Monday, August 23, 2010

Out of Control:$578 M for LA Public School*Hello Illinois?

Taj Mahal all right. They just built one, now another, with the RFK memorial. I guess that makes it OK. Fancy buildings and teachers' lounge luxury take greater precedence than children's learning:

"New buildings are nice, but when they're run by the same people who've given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they're a big waste of taxpayer money," said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. "Parents aren't fooled."

At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel.

Isn't the state of California bankrupt? Aren't people livid at local officials' looting the public purse for cushy salaries and pensions that private sector taxpayers rarely earn themselves?

Back in bankrupt Illinois (read this--you will be steaming once again) we had the example of the New Trier High School building referendum--the largest school tax increase in Illinois history--which was defeated by concerned residents. Of course incestuous administrators and union cheerleaders are going to go for it again. Yes, New Trier has an excellent pass rate but in this wireless age does it make sense to invest so much in bricks and mortar? Do we have confidence in their management abilities when residents can't get a straight answer on costs?

It's no wonder we get school board members allied with administrators and unions when we allow an undemocratic caucus to vet potential school board candidates.

Teacher salaries are out of control.

Then there's the cost of firing bad teachers:
"In New York City in 2008, three out of 30,000 tenured teachers were dismissed for cause. The statistics are just as eye-popping in other cities. The percentage of teachers dismissed for poor performance in Chicago between 2005 and 2008 (the most recent figures available) was 0.1 percent. In Akron, Ohio, zero percent. In Toledo, 0.01 percent. In Denver, zero percent."

Newsweek further observed: "Year after year, about 99 percent of all teachers in the United States are rated 'satisfactory' by their school systems; firing a teacher invites a costly court battle with the local union."

How costly?

A study by the Small Newspaper Group in Illinois found in the years 2001-2005, Illinois school districts spent an average of more than $219,000 in legal fees each time they attempted to terminate a tenured teacher.

The study found the costs of firing bad teachers are so prohibitive in Illinois an average of only two are dismissed each year for cause out of the more than 95,000 tenured teachers in the state...
Parents in Illinois pay the highest textbook prices in the country. Even if you have more than one child, chances are the class texts will change every year so you can't pass them down.

With all this public school forced expense parents still can't opt to send their child to the school of their choice--unless they pay for it, if they can afford it.

In the Chicago Public School system this could cost kids their lives.

We pay again and again.

More. Chicago Public Schools looks to balance budget on shaky foundation, Civic Federation says

Why Young Black Males Are Not Graduating High School TAS

P.S. Locally, the money grows on trees district (you know, the one with professional acoustics in the Junior High auditorium, paid for by Illinois taxpayers, courtesy of Jeff Schoenberg) gets a rude awakening. How many times must we rebuild the school?

And thank God for the Illinois Policy Institute's efforts on behalf of transparency. We need more accountability from our local governments--in the past, asking for details was viewed as "dangerous". Yes, there is improvement but it's a constant battle.

It shouldn't have to be.

...And it's not just costs--it's quality of education. Getting transparency on test scores and accountability on the curriculum is always difficult. Scores not looking good? Change the test, lose the previous results somehow. Compare apples and oranges.

Chicago - Today, the Institute for Truth in Accounting released Illinois' "Financial State of the State", which answers the question, "Is the state bankrupt?" The Institute's reports the state has only $20 billion of assets to cover $140.6 billion in bills ---- a $120.6 billion shortfall. Each Illinois taxpayer's share is $29,200.

This precarious financial position falls under one definition of bankruptcy ---- A debtor that does not have the financial means to pay their bills as they come due. The Institute's detailed study of Illinois' June 30, 2009 audited financial report and retirement systems' actuarial reports found the state does not have the $120.6 billion needed to pay for its liabilities as they come due. "The state has incurred billions of dollars of liabilities and does not have the means to meet these liabilities," said Sheila Weinberg, founder & CEO of the Institute.

On July 2 Comptroller Dan Hynes admitted that the state did not have $5 billion to pay bills that were due. In a New York Times interview Hynes stated, "This is not some esoteric budget issue; we are not paying bills for absolutely essential services," He underscored, "That is obscene."

"Our study of the Illinois budget processes and financial reports found our governor and legislators continue to damage the state by not following the state budget law," stressed Weinberg. "Their total disregard of Illinois' balanced budget requirement has resulted in a financial hole that may be insurmountable."

The Institute's study revealed that each year when calculating a balanced budget the governor and legislators routinely overlook billions of dollars of payroll costs, including earned retirement benefits. Bill Gates recently called this practice "accounting fraud". The Institute's chair, Roger Nelson, commented, "We must stop this practice, which our elected officials have used to pretend they have balanced the budget, while not providing the necessary funding for $100 billion retirement benefits promised our state employees and teachers."

The Illinois' Financial State of the State can be found on the Institute's website: Research comments can be found at:

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