Tuesday, October 31, 2006

News Briefs: Yup, It’s Halloween:
244 Sq. Ft. Per Pupil in Elkhorn?
Election May Bring School Choice?
‘Ghost Schools’ Smear Just a Dirty Campaign Trick?
State Educrats Casting Magic Spell With Stats?

The proposed $96 million school construction bond issue that’s on the Nov. 7 ballot for voters in Elkhorn has apparently cast a spell over the common sense of the media and taxpayers, because nobody has noticed that the second high school would have 244 square feet per pupil.

In the October issue of EPS Highlights from the Elkhorn Public Schools, details of the bond proposal show that the high school proposed for 204th and Pacific Streets would be on 63 acres, would cost $56.5 million, and would have 244,310 square feet for a student body of 1,000.

That’s 244 square feet per pupil, at a cost of $56,500 per pupil.

That’s like allocating two rooms of the average sized house for each student! And think of the paper, pencil, chalk and books you could buy for $56,500!

The proposed middle school in the bond issue would cost $20.9 million and have 110,500 square feet for 600 kids, or 184 sq. ft. per pupil. The proposed new grade school would have 137.5 sq. ft. each.

So why 244 sq. ft. for the high school kids? Do they expect them to be a lot more obese, or haven’t they taken the pop and candy machines out of the buildings at long last? Or are the space allocation numbers inflated because they going to put the softball field under roof, like a shrine, now that they have won three straight Class B state championships in a row? (Shameless plug by the mother of a new grad from there!)

I mean, geesh. Haven’t we been hearing for years that in inner-city Omaha they don’t have carpet for the classroom floors, the English novels are yellowed and tattered, and there are plenty of kids so poor they don’t have shoes that fit and they never get a birthday cake? No offense, but $96 million for a district with 3,952 kids is pretty lavish. It comes to $24,291 apiece. Remember how the Omaha Public Schools almost didn’t get their $254 million bond issue passed a few years ago, because it seemed like too much for a district with 45,000 kids? That came to $5,644 apiece, less than one-fourth as much per pupil.

For another example, get this. The Iowa grassroots organization on education, Iowalive (
http://iowalive.net/), has done space allocation comparisons between schools and private-sector operations. They said a typical business has 15 square feet per manufacturing assembly operator, 16 square feet per student in a training room, and 25 or more square feet per engineering work station -- depending on the engineering function performed. It is estimated that journalists working at large Iowa newspapers would have about 20 square feet of space each.

Iowa schools that Iowalive studied had less than 40 square feet per pupil, and that included space for “ancillary items” and persons in place to support the student, school employee or work station, though their statistics did not include administrative offices, hallways, restrooms, gymnasiums or cafeterias.

So hey. Maybe Elkhorn’s new high school classrooms are going to be of modest proportions, after all, but the school is just going to have ‘way, ‘way, ‘way wide hallways, especially outside those administrators’ offices. They’re bound to have really, really big heads, the way things are going for them out there.

And what will Elkhorn say to OPS and other lower-income districts? Well . . . maybe not “trick or treat.”


Be still, my beating heart. But if next Tuesday’s election goes a certain way, we could have a majority of elected public officials in this state who could support school choice, at long last!

Be sure to check
www.GoBigEd.com’s election picks before you go to the polls, and spread the word. (Also shown on this blog, posted 10/24)

Although some readers have differed with GoBigEd’s picks in certain races, the main consideration was whether the candidate would support tuition tax credits, vouchers or some other form of school choice, to get Nebraska off the dime and into the 21st Century in terms of returning say-so to the “breeders and feeders” – parents and taxpayers.


It doesn’t look good for State Sen. Ron Raikes. To get his school consolidation bill passed the session before last in the Unicameral, he told his colleagues that the forced consolidation of Class I country schools into larger town districts would save Nebraska taxpayers millions of dollars, the Class I schools were spending boatloads more money than bigger districts and weren’t as good academically, had caused “white flight” because of racial prejudice away from town schools, and were peppered with “ghost schools” which were soaking up taxpayer dollars every year but didn’t have any pupils enrolled.

Those have all been shown to be wrong. He’s been busted, busted with whipped cream, and busted with a cherry on top, by the Class I supporters on:

The “ghost schools,” for example, were operating totally within Nebraska law, using the revenues to dispose of closed school property and living up to contracts and so forth. Since Raikes could have found that out with one phone call, on top of the other misstatements he has made, he looks pretty bad on this, and the Class I supporters are pretty mad about it, as well they should be.

They urge people to vote to REPEAL on Referendum 422.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Raikes’ chairmanship of the Education Committee, if LB 126 is repealed and the courts keep agreeing that his other “baby,” the “Let’s Turn OPS Into Van-Choc-Straw and Make One Mega-District Ruled By Big Brother” school law, LB 1024, is an illegal, ill-conceived klunker.


Nebraska already has one of the biggest credibility gaps in the nation in the huge gulf between the glowing reports of “woo hoo!” and widespread genius that our homegrown “assessments” say about student achievement – in stark contrast to the “so-so” and “oh, no” results of nationally-standardized, objective, neutrally-prepared assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

So it’s a bit ghoulish and ticklish this Halloween to ponder the latest glowing report about test scores. For example, the fourth-grade darlin’s in Douglas County West in Valley did smashingly well on their district-prepared writing assessment – 100% proficient! And they were 100% proficient on the district’s fourth-grade math test! And darn near – 99.6% proficient! – on the reading test.

Wow! They must all be brainiacs out there, with fabulous teachers and crackerjack curriculum! Give those administrators a big, fat raise!

‘Course, those numbers look downright spooky, compared to the nationally standardized tests the same age group, at least those in Grades 3-5, took the year before. You can find them on www.nde.state.ne.us (Note: fewer than 10 youngsters came from the Waterloo school district that was merged with Valley’s; statistics are blocked for small student groups for privacy reasons, so the following are Valley numbers only.)

My, my, what different scores, though: instead of 100% for math, just 64.45% of them did as well as, or better than, the national average, and in reading, instead of 99.6% proficiency, just 78.26% equaled or bettered the national average.

In another big, objective, national measurement, the ACT college admissions test, the Valley-Waterloo kids did even worse. Far short of the implications of those 100% test scores, the upperclassmen in Valley scored 20.8 on the 36-point ACT scale that year, lower than the state average of 21.8 and the national average of 20.9. And the Waterloo kids scored a 21.6, even further beneath the state and national averages.

It kind of takes the glow off those statistics, and Nebraska’s so-phony-it’s-scary assessment system, doesn’t it?

Then again, it’s Halloween! You can be anything you want! With the state education department’s costume ideas for dressing up quality control to be whatever works for THEM, we can ALL be boneheads this year . . . and at the NDE, no doubt they’re giving out SUCKERS to the li’l taxpaying trick-or-treaters.

I’m sighing a big Halloween BOO. As in . . . BOO-HOO!!!

Comments: Post a Comment