Thursday, June 11, 2009

Evidence Based Spending

There is a great deal of dialog these days about the battle in progress between the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate, pitting the Governor's so-called Evidence Based Funding model against the funding model which has been in use in Ohio for decades.

Lots of folks are caught up in the mythology of what it is that the Ohio Supreme Court said about our current funding system. Most focus on simple declarations such as "the Supreme Court ruled property taxes to be unconstitutional." That is a gross simplification of what the court said in the first case to come before it (often called DeRolph I), and fails to convey what the Court said in subsequent cases on this same matter (here is an excellent analysis, from which I took the bulk of my data used below).

The real problem was – and is – that regardless of the theory and method used to calculate how much should be spent to educate our kids, the State of Ohio didn't collect enough in taxes to pay fully for any of them. The basic theory is simple: poor districts get lots of money from the State and rich districts not so much. It doesn't matter whether you apply the calculations of the modified "Augenblick method" now in use, or the Governor's highly touted "Evidence Based Model," if there's not enough enough money – there's not enough money.

And by the way, the differences between the two methods are not really that significant.

The Augenblick method, devised by a consultant hired by the State of Ohio who is named Dr. John Augenblick, was designed to work this way:

  1. Make a list of all the school districts in the state which pass seventeen of eighteen standards, similar to those used to create the State Report Cards. This resulted in 169 school districts the first time around.
  2. Throw out the 5% of the school districts with the highest property values, as well as the 5% with the lowest property values, as well as those with significantly unusual spending patterns. This left 102 districts.
  3. Divide the total amount of money spent by these 102 districts by the total number of pupils across all those districts. The result is an average of the per-pupil spending across all districts which we would call successful.
In FY2004, that number worked out to be $4,901 per student. In other words, every school district in the state should be able to educate its kids for $4,901 per kid per year. Each local district is required to contribute whatever funding is generated by 23 mills of local property taxes, and the rest of the $4,901 would be provided by the State. Poor districts get a lot, rich districts not so much. Local school districts are free to tax themselves more than 23 mills if higher funding is desired. We certainly do that here in Hilliard, as we spend over $10,000 per kid.

The problem is that the State doesn't have enough money to fund this method to the full dollar amount required – at least not without cutting back other State-funded programs or raising taxes. So they tweaked Augenblick's method, resulting in a lower number: $4,665 per student. That didn't satisfy the folks who brought the DeRolph I lawsuit (which was just about every school district in Ohio at this point), so back to Court again they went. When DeRolph II made it to the Supreme Court, the justices said the tweaks made by the State didn't make sense, and besides, it looked like they were starting with the answer (how much they had to spend) and modifying the formula to come up with that answer. I tend to agree with the Court in that assessment.

So the State went back to the drawing board, but ended up just making more tweaks to the Augenblick method. But this time, in DeRolph III, the Supreme Court said the method used was constitutional, provided some additional adjustments were made.

Then there was Derolph IV. The Court vacated its DeRolph III decision, restoring its DeRolph II position that Ohio's school funding system was unconstitutional. Talk about schizophrenic.

But the problem remains – the State of Ohio doesn't have the money to fund education at the level empirically arrived at via the Augenblick method.

Does the Governor's Evidence Based Funding Model fix that? Not really. I have a copy of the calculations proposed for the Model, and they seem no more scientifically valid than the Augenblick system. Augenblick's approach is this: school districts are so different across the state, with so many different moving parts, that it's all but impossible to figure out which elements are "must-haves" and which are "nice-to-haves." So you just smash up all the numbers from all the districts and crank out one big average. Seems pragmatic to me.

However, the Evidence Based Model does attempt to break it down into the component parts. It dictates how many people in various roles a school district should have based on its individual profile of students (notably the total number of students, and the number in various Special Ed categories), and how much teachers, administrators and staff in those roles should be paid, on average. Here are some examples of the calculations (all salaries are for FY11):

  • There should be one "Elementary Organizational Unit" for every 418 kids in K-5. That implies a Principal, which should be paid $91,297. There should be a "core teacher" for every 15 students in grade K-3 and one for every 25 for grades 4-5, at an average total cost (compensation & benefits) of $52,402.
  • There is one "Middle School Organizational Unit" for every 557 kids in grades 6-8. Again, one principal at the same pay rate, and one teacher for every 25 kids. Remember that in our school district, we segregate the 6th graders from the 7-8 kids, meaning more principals and more support staff than the state funds. In other words, our choice to organize our schools in this manner is our burden to fund, not the State's.
  • There is one "High School Organizational Unit" for every 733 students in grades 9-12. Since we have around 4,400 kids in this grade range, we should have about 6 high school principals for the whole district, each being paid $91,000. In reality, we have 5 principals each at Davidson and Darby, and three at Bradley, for a total of 13 – double what the State is willing to fund under the Governor's plan. And I very much doubt that those 13 administrators are being paid an average of $91,000.
  • The State would fund $110,864 for one Superintendent and $79,937 for one Treasurer. We have one Superintendent and three Asst Superintendents.
So does this Evidence Based Model produce much different in the way of results? I don't think so. Both methods come up with base numbers, then apply tweaks to adjust for various factors. The Augenblick method doesn't try to break out numbers of people in each role, or how much they should get paid; it just says "you should be able run a good district with the same amount per pupil as any other good district."
The so-called Evidence Based Model is portrayed as a more sophisticated approach, but I think it's like me saying you get green by mixing blue and yellow while you say, no, you get green when you mix yellow and blue.
The real – unspoken – issues are these:

