Monday, November 10, 2008

Bob's thoughts about Public Education

My School Taxes are 76.2% of my property tax bill and
increasing for the last 15 years. Classes are in session
only 176 days per year very low utilization of very
expensive buildings! Taking away Saturdays and Sundays,
there are 260 weekdays schools could be open so utilization
is 67.7%. Most other countries have their schools in use
many more days than in the United States. Some have year
round allowing individual schools to almost double the
number of students taught in a year. Empty schools provide
no benefits to anyone. The level of administrative personnel
keeps growing so there are no productivity gains. Well run
business would expect when the output volume grows the
productivity grows and the product cost drops and they are
more competitive in their markets. Unfortunately, Public
School Districts have little competition except a few
private schools that usually operate at lower costs and
better educated students. Taxpayers pay more for Public
Schools, City, County, State and Federal Agencies yet
fewer benefits flow back to taxpayers. Incompetents
difficult to discharge.
Student performance standards are more lenient yet actual
score continue to drop.

Bob G., Poplar Grove (Candlewick Lake)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fast Start--Is it really something parents should want?

Beginning in 2009-2010 seventy juniors from Belvidere North and Belvidere High School may be taking their class work at Rockford Valley College. They will receive both college and high school credit. A student could conceivably graduate two years later from both a Belvidere high school and the community college. This is the first such joint credit program in all of Illinois however numerous other states have had the program for some years. Details are currently available on the District 100 website: here. If the details are no longer there, email me and I will send you what I have.

A good discussion of the pro's and con's is available from Time/Life via Yahoo: 

Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade?


By KATHLEEN KINGSBURY Kathleen Kingsbury Fri Nov 7, 4:50 am ET

High school sophomores should be ready for college by age 16. That's the message from New Hampshire education officials, who announced plans Oct. 30 for a new rigorous state board of exams to be given to 10th graders. Students who pass will be prepared to move on to the state's community or technical colleges, skipping the last two years of high school. (See pictures of teens and how they would vote.)

Once implemented, the new battery of tests is expected to guarantee higher competency in core school subjects, lower dropout rates and free up millions of education dollars. Students may take the exams - which are modeled on existing AP or International Baccalaureate tests - as many times as they need to pass. Or those who want to go to a prestigious university may stay and finish the final two years, taking a second, more difficult set of exams senior year. "We want students who are ready to be able to move on to their higher education," says Lyonel Tracy, New Hampshire's Commissioner for Education. "And then we can focus even more attention on those kids who need more help to get there."

But can less schooling really lead to better-prepared students at an earlier age? Outside of the U.S., it's actually a far less radical notion than it sounds. Dozens of industrialized countries expect students to be college-ready by age 16, and those teenagers consistently outperform their American peers on international standardized tests.

With its new assessment system, New Hampshire is adopting a key recommendation of a blue-ribbon panel called the New Commission on Skills of the American Workforce. In 2006, the group issued a report called Tough Choices or Tough Times , a blueprint for how it believes the U.S. must dramatically overhaul education policies in order to maintain a globally competitive economy. "Forty years ago, the United States had the best educated workforce in the world," says William Brock, one of the commission's chairs and a former U.S. Secretary of Labor. "Now we're No. 10 and falling."

As more and more jobs head overseas, Brock and others on the commission can't stress enough how dire the need is for educational reform. "The nation is running out of time," he says.

New Hampshire's announcement comes as Utah and Massachusetts declared that they, too, plan to enact some of the commission's other proposals, such as universal Pre-K and better teacher pay and training. Still more states are expected to sign on in December. And the largest teacher union in the U.S., the National Education Association, is encouraging its affiliates to support such efforts.

Some reform advocates would like to see the report's testing proposals replace current No Child Left Behind legislation. "It makes accountability much more meaningful by stressing critical thinking and true mastery," says Tracy.

No date has been set for when New Hampshire will start administering the new set of exams, which have yet to be developed. But to achieve the goal of sending kids to college at 16, Tracy and his colleagues recognize preparation will have to start early. Nearly four years ago, New Hampshire began an initiative called Follow the Child. Starting practically from birth, educators are expected to chart children's educational progress year to year. In the future, this effort will be bolstered by formalized curricula that specify exactly what kids should know by the end of each grade level.

That should help minimize the need for review year to year. It will also bring New Hampshire's education framework much closer to what occurs in many high-performing European and Asian nations. "It's about defining what lessons students should master and then teaching to those points," says Marc Tucker, co-chair of the commission and president of the National Center for Education and the Economy in Washington. "Kids at every level will be taking tough courses and working hard."

Right now, Tucker argues, most American teenagers slide through high school, viewing it as a mandatory pit stop to hang out and socialize. Of those who do go to college, half attend community college. So Tucker's thinking is why not let them get started earlier? If that happened nationwide, he estimates the cost savings would add up to $60 billion a year. "All money that can be spent either on early childhood education or elsewhere," he says.

Critics of cutting high school short, however, worry that proposals such as New Hampshire's could exacerbate existing socioeconomic gaps. One key concern is whether test results, at age 16, are really valid enough to indicate if a child should go to university or instead head to a technical school - with the latter almost certainly guaranteeing lower future earning potential. "You know that the kids sent in that direction are going to be from low-income, less-educated families while wealthy parents won't permit it," says Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, who notes similar results in Europe and Asia. She predicts, in turn, that disparity will mean "an even more polarized higher education structure - and ultimately society - than we already have."

It's a charge that Tracy denies. "We're simply telling students it's okay to go at their own pace," he says. Especially if that pace is a little quicker than the status quo.


Thanks Dean for this input.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Growth may mean higher taxes

Adverse economic circumstances maybe costly to local taxpayers. Costs of the debt which financed all those new school buildings will increase 7% each year for the next 13 years. Without the growth in assessed evaluations of the housing boom, the homeowner will be faced with these large increases.

The following is a chart of the interest and principal due for the next several years. The information is taken from the last CPA Audit, June 30 2008, Note #7, page 44.

School Year

Total Principal & interest due Change from Prior Year
2008-2009 $6,096,312  
2009-2010 $6,560,312 8.9%
2010-2011 $7,048,594 7.2%
2011-2012 $7,579,344 7.3%
2012-2013 $8,148,344 7.2%

One possible solution is a sales tax referendum. Up to a 1 per cent sales tax for schools is now allowed by state law. The tax can be used for school construction or servicing the debt which paid for school construction. The proposed* Strategic Plan of District 100 suggests that the school district will seek a referendum for a sales tax in 2010. The proposal has the income being used for debt service.

However the real question is, will future boards of education really use this large income just to service old debt? They could use it to build more new buildings; all without the approval of a building referendum. Should there be limits or sunset provisions for such a sales tax referendum? Should the simple majority of a seven member board of education or should the people in a building referendum determine when new schools are built?

*The Strategic Plan has yet to be approved by the School Board
To share information, email us at District100Watchdog.

HELP WANTED: School Board Member

Seeking candidates for a difficult but rewarding job. Pay is the appreciation of hardworking taxpayers but no money. Many will accuse you of being opposed to children but a practical, common sense education which the community can afford is really what the job is all about. All inquiries may be sent to the above email address. All comments are welcome.

For more information you may also go to the School District's website. Six of the seven seats are up for election this April 2009. If you disliked the backdoor referendum, the removal of tax caps or what ever--now is the time to get your candidate--your voice at the school district. Candidates must submit petitions with the signatures of at least 50 registered voters to School District 100. Deadline for the petition is January 26, 2009. Election is Tuesday April 7, 2009. Please vote.