Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Information Session

From the Levy Campaign website:

Talk to School Board members about Issue 26
Panera Bread at Mill Run
Saturday, March 1, 9-11 a.m.

This may be the last chance before the election.

I have a prior commitment at my church (all are welcome here too!).

If anyone goes to the info session, please post comments.

Campaign Funding

The Hilliard Northwest News gets my thanks for making the effort to research and publish information about the funding of the campaign committee for Issue 26, the 9.5 mill permanent operating levy that will appear on our ballots next Tuesday.

I had written previously about the way the last bond levy campaign was funded, calling into question the propriety of soliciting funding from businesses who would profit from the passage of that same levy. For example, Fanning Howey, the firm that was hired to be the project manager for the construction of Bradley High gave $10,000 to the bond levy campaign. Another $10,000 was received from Fifth Third Bank, who got the business of selling the municipal bonds that would be issued if the bond levy passed. Both Fanning Howey and Fifth Third are contributors to this campaign as well. Fanning Howey has given $10,000 again, and Fifth Third gave $2,500.

Joining them as a major contributor is Turner Construction, who gave $10,000. Turner is the General Contractor for the Bradley High School project, and served in that role for a number of our school buildings. It should also be noted that Turner has long been a supporter of the Hilliard Education Foundation, a not-for-profit community organization that provides grants directly to teachers for innovative programming (not be be confused with the Hilliard Education Association, which is the teachers' union). As a former HEF Board member, I am appreciative of Turner's support of that organization - they are definitely one of the good guys.

A number of other construction companies were $1,000 contributors: Accurate Electrical Construction Inc.; Building Control Integrators; Kenny Huston Co.; and Trucco Construction Co. One must presume they are associated with the Bradley construction as well.

There is less of a question of propriety in soliciting contributions from companies who are already getting money from us, as opposed to companies who would profit if the issue in question passes. In a way, you could say we're just getting some of our own money back. We were never shy about doing this for the HEF.

But I will restate my opinion that I think it is a shame that we have to seek and spend so much money to communicate information that should be routinely communicated by the school system leadership. The district already spends a fair amount of money publishing and distributing their newsletter, Passing Notes. The Superintendent gets a column every week in the weekly newspapers. The district has an excellent website and an extensive emailing list.

In this post by Tim Eby, a resident of the Olentangy Local School District, note that the first response was made by Julie Feasel, a member of their School Board. One of her comments was:
I'm proposing that the district evaluate their communications so that the district residents are informed about financial issues all the time, not just when we're on the ballot

Now there's a School Board member who 'gets it.'

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Are Not Alone

While Googling for something else, and found this blog, written by a man named Jim Fedako in the Olentangy Local School District. I haven't read enough of this blog to know how much I agree with Mr. Fedako's positions, but note the parallel line of investigation.


Update: Mr. Fedako is a former member of the Board of Education of Olentangy Local Schools.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Levy Survey: Results

The levy survey is completed - thanks to the 82 people who made the time to take the survey.

While I'll tell you the results, please understand that with 40,000 registered voters in the school district, 82 responses falls far short of being a statistically valid sample. Therefore this survey is not predictive. It's just the opinion of 82 people.
  • Have you already voted absentee? Only 6% said they have, which suggests that there is still a chance to influence the vast majority of voters;
  • How do you think you're going to vote? 24% said they were unswayingly in favor of the levy and 31% said they were equally against. 50% were undecided, but if leanings are indicative, this set of people would vote 38% in favor and 54% against.
  • How has the concurrent negotiations with the Hilliard Education Association affected your decision? Only 15% said it caused a change of mind.
  • Is the School Board worrying about the right things? 80% of the respondents said the Board needs to pay more attention to the amount of money spent on administrative overhead. 77% want the Board to be spending more time working with the city governments to control growth. 61% want the Board to do better at educating the community on the mechanics of funding, and 57% thinks the Board could better prepare the community for upcoming levies.

A copy of the complete report, which I've also sent to the members of the School Board, can be found here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The newest edition of the school district's newsletter, Passing Notes, was delivered to our mailbox today. Appropriately, the front page story is the levy we'll be voting on in just ten days as I write this. The wording is - again appropriately - the same language used in the communications from the levy campaign committee.