  1. The education community doesn't care whether or not the State has the money to fund either of these approaches. It expects taxes to be raised, other programs to be scaled back or dropped, and whatever else it takes to give educators the first slurp at the money trough. Because after all, education funding is really about educator compensation, which consumes nearly 90% of all operating funds.

  2. Having local school districts significantly funded by local taxes approved directly by local voters is a huge source of consternation to the education community. They don't want to have to convince you and me that they're doing a good job and deserve a raise. They want those decisions to be made by professional politicians in the Statehouse who will set their pay scales and benefigts based on how much campaign support they deliver from the unions and associations, not on how well kids are being educated.
The only way to stop this nonsense is to get informed and get involved. I hope this blog and the companion website help folks get informed. The best way to get involved is to get up off the couch and starting talking about this stuff with your neighbors, then collectively telling the School Board, your State Representative and Senator, and the Governor that you've had enough.


  1. Paul, thanks for explaining the history and the current differences. It is certainly easier to understand than what I read in the papers, or get from the district!

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to Educate Hilliard!

  2. Paul,

    Educators don't want to have to convince "you" because so many "yous" don't want to be informed. They will ALWAYS say things are bad, and people are paid too much, and they pay too much in taxes. Find me another "company" in our city with such a high percentage of qualified (degrees( employees who must maintain certification, and figure out how much they get paid. I'll bet it is a lot.

    As I've stated before, people vote no for Cemetery maintenance. They do so not because they have any factual information, but because they have an opportunity to keep more of their money.

    It is uncomfortable to admit, but a large portion of our population do not vote based on what is right, they vote based on their pocketbook. No amount of effort by the school district would change that.

    People get all bent out of shape when I "accuse the public of not being intelligent." Let's be honest, the general public is not intelligent...If they were, they would never vote no for cemetery maintenance or fire and police protection, let alone schools!

  3. Musicman:

    Of course, the logical conclusion of your argument is that if no one wants to learn about anything, why bother spending any money on public schools in the first place? What good has been produced by a century or so of public schools if the result is a public which is too ignorant to figure out if it's worth it?

    I grown weary of this argument that teacher pay should somehow be related to the degrees and licenses required. You folks go into the profession knowing that all that stuff is required and the pay is comparatively low (although that's changing), and yet many more folks graduate with education degrees than there are jobs in the public schools.

    Oh, and by the way, the richest guy on the planet is a college drop out.

    Like it or not, in a capitalist economy, folks get paid what someone else thinks they're worth - be it a boss or a customer. It's up to the individual to decide whether or not the pay is enough to make it worth the effort.

    The leaders of the teachers' unions play hard-ass when it comes negotiation time, while most of the teachers sit in the shadows, not wanting to get their hands dirty in the process. To a great extent, most teachers show as much apathy in the negotiation process as does the public, and in my experience understand the politics of funding no better than the average Joe on the street. Is all that education helping?

    It's because the real problem is apathy. Most members of the public don't care about school economics and but want to rein in their tax burden. Most teachers don't care about school economics but want to be paid more.

    In math, you'd cancel out the variables that appear on both sides of the equation ("don't care...") and see what's left.

    In this case you are left with "public wants to pay less" and "teachers want to be paid more."

    That's a classic negotiation position. The teachers let the union leaders negotiate on their behalf, and the public lets the school board negotiate for them.

    The trouble is that the teachers' union has nuclear weapons - the threat of a strike that will screw up the lives of all those kids - especially the ones getting things lined up for college applications.

    I suspect the dynamics of the next negotiation are going to be different than they have been in the last couple of decades. Maybe both sides will have nukes this time.


  4. Paul,

    My point about compensation was that schools employ highly qualified people, by nature of the job requirements. If you find similar "companies" with highly qualified people, you'll find a company that pays their folks more than teachers. I'm not complaining, just trying to counter your constant clamoring about the high compensation costs. The employees are highly qualified, and their pay reflects that. You may not like it, but it is the truth.

    I'm also confused about this:
    -You acknowledge two parts to the problem: Community and HCSD/HEA

    -You then glance over the apathy and dig in with how terrible HCSD/HEA behave.

