS? . . . by the 2000-01 school year, total value of the buildings and contents within OPS had reached $246.3 million, a 45 percent increase in eight years. Don’t feel guilty about voting “no” on Nov. 5; you haven’t been Ebeneezer Scrooge, you’ve been Santa Claus!

OPS Spending Per Pupil Up 37% in 8 Years . . . operations alone reached $6,914.95 per pupil by the 2000-01 school year, and with increases since then and construction costs added on top, it comes to $13,500 per child.

OPS: Why It’s Your Fight, Too . . . it used to be that the lion’s share of school spending came from local sources, especially property taxes. Well, now property taxes make up less than one-half of the school spending honey pot. The rest comes from state and federal tax sources. If you pay state and federal taxes, you’re an OPS patron, and what happens there Nov. 5 will affect your pocketbook.

Let’s Roll! . . . that was the exhortation from an early contributor to the Go Big Ed campaign fund against the OPS tax increase. Things are rolling, all right . . . but please send a donation ASAP to cover ad buys and campaigning. The election is Nov. 5. Alert me at swilliams1@cox.net if your Go Big Ed contribution is coming to P.O. Box 995, Elkhorn, NE 68022. Thanks! And . . . Go Big Ed!

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