In doing so, it repeats some statements which I think can be misconstrued, as I've previously reported:
  • The cause of rising costs in the district is not inflation, but rather the steady increase of personnel costs - salaries and benefits. Some of this increase is due to raises for existing employees, some for increases in benefit costs, and some for increases in staffing. While I understand some of the staffing increases - for example you expect the number of teachers to rise proportionately with the number of students - some job categories have increased much faster than student growth. It would be good to know why.
  • If a levy is not passed in the next year, the effect will be $50 million in reduced spending, not the $25 million reported.
  • It is confusing to say the "Levy is expected to last 3 years" when it is actually a Permanent Operating Levy that will be attached to our property forever (at least until some significant funding reform takes place) at the rate of $291 per $100,000 of market value. What the Board means is that they don't expect to have to ask for more funding for three years. But that will depend on how the HEA negotiations turns out (which automatically adjusts the OAPSE contract as well).
  • "Stretching the Dollars" actually means going longer than expected without asking for an increase in funding. But all the levies in force continue generating revenue for the schools. This levy will collect about $20 million more per year from us, year in and year out, and that is not affected by how long it is until the next levy request.

Some will say this is just semantics. That's fine. I prefer to call it clarification. If I've confused you instead, please leave a comment and I'll give it another try.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Teacher Compensation

KJ made some excellent points in a recent comment that deserve to be repeated and amplified. He said:

The average teaching salary is approximately $62K. With benefits it's more like $90K. The average class size in Hilliard is around 20 (yes, I'm using round numbers for convenience).
The per pupil cost in Hilliard is $10,000. This includes specialized teachers, teachers, supplies, buildings and admin costs.So, simply speaking $90,000 for teacher salary divided by 20 students in each class equals about $4,500 of teaching salary per pupil. That's roughly 45% of the cost to educate a child in Hilliard. FORTY-FIVE percent!

I think when people read "90% of educational costs is in salaries" they take that to mean that 90% of the cost to educate students is in TEACHER salaries. Obviously, that is not the whole truth.

He is absolutely correct in this analysis.

While the student population of our district grew from 10,734 in 1997 to 14,851 in 2006 (an increase of 38%), the total employment of the District increased by 69%, or 1.8 times the rate of student growth.

However that growth is not due to the hiring of excessive numbers of classroom teachers. Indeed the student/teacher ratio has remained about 20:1 over the past decade, as I reported in an earlier article.

There is plenty of explaining to do about this disproportionate growth. Don't blame it on the teachers.

Thanks KJ

Information Session

Sounds like a good opportunity for Q&A with members of the School Board:

At the next Interschool PTO Meeting on February 26th at Ridgewood Elementary, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the upcoming operating levy or any other issues.

Please forward any questions you may have for the board to both and so that they are sure to have all the information they need to answer your questions.

The ISPTO looks forward to seeing everyone on 2-26-08 at 7:00 p.m.

Levy and Teacher Negotiations

First off, I will be voting in favor of the 9.5 Permanent Operating Levy on March 4, and encourage the voters of our community to support this levy as well.

However, I want to comment on the position being taken by the Levy Campaign Committee concerning the relationship between the levy vote and the ongoing contract negotiations with the Hilliard Education Association (ie the teachers' union). The Committee says: "Though it is natural to assume that they are linked, the fact is they are mutually exclusive of each other and should remain that way to protect the students, parents, and community at large."

I truly don't understand that statement. These two things are inseparably linked, as I reported last November. Hopefully the people of the community have come to realize and accept that 90% of all operating expenses go to pay the cost of salaries and benefits for the teachers, administrators and staff. The additional money raised by this levy will, in the same way, be used almost entirely to fund increased salaries and benefits, some of which will be due to raises and increased benefits costs for the existing group of employees, and some due to growth in the total number of employees (e.g. as Bradley comes online). Likewise, if the levy does not pass, most of the cutbacks will be in the form of employee layoffs.

The Committee website goes on to say: "The treasurer identified the dollars needed for the operating levy long before negotiations began," and "The district's financial forecast and predetermined use for the levy dollars includes funds for salaries and benefits for all staff. This is a fixed amount, regardless of how it is allocated between salaries and benefits. If Issue 26 is passed, there is not more money available."

This makes it sound like the only purpose of the negotiation between the HEA and the School Board is to determine how an already-established budget increase gets apportioned to salary versus benefits. I very much doubt that the HEA sees it that way.

District Treasurer Brian Wilson has published a Five Year Forecast for the District, and that forecast was the basis for creating scenarios that were presented to the School Board in November. In the end, 9.5 mills was selected because the School Board thought that's all that had a chance of getting passed. The District Finance Committee reported to the Board that it thought a larger levy amount was needed, but agreed that 9.5 is probably all they could hope for.