    Why not write blogs about how pathetic that it is that so few people vote/care? You mention it, but nothing close to your rants on schools (Which are valid). I think it is because you know how well that would go over. It is much easier to point the finger at "the man" than it is to point at each other/ourselves.

    And as for your "logical conclusion" to my statement, what a classic overexaggeration!! Schools aren't responsible for the final product any more than ones parents/community/social influences are. The fact that the richest man in the world is a college dropout speaks to this point perfectly.

    We live in a society that funds the payroll for professional athletes without blinking an eye, but teachers are burned at the stake?

    Unions suck. THAT'S the problem. The public (teachers included) is apathetic. THAT'S the problem.

    I am interested to see how your negative and condescending tone towards teachers goes over if you are on the school board (Let alone your desire to eliminate the community school system you will have been elected to maintain). Nothing like a boss who thinks his employees are apathetic money-seekers who are the root cause of the companies problems.

    Should be an interesting fall...

  5. Musicman:

    negative and condescending tone towards teachers?

    I think you miss my intentions and my point.

    The political crap is going on in two places: 1) The Statehouse in the dialog between professional union lobbyists and politicians who can be 'motivated' by the substantial campaign contributions and voting bloc the lobbyists represent; 2) The negotiations between the HEA/OEA leadership and the HCSD School Board, to which neither the public nor the teachers are privy.
    Neither of those conversations are anything like the ones that go on between individual parents and individual teachers, which really does tend to focus on the kids.

    During the last contract negotiation, I made this observation about the relationship of the public with the teachers:
    I think that other than at contract negotiation time, many parents see themselves as partners with the teachers in a common goal - educating the kids. That's why having an objective conversation about money is so hard. Parents do it for free and I think that at some level the parents believe that the teachers have the same motivation - that teaching is a calling not a job. The negotiation process shatters that illusion.

    It doesn't need to be that way if we would invest a little time talking and sharing information between levy votes.
    I think that you'll find that I consistently identify apathy as the root cause of most of our problems - at all levels of government. Do you recall this comment made in response to you last Fall?

    I think this relationship between the board and union is dysfunctional because in reality the HEA/OEA leadership has been bullying the school board around for years. Ever see the movie "Christmas Story?" Meek little Ralphie eventually decides he's taken enough from the bully and beats the snot out of him.

    We're going to have that kind of blow up unless the HEA/OEA leadership and the school board changes their relationship, and I think that means finding ways to engage the community in a meaningful, regular conversation about all this stuff.

    The amount of education one has is meaningless other than as a job qualification. How much one gets paid is based on how much the customer thinks your services are worth. Whether you'll work for that amount is your choice.

    The presence of unions distorts this whole processes. I'd like to be able to go to a superstar teacher and say "you really make an impact on the kids you teach, both in terms of knowledge imparted and as a role model, you're a great example to other teachers, and contribute well beyond your job description. I'd like to pay you $150,000/yr if you agree to a 5 year contract with option to renew."

    But in the same way, I want to be able to say to the dud teacher: "You are ineffective and set a poor example for the kids and other teachers. I've been telling you this for a year now, and you've made no effort to improve. You're fired."

    And finally, the fact that I believe the public school system is dysfunctional and would benefit from a radical retooling (see Food Stamps), doesn't mean I have no interest in trying to make what we have better.

    Professional politicians are willing to portray themselves as supporters of whatever positions the polls say will get them elected. That's because getting elected and staying in office are their core goals.

    Mine is different: to offer my services, as a civic duty, to the people of this community by bringing my now well-documented economic philosophy and executive experience to the school board.

    We'll know on Nov 3 whether sufficient numbers of people accept my offer. If not, that's fine. The failing would be to never have offered.


  6. Paul,

    I guess we drove right by each other, because I think you are missing my point as well. I agree things are messed up, and the Unions are at the heart of it (on the school end).

    Where I think you missed me was when I asked why you don't write more on public apathy. A comment here or there is great, but if the community is just as complicit in this mess, don't they deserve the same amount of press? People start to get the idea that this is a one-sided issue, when it it really isn't.

    Teachers take pay cuts. OK, does that solve the problem? I don't think so. Again, where we've missed: I'm not whining teachers don't get paid enough, only that those with higher qualifications tend to get more compensation in society. Sometimes I think the majority of the public can't understand why teachers make more than they do. As a result, I feel like John Q. Public will always vote no for school levies, as he/she perceives teachers to not be worth what they are paid. I'm not talking about YOU. I'm not talking about anyone else here (more than likely), but I am talking about the extremely high percentage of uninformed voters out there.

    I wish you luck in your endeavor, and I look forward to reading the specifics of your platform.

  7. MM:

    Of course, isn't the paradox that those who are apathetic aren't likely to look for blogs like this either?

    I have never ever suggested that teachers take pay cuts. I have suggested that they (the HEA) forgo part of their raise, for one year as a demonstration of their empathy with a public that is getting hammered right now. Of course, my proposal was completely ignored.

