Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Voters in the state’s third-largest school district go to the polls today to decide whether to take on $78 million in new debt in one of the biggest bond issue votes around.

Observers are pretty sure it’s going to pass easily because of the insurmountable propaganda job mounted by the district in little more than a month’s lead time for any citizens who would dare to oppose the measure.

Monday’s Go Big Ed did a lousy job of explaining where the money goes in Millard in an attempt to show how little of the money actually goes for classroom teachers. Here’s Take Two:

(Millard Public Schools, 2003-04 annual financial report, State Department of Education,

Total spending: $136.7 million

Teacher salaries: $46.1 million

% of total spending for teacher salaries: 33.7%

Total spent on instruction (teacher pay plus benefits, supplies and materials, special ed, English Language Learners, support services, etc.): $86.8 million

% of total spending for instruction: 63.5%

Quick: ask the average Millard voter what percentage the Millard schools is spending on instruction, vs. central office administration, clerks, custodians, building maintenance and operations, transportation, liability insurance, yada yada yada?

I bet the average voter thinks what I thought: about 80% instruction, 20% other. But it’s closer to 60-40.

Look how the “other” spending has ballooned, to the point where actual teacher pay has dropped to only one-third of every school tax dollar. Yet I don’t know anybody who’d say that teachers are that low of a priority when it comes to public education.

Riiiiiiiiiight. And that’s where the school districts have got us. In our ignorance, we keep giving them more and more . . . to give us less and less of what we want.



In what I’m sure he thought was the nail in the coffin of Nebraska’s country schools, the Legislature’s Education Committee chair, Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln, has been saying that “racist” rural Nebraska families are opting to keep their kids in tiny Class I schools rather than drive them in to the town schools . . . . solely so that they can dodge minority kids. So continuing to fund country schools is this state is enabling blatant racism, the Raikes argument goes.

His targets in particular are Schuyler and Lexington, where lots of Hispanics have moved for meatpacking jobs, and it’s well-known that there’s a huge amount of pressure on the towns’ infrastructure as a result.

Country school advocates deny the racism angle vehemently, and point out that Class I schools often have far more racial diversity than much bigger suburban districts across the state. Our daughter, for example, attends a Class B high school with about 800 students, and I believe at the most there may be three African-Americans.

Now, I’m 100% for keeping the country schools because they deliver a quality education and keep towns vibrant. But gee. I don’t like any of those “isms” any more than Sen. Raikes does.

So . . . sorry, but he’ll have to be fired. We have too many white, upper-middle-class, middle-aged men in the Legislature. Goodbye, senator. What do we have, one black guy and one Hispanic guy? White governor? White mayors? White State Board of Education? So what’s all this harping on these rural families?

And we’ll have to fire our State Commissioner of Education and most of his management staff. White, upper-middle-class, middle-aged men, mostly. Ta ta.

As for our luxuriously-paid public-school superintendents across the state, a whole lot of them will have to go, too. They are almost without exception (Lincoln Public Schools just hired Susan Gourley, for example) WASP men; in fact, according to a 1992 study by Bell and Chase, 96 percent of the school superintendents in this country are white, and Hornbeck (1999) piles on by saying 88 percent of them are men. Can’t have that! Ciao, Babes.

School boards? ESU boards? Principals? Lily white, and boxer-short wearers, mostly.

The only reason all of these people got where they are is discrimination and racism, just like those Class I families . . . eh, Sen. Raikes?

Come on, now. End the power game. Keep the country schools. Lose the finger-pointing, because we all know the old adage: when you point the finger, three more point back at you.

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