The Treasurer's Forecast is not a cast-in-concrete budget, and things will undoubtedly work out differently than he forecasted. The HEA negotiations are one of those things. When the negotiations are complete, Mr. Wilson will need to adjust his forecast to take the terms of the final HEA contract into account. By then, the levy will have passed or failed, and he'll have a pretty good idea of what revenue will look like for the next couple of years.

We're forgetting to talk about another important variable – how long before another levy needs to be placed on the ballot?

If the levy fails in March, the answer is simple: the Board will have to keep putting levies on the ballot every chance they have until one gets passed. Think of it as the way the community negotiates with the School Board – remember the many attempts at getting a bond levy passed for Washington Elementary and Bradley High? Too bad the Board hasn't figured out a more effective way of interacting with the community.

But what if the levy passes? The more the HEA gets in its new contract, the quicker the cash raised by the levy will be exhausted and the sooner the Board will need to come back to the community with another levy request. Conversely, the more concessions the Board gets from the HEA (ie medical insurance contributions), the longer the Board can wait before asking us for more money.

This is how the HEA negotiations tie to the levy!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Please Take the Survey


If you have a few minutes, please complete the survey questionaire I've posted regarding the upcoming levy vote.

After you've completed the questionaire, feel free to come back here and post any comments you might have.

The survey will be open through Sunday Feb 24, and I'll publish the results the evening of Tuesday Feb 26.

Thanks for your help.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What People are Asking

Citizens for Strong Schools, the campaign committee working for the passage of Issue 26 – our 9.5 mill school funding levy – has brought up a website with a lot of good information about our school system. I compliment Bobbi Mueller and her team for providing the left-brain analyticals like me with numbers and facts, and not making this simply a "do you love your kids" effort.

One section of the campaign website is called "What People Are Asking." The campaign committee is being pretty cautious and conservative in its responses, sidestepping a few of the questions. For those, I'd like to reiterate the analysis and opinions I've stated in the past:

What size levy is projected for three years from now?

The campaign committee answered that it is hard to predict. That doesn't mean the question shouldn't be answered directly using the best information available to us right now. If you take the Treasurer's Five Year Forecast at face value, then another levy on the order of 10 mills will be needed within three years (9.5 mills has been put on the ballot rather than 10 mills for the same reason gasoline is priced at $3.059 instead of $3.06).

Is asking for approx 9.5 mil levies every three to four years going to be the standard operating model for Hilliard City Schools beyond this levy and the next projected levy? In other words, is there a plan to control property taxes that are escalating faster than inflation or will these very large levies become a way of life that should be expected every 3-4 years?

Again, the campaign committee said it is impossible to predict. However, if you extrapolate the Treasurer's forecast out further, we can expect to have a levy on the order of 10 mills on the ballot around every three years for the foreseeable future. The reason is simple – 90% of our operating budget is the salaries and benefits of the teachers, administrators and staff, and this will grow steadily with increases in salaries and especially with health care costs.

Isn't it unconstitutional to pay for school taxes out of property taxes?

The campaign committee answered that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled three times that the reliance on property taxes is unconstitutional. That's not the whole story. The problem is not the system as designed, but rather the refusal of the General Assembly to fund education to the level the system demands. There would have never been any cases in the Supreme Court had the General Assembly allocated the money specified by the funding formula. But we also have to remember the General Assembly has many programs to fund, and education is only one of the top priorities (Medicaid is another growing cost for example).

The proposed amendment being pushed by the Getting It Right for Ohio's Future (GIRFOF) campaign doesn't do away with property taxes either. In fact it requires each district to continue to collect 20 mills for its own local funding. The rest is supposed to come from "the State" - but who is that exactly? Well, it's us of course. It just means that we will pay for schools through income taxes, sales taxes, estate taxes etc etc. And as a so-called wealthy district, Hilliard can expect to get back only a fraction of the taxes we pay, with most of our money going to subsidize other districts. The amendment anticipates this by allowing school districts such as ours to levy property taxes above and beyond the required 20 mills. However, it also removes the protections of HB920, which prevents your property taxes from increasing just because the County Auditor raises the valuation of your property.

So we pay more in income, sales, estate and other taxes, and still have to pay property taxes, and lose the protections of HB920. I believe that our total tax burden would increase with this amendment – at least if we want to keep funding our school district as generously as we do now. It may be a good deal for the more impoverished districts in the state, but no Hilliard taxpayer should support this amendment on the belief that it will lower our total tax burden.