    And I will continue to take issue with your position that those with higher qualifications tend to get more compensation in society.

    That is true largely only in the public sector and in unionized labor groups. In most of the private sector you get paid what someone thinks you're worth, be it your boss or your customer, and that valuation has almost nothing to do with your credentials and everything to do with what you produce for the benefit of the organization.

    That's why a college dropout named Tiger Woods picked up a check for $1 million last Sunday. Is he worth it? Well, to someone he is, and that's good enough.

    I've said many times, including at the Candidate's Night before the last election, that I'm willing to pay top performing teachers enough to keep them motivated to stick with it and keep improving themselves. But only as long as we can fire the duds.

    I suspect this is true for many people in this community. After all, nearly all of us moved here because of the schools. There are cheaper places to live, but we picked Hilliard.

    It's not that the whole thing has to be blown up so we can start over. But we have to get the teachers (not the union leaders) and the people of the community (not the school board) talking to each other on this, as well as other matters.

    I for one would love to see a moderated discussion in a room with say 20 teachers and 20 community members chosen at random. Think of it as marriage counseling between the two groups.


    Parent:You teachers want to get paid a ton of money and yet my kids don't learn anything.
    Teacher:Maybe that's because your kids are ill-behaved undisciplined little brats who come to school without ever cracking a book, and you don't seem to care.

    Relationships fail when there isn't honest and frequent communications. That's where we are right now. The HEA/OEA (leaders, not members) has the better position because they spend their lives thinking about how to manipulate the other side.

    All I'm trying to do is get the public to in the game. That will take a while. So let's start by electing a school board who understands the manipulation game that's being played.


  8. Paul,

    You HONESTLY don't think that higher education leads to higher pay? Just the first result of a google search led to this, a chart of expected lifetime income based on education level:
    * Some high school, no diploma - $1,000,000
    * High school diploma or equivalent - $1,200,000
    * Some college, no degree - $1,500,000
    * Associate degree - $1,600,000 * Bachelor's degree - $2,100,000 * Master's degree - $2,500,000
    * Doctoral degree - $3,400,000
    * Professional degree - $4,400,000

    Both examples you have given are the equivalent of the asterisk at the bottom of the Weight Watchers ad: "Results not typical". Do you think EITHER of those gentlemen would advocate the masses follow their path to wealth?

    I agree with much of what you have to say, including the dialogue, but NOT with your assertion that education attained is meaningless, because it clearly is not.

  9. Paul:

    Your $150K for a teacher idea is actually being tried.. Well - $125K anyway.

  10. MM:

    Of course I don't think education is meaningless. Otherwise I wouldn't be spending the money to help our daughters earn advanced degrees.

    What I'm saying is that possessing a degree is not a guarantee of performance. Nor is experience. Yet this is exactly the basis on which teacher pay is determined in public schools.

    In the private sector, all the degree does is allow the employer to have some confidence of the knowledge base a candidate might bring to the job. That plays a big part in the employer's hiring decision when it's the applicant's first job.

    After that, getting hired and subsequent compensation is based on performance of the individual and performance of the organization. When the stars align and a great performer is a part of a successful organization, the compensation can be very good.

    Today we're seeing many situations where high performance individuals find themselves in organizations that aren't doing well. I recently read a New York Times article about the hundreds of attorneys being laid off by top-ranked NYC law firms. Those lawyers almost always have undergraduate and professional degrees from prestigious universities, and some had even been named partners of their firms in recognition of their performance and contribution.

    But the legal business is down, and firms can't afford to keep them all. So many were laid off and those which remain are taking deep pay cuts.

    The HEA and other teachers' unions can't continue to act as though they are insulated from what's happening in our economy. Yet after most Americans saw much of their nest eggs evaporate in the past decade, without the safety net of a defined benefit pension plan as the teachers have; with many now fearing for their jobs and the ability to keep the homes they bought just to get their kids into Hilliard Schools, the HEA bullied the School Board into granting 7% annual raises in both their 2005-2007 and 2008-2010 contracts.

    That can't happen again. The 2010 contract negotiations need to yield significantly different results. I don't want it to be a war that gets fought in the 11th hour, but rather the culmination of a dialog between the teachers and the voters that we start right now.


  11. Thanks Marc. I wrote an article about that experiment last July, and have hope that the experiment shows remarkably positive results - because that's the only way they will get any consideration for wider adoption.

    By the way, I think the decision to drop Hilliard's support of the Metro School was arrogant and stupid. More on that another time...

    There are some real gems in the latest article you referenced:

    "One was that a golden résumé and a well-run classroom are two different things. “There are people who it’s like, wow, they look great on paper, but the kids don’t respect them,” Mr. Vanderhoek said.". That's my point Musicman.


