Friday, June 03, 2005

BULLETIN: Kudos to Gov. Dave Heineman for vetoing LB 126, the bill that would kill Nebraska’s country schools. Let’s hope the state senators see the wisdom of conserving those schools, and that they don’t override his veto.



A Go Big Ed reader was in Madison, Wis., recently and forwarded this no-nonsense letter to the editor from the Capital Times (
www.madison.com). It seems that despite being outspent 8:1, a grassroots taxpayers’ group got voters to turn thumbs down on two out of three school-spending ballot questions there the other day.

It’s pretty remarkable, since Madison is such a liberal city. But according to accounts in the online paper, operational spending in the public-school district there had increased by twice the rate of inflation in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, student enrollment had fallen by 162 pupils, but staff had increased by 655.

Two school board members reacted to complaints about rising property taxes by suggesting that homeowners . . . get this . . . take out second mortgages or reverse mortgages in order to pay their taxes and stay in their homes.

Now, there’s compassionate public service for you! Sheesh.

The leader of the pro-spending group said that the 75 percent of Madison taxpayers who don’t have kids in the district should . . . get this . . . have no say in how their tax dollars are spent. That attitude was dubbed “sit down, shut up, and hand over the cash.”

Don’t you love that attitude coming from the educators whose salaries we pay, and their often naïve or financially interested supporters?

It reminds me a lot of what went on, to our shame, in Omaha a few years ago when the Omaha Public Schools and Westside Community Schools pushed through huge extra-spending bills, steamrollering the high-principled, common-sense opponents, such as moi, who tried to talk some sense into the electorate and shine a light on where we could save money, instead.

But we didn’t have guys with guts like this writer. Why don’t we have letters in Nebraska newspapers telling it as it is, the way this guy does? If we did, I have no doubt we’d have more cash in our personal accounts, and better schools.


James Nikora: Model for schools needs to be updated with new ideas

A letter to the editor
May 27, 2005

Dear Editor:

I am a "liberal" citizen of Madison who supports education for both civic and selfish reasons. I believe education is essential to successful representative government and provides a better quality of life for the entire community.

But I voted "no" on the school referendums and my reasons were not just about money. They are about our educational system, the people who run it, and the lack of ideas on the table.

Our current system of education was designed before the Industrial Revolution. We cannot compete in the 21st century using an 18th century model. We need to step outside of this obsolete box, engaging and challenging students with relevant material, while rethinking everything from our physical plants and schedules to teaching methods and systems.

I understand that the system is suffering societal pressure from the overall cuts to social programs at state and federal levels and the economic need families have to provide two incomes. Thirty years ago, in my high school, there was one principal, only one vice principal and two guidance counselors for 1,200 plus students. There were no social workers or psychologists and no executive athletic director. Our parents were biological - not provided by the school district. We need to remove this burden from our schools and make it, once again, their business to educate.

Perhaps I could have been persuaded to vote "yes" had it not been for the arrogance, distorted facts and dogmatic approach of the referendum supporters. I never once heard a proposal to cut administration before placing sacrificial lambs, like the strings program, on our altars. Even now, after defeat, they are looking only for teachers to cut. Their campaign claims of previous cuts to staff and budget were disingenuous and they vilified opponents as "anti-education."

I will continue to support education, first by advocating new leadership in the administration. The district would be better served by an administration that looks in earnest for solutions and seeks to unite the community, rather than divide it.

James Nikora


CALL FOR QUESTIONS: Please send your questions about any facet of K-12 education to Go Big Ed via
swilliams1@cox.net, and thanks!

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