The GIRFOF amendment is heavily supported by the state and local teachers' unions. It is also supported by our own Superintendent and our School Board. The true purpose of this amendment is to redefine the State Board of Education as a kind of super-legislature that gets first dibs on the state treasury. When we remind ourselves that 90% of the operating cost of most school districts is the salaries and benefits of the teachers, administrators and staff, it's easy to understand why school officials think this amendment is a good thing. However, both Governor Strickland and most state legislators opposed it.

Our School Board's support of this amendment is misplaced. They simply want to get out of the business of putting levies on the ballot every 3 years, even if the amendment ends up costing the people of the Hilliard community more. The tragedy is that I don't think this amendment would necessarily change that at all – we'll still need regular property tax levies.

Has the land on Leppert Road (originally purchased for the 3rd high school) been sold and, if not sold, is it being actively marketed? If not sold or being actively marketed why?

The campaign committee says the land is currently being marketed.

But who do they think is going to buy it – someone who will put it back into agricultural use? Of course not. It will be bought by a developer, most likely a homebuilder. Of course, right now the homebuilding business in central Ohio is in the crapper, and homebuilders are selling off land – not acquiring. But if it is sold, at some point it will be developed. Mayor Schonhardt has already published a development plan for this tract.

Let's do some radical math: What if the school district sells 100 acres (keeping the rest for a future school site), and a developer puts 400 homes on that property, which can predicted to add something on the order of 400 new kids to the school population. Those 400 kids will cost the district about $10,000 per year to educate, or $ 4 million per year. Those 400 homeowners will contribute about $3,000 each per year in property taxes, or $1.2 million/yr. The remaining $2.8 million/yr will have to be paid for via addition property tax levies on the rest of us!

I will suggest to you that the best thing to do with the Cosgray Rd property is to just keep it. It's cheaper to pay principle and interest on the bonds used to raise money to buy that land than it is to subsidize the cost of an additional 400 new kids in the school district. Let one of the area farmers rent the land and hold on to the land for now. It can always be sold later, in a less distressed market.

In your explanation about cost to property owners, you use the terms "valuation, valued", but it is unclear what this means. Is this the "assessed valuation" of a persons home; that "valuation" upon which a persons property tax is determined?

This is real simple, but we keep mixing up the vocabulary. The campaign website answered this question with: "Yes, it is determined by the assessed valuation." Unfortunately in that answer, they probably confused the questioner more. What the questioner wanted to know was "You keep saying this levy will cost $291 per year for each $100,000 of valuation. What does valuation mean and how do I figure out how much I have to pay?"

The County Auditor determines the Market Value of your home every three years. The Market Value is meant to be an estimate of what you could sell your property for at the time it was assessed. By state law, your Market Value is multiplied by 0.35 to determine your Assessed Value. Your actual property taxes are calculated using a multi-step procedure that takes into accounts all kinds of tax tweaks that have been implemented over the years.
Fortunately, you don't have to worry about all that – there is a simple calculation that will answer this question:

To correctly determine how much this levy will cost a homeowner, you need to multiply each $100,000 in Market Value of your home by $291 per year. Or better said, multiply the Market Value of your home by 0.00291.

Monday, February 11, 2008

You Can't Make Me

The following email notification was broadcasted by the School District today:

"As efforts continue toward reaching a new labor agreement with the Hilliard Education Association on its contract, the district is in the regrettable position of announcing the cancellation of certain activities for students. Teachers have elected to "work to the rule" under the current contract, which means they will no longer volunteer to help students outside of their regularly scheduled work time.

Teachers have indicated they will only make themselves available during the scheduled work day, which is 20 minutes before and 10 minutes after regular school hours for preschool through fifth-grade, and 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after regular school hours for grades six through 12.

To that end, activities that include, but are not limited to, before- and after-school tutoring sessions, OGT test preparation sessions and various enrichment activities will have to be canceled.

Regularly scheduled performing arts performances and events, as well as regularly scheduled athletic practices and games/scrimmages should not be impacted; staff assigned to such activities work under supplemental contracts outside of the regularly scheduled day."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In The Best Interest of the District

The Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that the Hilliard Education Association (HEA) has voted 1,118 to 41 to reject the latest contract offer from the School Board.

What really surprised me is the reasoning given by Rick Strater, president of the teachers' union: "We felt that a longer, better offer was not necessarily in the best interest of the school district." The Dispatch article goes on to say the union leadership felt the district wouldn't be able to afford the deal as offered if the upcoming levy is rejected. The union says they've proposed a two-year contract with smaller raises instead.