    "To make ends meet, teachers will hold responsibilities usually shouldered by other staff members, like assistant principals (there will be none). There will be no deans, substitute teachers (except for extended leaves) or teacher coaches. Teachers will work longer hours and more days, and have 30 pupils, about 6 more than the typical New York City fifth-grade class."

    Did you know that at the last Hilliard School Board meeting, the Superintendent recommended and the Board unanimously approved a rate increase for substitute teachers?

    One Board member - Dave Lundregan as I recall - asked if we had any problems finding substitutes. This was exactly the right question - why should we raise the cost of substitutes unless: a) we're having trouble filling the need for substitute teachers; AND, b) the pay rate is the problem?

    The answer from the administration was that the 'failure to fill rate' was .002%, meaning that only 2 times out of 100,000 teacher-days were they unable to find a substitute.

    Of course, they said it's much harder in the springtime when lots of teachers take Friday off as a personal day!

    'nuff said.


  12. Paul wrote,
    "Of course, they said it's much harder in the springtime when lots of teachers take Friday off as a personal day!"
    Hopefully I'm missing your point here as well...

    The teachers in my district DID forgo part of their pay increase, as did members of the Classified Union AND the Administrators Union. Would you like to know what sort of good will that got us???

    Zero. People complained that it wasn't enough and it wasn't genuine. Great!! I voted to provide less money to my family, and got figuratively spit on as a result.

    As for Marc's link, I'm all for that. However, how much you want to bet our community, and most others, would flip their collective lids when they found out teachers were making six figures? TEACHERS!! They are no better than us. They aren't doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and entertainers! They aren't worth THAT!

    Just a guess on my part...

  13. My point was to note that our Board voted to raise the compensation of substitute teachers, who don't seem to be hard to find -- except during the springtime when many teachers apparently choose to take personal days to make long weekends - right before they begin their 10-12 weeks of summer vacation (there's a benefit few other professionals enjoy). Not sure this is money well spent.

    I think it was a positive gesture for your union to offer to forgo your base pay increases, but let's not forget that your kept your step increases, which range between 3% and 5%, depending on position in the pay grid.

    That 3-5% is more than nothing - and is likely to be above the average raise being received by private sector workers in this economy. In other words, I believe your union's action may simply have brought your rate of increase into alignment with the current norm.

    But you and I both know very few people are aware of step increases, and this thing I just said played no part in their lack of appreciation of the reduced rate of pay increase you guys agreed to.

    It was really a public relations failure. Because school leaders - administrators, board and unions alike - treat school economics like some kind of special knowledge that can only be understood by the high priesthood (of which few of them are members), ALL assessments of school economics by the public are based on misconceptions, ignorance, and emotion.

    An effective public relations program is hard work, and the goals aren't achieved overnight. It takes a long time to develop a conduit of trust through which information can be pushed.

    Folks who run enterprises where customers have a choice to take their business elsewhere understand this. Ones who listen do well (Hyundai) and those don't fail (GM). Our public school ecology could use a little of that.


  14. As for Marc's link, I'm all for that. However, how much you want to bet our community, and most others, would flip their collective lids when they found out teachers were making six figures? TEACHERS!! They are no better than us. They aren't doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and entertainers! They aren't worth THAT!

    Oh, but they would be wrong. A teacher who can take a class of 30 kids, regardless of socio-economic background and of all different levels of ability and inspire and motivate the kids to do things they never thought that they could - to open doors to a future they never imagined. You don't think society would believe that's worth $125K/year.

    The teacher with the skill that it takes to have every kid thinking that you are talking exclusively to them at whatever skill level they possess. The teacher who will take phone calls at night from kids stuck on homework, who will tutor kids to achieve and will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes so that every kid thrives, surely such a teacher is worth $125K.

    Now imagine what could be accomplished with a building full of such teachers.

    You want to improve education in the United States. Start with the professionalization of teachers. Here is a good reference on the subject:

  15. *****
    With all due respect, no I don't think the public (regardless of school performance) would swallow $125K salary for teachers. For that argument to fly we have to assume that the PRIMARY reason folks are voting "No" on levies is because they are unhappy with the level of performance in the classroom more than they are concerned with the state of the economy and their own wallets.

    To carry the analogy out to its fullest, if Hilliard were able to weed out all "bad" teachers and fill a builing of the type of teacher Marc described, we would have an average teacher salary of $125K or more... that's TWICE the average now! That means to support it we would need about a 45% increase in tax money (or about $200 more a month for a $200K home) .... Sure, put that one on the ballot and see how it flies.... regardless of classroom performance.

    So we just increase sub pay for no reason? No discussion (other than on board member?) Unbelievable!

    Is sub pay part of the union contract? Is the BOE following a negotiated formula or was it "just done"?

    Paul, I understand your request for a "gesture" of the HEA to take a one year pay reduction/cut/adjustment.... but that is only symbolic and it does nothing to solve our funding/spending issue. right?

    I'd rather see the rate of growth reduced over a, say, 10 year period. In fact, I'd like to see a 10 year plan where all 3 "legs of the stool" made there concessions and the benefits/impacts could be clearly known. The HEA contributes by reducing salary growth rate, the district leadersship (Admin) show where they can be more efficient (do we need 5 or 6 prinicipals in HS?, and the taxpayer (as we have don every time) pays their fare share of the natural cost expansion of doing business.

    Everyone would know where we were surprises (within reason) and eveyone would know that all three entities were going their part to provide the best and most cost effective education available.

    Just a thought.

  16. KJ:

    My proposal was for the HEA to work in 2008 per their 2007 scale (ie use the 2007 scale two years in a row), 2009 using the 2008 scale, and so on. This would take $3 million/yr from the budget each year, and balance the budget without having to lay off any teachers, radically reduce busing, or all the other things the Board had to cut because they reduced the levy millage in order to get it passed.

    That's far more than symbolic - especially to the young teachers who got laid off and the hundreds (thousands) of parents who have to figure out another way to get their kids to/from school.


  17. I appreciate the discourse between Paul and Musicman. It's interesting to hear both sides of the coin. I wholeheartedly agree with Paul, but also see Musicman's point if I think about things from a union perspective. I will add though Musicman (and do not take this the wrong way) that the perspective seems way out of line with what the vast majority of people go through in the private sector. You seem upset that you voted to forego raises and people still don't think it's enough. How about forgoing raises (there is no step in private industry), seeing a bunch of good workers laid off, and still hearing it is "not enough" and it will happen again? Welcome to the life of me and a lot of my neighbors. At least you have a pension to look forward to, so I wouldn't complain too much about your "raw deal". I think if teachers tried to think of things from the perspective of what the people in the community are going through (and had their union act accordingly), maybe the HEA would not have such a bad view in the community.

    I'm hoping for a strike. It would stink for the kids, but I see no other option to get some sense back into the negotiating process.

    If there is anything that should scare the HEA, it is the growing sense in our community that a strike may be worth it in the long haul.

  18. Anonymous,

    Please don't mistake me for a Union shill. I would like nothing more than to see Unions go away, I don't see them as having any redeeming value for me personally, other than giving me legal representation on the off-chance that I need it.

    My issues all along have been twofold:

    1)The characterization of teachers as greedy selfish individuals who only look out for themselves. That is not true, and the suggestion that it is true on this site does nothing to solve the problem, yet creates a wider chasm between the public and educators. My comment about the base pay freeze was to point out that, in my district, we WILLINGLY made this gesture, and were met with boos! Why on earth would we work harder to make the public happy, if the attempt we made, albeit an incredibly small and deceiving and manipulative one in Paul's eyes, was not applauded? That is one of the cornerstones of a quality educator, one who positively motivates his/her students. People of ALL ages are more likely to want to please when they are given positive reinforcement that they are doing the right thing, or are on the right track.

    2)The characterization of HCSD, and other districts, as a bunch of buffoons who don't know how to do their jobs. That also isn't true. HCSD, by all standards (Except some on this board), do a fantastic job of educating our communities children, which is and always will be their number one goal. They may need help in other areas, but to characterize them as bumbling idiots does nothing to make things better.

    Other than those two points, I am right on board with everything that is written on this board. I guess I would prefer that a little more respect be given to these people, but to each his own I suppose...

    An interesting aside regarding the teacher pay discussion. It was brought up at a family gathering yesterday, and a consensus was reached by most everyone that teachers are NOT worth $125,000 (My wife was in that group, much to my chagrin!).

  19. MM:

    Why on earth would we work harder to make the public happy, if the attempt we made, albeit an incredibly small and deceiving and manipulative one in Paul's eyes, was not applauded?

    There you go putting words in my mouth again. I never said anything remotely like this. I said your colleagues' act of forgoing your base pay increase was a positive thing, but a PR failure because the relationship between the union (as a collection, not individual teachers) and the public isn't healthy.

    All I'm trying to do is bring all this stuff into the light for an honest discussion. I'm much less concerned with the outcome of that discussion than I am that the discussion take place.

    I said it in an earlier comment: We have a problem in that the union leadership doesn't speak for the union membership, and the school board doesn't speak for the public. And I say over and over that the root cause on the public side of the equation is apathy.

    Guess what - that's the problem on the union side as well. Most teachers like that there is a hard ass union leadership that negotiates compensation and working conditions for them. Better that than to be individually responsible for negotiating those things.

    But do you really understand what your union advocates? Do you agree with their positions? Do you even know what those positions are? And I'm not talking about what they say in public, but rather what they lobby for in the statehouse.

    Membership in the union is not mandatory. If you agree that the unions aren't a positive thing in education, why don't you make a statement and terminate your membership?

    If not that, at least get active in selecting your leadership. Put people in charge of your union who will outshine the school board as community advocates.