In other words, the union's position is that they really want to take less money than the district is offering in order to protect jobs.

That has a very noble ring to it. I also think it's a load of crap. I mean seriously, have you ever heard of a labor negotiation in which one of the parties said "no wait, you're offering too much!" ?

There is a lot more in play in this negotiation. The big item is the contribution the teachers are being asked to make toward their health insurance costs. Earlier this year, the members of OAPSE (representing non-teaching district employees), agreed to pay 6% of their premiums in 2008, 8% in 2009 and 10% in 2010. My understanding is that the teachers were offered substantially the same deal.

So Mr. Strater isn't telling us the whole story until he discloses what the HEA counter-offered in terms of health insurance contributions. For example, did the HEA say that they would accept smaller increases than offered by the Board, but also contribute less to their health insurance costs?

Why would the teachers' union suggest a shorter contract term than that offered by the Board? There can be a couple of reasons.

One is that the HEA always has the stronger position in these negotiations. The community either gives the HEA what they want, or they take it out on our kids. First with the 'work to the contract' job actions as are going on now, and culminating with a full-fledged teacher strike in which thousands of parents have to figure out how to take care of kids who are home instead of in school. If a strike lasts long enough, many families will have to adjust summer plans if the school year is extended.

The stronger party always wants to get to the bargaining table as often as possible. The thinking is that if conditions deteriorate, the stronger party still cannot be forced to give up much at a negotiation, while if the situation is better than anticipated (ie the levy passes and a large cash surplus builds up), the stronger party wants a chance to get in there and get some of the treasure.

Another reason for the shorter term on this agreement is that it gives the union the chance to negotiate again before another levy goes on the ballot. The School Board has already said that they expect expenses (i.e. salaries and benefits) to continue rising at a pace that will require another levy to be added on no later than 2011. I think they will be lucky if they can wait that long, and that 2010 is more likely. In either case, negotiating before a levy is put on the ballot is always better for the union than waiting and taking the risk that it fails.

I've been writing for months about the Perfect Storm bearing down on our community. Well, now it's here.

The school leadership has failed to educate the community effectively about school funding, and why it is that Hilliard homeowners are shouldering 100% of the growth in our school budget. That alone will make getting the levy passed very difficult.

They also waited until the last minute to ask the community for more money (in the form of the March levy), and it's going to create a fair amount of pain if it doesn't pass.

And now the teachers' union has decided to make its stand on contributing to health insurance costs, while the rest of the people of the community are worrying about the economy and their jobs.

This is like our own little Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope there are some calm heads on both sides who can dial down the tension and bring this to a satisfactory resolution for all.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Governor’s Plan for Education

In his 2008 State of the State Address, Governor Strickland told us how he thinks our public schools are doing, and what needs to change.

He says the State of Ohio increased state funding for primary and secondary education by $600 million dollars (over what period?), and increased the state's share of funding from 48% to 54%. The state funded the construction of 250 new schools.

Is it showing results? The Governor says Education Week ranked Ohio's public schools as 7th best in the county, and that The National Assessment of Educational Progress placed Ohio in the Top 10 of all four of its measurement categories. That sounds pretty good.

Still, the Governor wants to reorganize the the Ohio Department of Education, and I think it's a pretty significant change that he proposes. Here are the exact words from his address:

Today I am calling for the creation of a new position: the director of the Department of Education. This office would be appointed by the governor, subject to approval by the Senate. The director would have oversight over all Department of Education efforts.The existing structure, including the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Schools, would remain in place in advisory and additional roles as determined by the director. The most important duty of the state should not be overseen by an unwieldy department with splintered accountability. This change in organizational structure will ensure, like higher education, that there is a direct line of responsibility and accountability in K through 12 education. It will ensure that our elected and appointed leaders are working together to strengthen education in Ohio.

I think this is a big deal, somehow, but I'm not sure. I've never really thought about how the State Board of Education connects into the organization chart for the State of Ohio, but apparently it's a lot more independent than the Governor wants. I've scanned the Constitution, and the Ohio Revised Code, and the Administrative rules, and haven't found who, if anyone, the State Board of Education reports to. So I think it's no one. I think it's a free-floating organization that can create policy and make things happen without necessarily being on board with the Governor's agenda.