    You want to pin the whole burden on the public. I blame it on all the leadership: school board, administration, and union.

    The question is which party is going to make the opening move toward redefining the relationship between the various interests - in the best interest of the community?

    The union leadership, especially at the state level, is clearly self-serving and manipulative. There's nothing about all these various funding alternatives they've pushed which is for the good of the kids - especially the kids in suburban school districts. They don't want the public involved - they want to shift all funding power to the professional politicians who they can buy off with campaign contributions.

    That's what our administrative leadership wants as well. That's why they supported the Getting It Right For Ohio's Future amendment, and buffaloed the Board into supporting it too.

    I think this means the school board is our best hope for exerting such leadership, but that won't happen unless we elect leaders.


  20. Paul, your point is taken (one year cut has a larger value than the one year "cost" to the teachers)... however, I still would like to see a 10 year plan where all 3 parties (district, HEA, taxpayers) forcasted the "reasonable" costs to be incurred and identified each entity's role in making up the revenue/expenditure difference. It's idealistic, I realize, but it goes along with your long-term communication standpoint.

    If we all knew what was needed (and given by all 3 entities) there would be much more of a "TEAM" view within the district.

    More of a pipedream than anything else. It's going to take ALL three entities working together (yes, we will pay more taxes in the future regardless) to make this work. If it were all REALISTICALLY forcasted, it would go a long way. Yes, I realize of course that all plans are in need of modification about as soon as they are made, but it would still be a nice roadmap from which we could all work and plan.

  21. KJ: We're saying the exactly the same thing. That's why I get so incensed about the time our Board wastes doing an annual planning retreat when they don't plan anything at all.

    Maybe this year?


  22. Paul wrote:
    Membership in the union is not mandatory. If you agree that the unions aren't a positive thing in education, why don't you make a statement and terminate your membership?

    There is a lot involved in terminating my membership. It is something I have considered, and to this point have not been in a position where that made sense for me professionally. They know my opinions, I write to them often. The time may come for me to take that step, but it hasn't occurred yet.

    Paul also wrote:
    You want to pin the whole burden on the public. I blame it on all the leadership: school board, administration, and union.

    Talk about putting words in ones mouth! I spend part of almost every post agreeing with you, acknowledging that the blame can be placed in many places. In other words, I disagree and attempt to make my point, but acknowledge where we have common ground. I guess it is more fun to ignore the common ground and isolate on the differences, but to say I place all the blame on the public is not true. Reread my posts, if you have the time, I think you'll see that we share many common thoughts. I just choose not to demonize the folks who work hard every day to educate the children of our community.

  23. MM:

    First, I'm glad you speak up here - your perspective as an active teacher is an important part of our dialog. We may poke each other in the eye every once in a while, but hopefully you understand that I respect your viewpoints, whether we are agreeing or not.

    I'm a person who believes that the free market is the best route to progress, and in general the more free the better. I would have once labeled myself as a Libertarian, but after seeing greed and the concentration of power once again blow up our economy, I think there is a place for appropriate rules enforced by government. The challenge of course is not letting the pendulum swing to a planned economy. We're in a little danger of that right now.

    Over the years I've been writing this blog, there has been no criticism about what goes on in the classroom. We moved to Hilliard even before we had kids because we wanted them to attend school here. They both went K-12 here and got what I perceive to be an excellent education with great experiences. Their performance in their chosen fields are evidence of that. We got to know a number of their teachers, and felt positive about just about all of them.

    Nor do I have a beef with the hundreds of support people who work outside the classroom.

    My criticism has been aimed at the leadership: the school board, the administration, and the union officers. I've also said that the community by and large has abdicated its responsibility to influence and monitor the way the district is run. That's got to end, and it's the responsibility of the leadership to fix the problem, not whine about it.

    HCSD is an expensive, high-stakes, can't fail enterprise. It needs folks who have both the "can do" and the "will do" to lead a $200 million operation. We're in the big leagues, but I'm not sure we have the talent in the front office.


  24. Paul, have to share this with you and your readers. It's from the Pat Conroy novel "The Water is Wide" (emphasis mine):

    "The powers of a superintendent are considerable. He hires and fires, manipulates the board of education, handles a staggering amount of money, and maintains the precarious existence of the status quo."

    That somehow sounds familar?

  25. First of all, yes I am still around, just been way too busy to either post or attend the meetings, as I am trying to keep a 25 year old business afloat during the worst economic downturn in our companies history. We are doing this by cutting expenses -2 rounds of pay cuts for my business partner and myself - attrition of employees without replacing them, and expecting the remaining staff to work harder while here without the benefit of raises or increased overtime. As well, we just let go two marginally performing employees, one of whom had more seniority than many others still here, and replaced those two with one individual who was qualified to perform the different functions of the two who were let go, and who would actually show up for work every single day. That is how it is done in the private sector. In the public sector, and even more so in the education sector, none of that would occur. HCSD is still top heavy in administrators and support staff relative to the growth in student population, we are still tied to an expensive contract which we couldn't afford based on current/projected revenue, and we have a Board which throws money at perceived "problems" which don't even exist (the subs issue). We have a Board which is not really qualified to lead a $200 million a year business, we have unions who have unrealistic expectations yet hold a "nuclear" threat over the taxpayers (strike), we have an apathetic public who let it happen and then whine about the costs, and an apathetic group of educators who refuse to speak to either their unions or their customers (that would be us, the taxpayers)to try and achieve a workable solution for all concerned.Overall the biggest problem is the apathetic public because we allowed it to get this far, but there is plenty of other blame to go around. MusicMans district teachers did an end around by publicizing their willingness to take a pay cut without ever mentioning the step raises, leading the public to think they were forgoing any raise at all. Dale Mcvey did the exact same thing while answering a question regarding teacher compensation during last years meeting with the public. The local newspapers do the same thing every time they write about teacher contracts. The public is kept in the dark and when the light gets turned on in time of crisis, they rebel and say "no more". Well, I have said "no more" myself, then turned around and voted
    FOR the last levy, only so I could honestly say I am not part of the problem, but dammit, you better fix the problems because you have had plenty of warning that if you don't, you just received my last Yes vote. I am not willing to pay $125,000 per year for teachers - not because I am too greedy or cheap, but because this isn't some inner-city district with one parent families whose parents could not care less about their child's educational pursuits; we don't have broken down infrastructure, we pay at least the average salary to begin with, and we will not run out of qualified applicants because we don't pay well enough. And on that subject, just because you hold a teaching certificate does NOT make you qualified to teach, any more than the two employees I let go due to their marginal performance and attendance were qualified to
    work here any longer due to the need for each individual to do more with less. Hold teachers to a higher standard performance wise, make each administrator justify their position and compensation, insist the Board actually answer our questions instead of ignoring them, and start running this enterprise like a business whose mission is to educate at the lowest
    effective cost. We are being held hostage, and it has got to stop.

  26. ... and the people said "Amen"..

  27. WOW.... pretty damn good post Hillirdite

  28. Merely a summation of what I have learned by being here. It is easy to list the problems, not nearly so easy to list the solutions. The current system needs to be turned inside out, shaken and stirred, and something new made of the ingredients. And everyone must share the pain involved in doing that. To date, only the taxpayer has felt the pain, and that is not sustainable.

  29. Methinks that the fact that the public has been apathetic has been a real boon to teachers and the district.

    Because the history of levies and such has been one of near constant capitulation by voters. It's mind-boggling that MM says that voters simply vote their pocketbook when voters have passed levy after levy after levy. One need only look at the rate of growth of Hilliard property taxes.

    My hunch is that voters paternalistically indulge teachers, which the union & Administration take great advantage of by being wasteful and bloated and out of touch.

  30. How can one educate the public?

    One way to show that the emperor (in this case the Administration and union) has no clothes is via a humorous broadside sheet. (I'm thinking along the lines of the conservative Dartmouth Review back in the '80s only much less harsh.)

    Challenging the hidebound and arrogant with humor and satire also makes the learning goes down easier.

    Or maybe more of a "Primer to School Funding" in graphic novel form, sort of the way School House Rock showed us how a bill became a law. Something along the lines of "Passing Notes" only more substantive, truthful and humorous. (That shouldn't be hard.)

    It could be mailed out to every home and we could all kick in to help with the expense. Just a thought.

  31. Yes, the voters have historically passed levies, but typically only on the 2'nd or 3'rd attempt. And that is after the Board announces cuts that will directly impact the lives of the parents/students - last time it was busing, middle school sports,
    threatened loss of building use (since shown to be illegal)and cuts to the music/arts programs of which some occurred anyway. The voters respond to those threats, and since they are not well-informed regarding the 90% of the budget going to salaries/benefits, that thought process is non-existent. As Paul has been pointing out for years, the Board highlights the tiny things and ignores the fact that they approve contracts which we cannot afford, and they do not address the administrator/support growth that has far exceeded the student population growth. They refuse to acknowledge that they have let things spiral out of control and led us to where we are now. We may have allowed it to happen, but ultimately THEY are responsible for running the district in a cost effective manner, and in that, they have failed, by not operating with more austerity, and by not taking a firm stand with the City on residential development. Until we have a Board that addresses those issues, there is no hope for a turnaround. Hopefully, that will be this years election.

  32. Voters normally pass after 2 attempts, not 3, and that's only because it's the only way voters have of pressuring the administration to at least think about belt-tightening.

    The only way your kids value money is if they understand it's not growing on trees. Similarly, the only way HSD understands that taxpayer money doesn't grow on trees is occasionally making them wait a time or two before passing it. (Who pays sticker price for cars?)

    Based on Paul's latest post, voter attempts to rein in silly spending hasn't worked.