If I've analyzed this correctly, then I would have to agree with the Governor. I bet that a very very small fraction of Ohioans can even name who their representative is on the State Board of Education. Ours is Michael H. Cochran, but I admit having to look it up. So when people are uphappy about the schools, and want to hold someone at the State level accountable, it's going to be the Governor. So we might as well have the function report to him, just like all the other Executive functions of the state government.

The State Superintendent, Susan Tave Zelman (another name I bet few of us know), who reports to the State Board of Education, worded her response carefully. After all, she might end up working for the Governor:

My top priority has always been doing what is best for Ohio’s students. As the Ohio General Assembly considers the Governor’s proposal regarding the governance of our education system, I am confident they will do what is best for Ohio’s students.

The Governors plan throws a wrench in the school funding amendment proposed by Getting it Right for Ohio's Future, which seems to want to make the State Board of Education a super-legislature which has dibs on the State treasury. GIRFOF is heavily backed by the Ohio Education Association and the local teachers' unions. So it seems like the Governor wants to take on the teachers' unions.

I think I like this guy.

One nit though Governor. My family was among those first pioneers you spoke about who came down the Ohio River on flatboats to settle Ohio in the 1790s, but I doubt that they ever saw the the "mouth of the Ohio River" - because it is not in Pittsburgh...

... it's in Cairo Illinois.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cold War

While on a month-long cross-country motorcycle trip last year, we stopped at the Titan Missile Museum outside Tucson AZ. Our tour guide was a retired Air Force officer and a former launch crew commander. When asked why many of our missile silos had been decommissioned, he said that the Cold War came to a peaceful resolution because it could be assumed that both the Soviets and the Americans were rational, and consequently would never start a war that would lead to mutual destruction. However, that kind of warfare doesn't work against a stateless enemy who fights through terrorism. We can't tell the terrorists "Hey, if you stage another 9/11 style attack in the US, we're gonna nuke …. Uh, who should we nuke anyway?"

We have an interesting kind of warfare taking place in our school district as well. It has some aspects of the Cold War in that the combatants are pretty much locked in their territory – there's not much opportunity for anyone to run away from the battle, especially with the housing market in the shape it is. A solution has to be found because no one is going anywhere.

On the one side are the members of the Hilliard Education Association (HEA) – the union representing nearly all of the teachers in the school district. The key purpose of this union is to negotiate a collective employement agreement with the people of our community, represented by the School Board.

The most recent agreement with the HEA expired December 31, 2007. Negotiations have been taking place for a couple of months now, but no new agreement has been reached. A federal mediator has been called in, but so far has not been able to bring the parties together.

And so elements of terrorism have crept into the picture. It is my understanding that HEA members are wearing black to school on Fridays and leaving the buildings precisely at dismissal time each day. Instead of fighting the battle in the negotiating room, the teachers have decided to involve the innocents in the warfare – our kids.

Don't the teachers understand that our community is about to vote on whether or not to approve what amounts to their new pay package? Readers of this blog know that 90% of our operating budget goes to pay for the salaries and benefits of the employees of the school district. If the levy passes, there is certainly more room to give the teachers what they want than if it fails.

Given that, why isn't it in the best interest of the HEA to agree to work under the terms of the current agreement for another couple of months, and apply their considerable resources to the effort of getting the levy passed?

What the HEA is doing risks shattering the emotional contract between the community and the teachers. As parents, many of us moved to Hilliard to get our kids into these great schools to be taught by great teachers. Our focus is our kids, not all the political crap. Most of us have always believed the teachers are in it for our kids too.

But the current behavior of the teachers sends a message that they're not really in it for our kids – it's about the money. That substantially changes the complexion of the discussion.

Those of us who have lived in Hilliard for many years have seen our property taxes skyrocket. Mine has doubled in the past ten years. I'll vote for this levy because I understand the impact on the community if it fails. But there are lots of folks who are just tired of property taxes going up and up, and will vote against the levy just because it's one of the few chances we have to directly control our tax bill. Many senior citizens will vote against the levy as a matter of economic survival.

Most of the votes in favor of a levy come from households with kids in school. By taking actions which seem targeted at our kids, the HEA risks alienating those very parents who are their biggest supporters.

We can expect pretty decent turnout for the March 3 election because it is also the Presidential Primary, and we have a very interesting field of candidates. I don't know that high turnout is a good thing for levy passage. The most consistent set of voters are the senior citizens, who are apt to vote against additional levies, so getting lots of new voters in the polls – many of whom will be parents – seems like a favorable thing.

But if the HEA strategy backfires and those teachers, through their adolescent behavior, lose the support of the parents, passage of the levy seems unlikely.