These Are Years Our Kids Will Never Get Back

In February 2009, our school board and administration held a couple public forums to tell us all how bad things were and to prepare us for the worst. Board members publically agonized over the difficult choices they had to make. The cuts they made resulted in my son’s kindergarten class going from 20 to 33 students. The next year, my daughter’s 3rd grade class had 30 plus students. Before the 2009 cuts, 3rd grade classes were closer to a 20 - 1 teacher to student ratio.

In the beginning of the 2009/2010 school year, I repeatedly questioned the board and the administration about the class sizes. They told me and the public that they were on top of the issue and were making sure all the classes were being monitored; they told us there were no maximum class size limits they needed to be concerned about. We were told as long as the required average class sizes were maintained, they would still receive bonus money from the state for keeping the 1st and 2nd grade class sizes reduced.

At the end of the year the administration came to the Budget Review Committee, of which I was a member, for our authorization on an application for a waiver of a penalty they were being assessed for going over the required maximums. I resigned from the committee because I had a problem authorizing what we were told was a spreadsheet error. It was clear to me the administration either clearly violated the rules or didn't know the rules. Their waiver application made no mention of the spreadsheet error. I also didn’t want to be responsible for costing our "financially strapped" school district tens of thousands of dollars by refusing to sign the waiver request.

I pushed the board to recognize the administration was not being honest in their waiver request. The assistant superintendent of business at the time publicly lied in front of the school board and the superintendent and denied she had ever claimed there were no maximum class size limits. I called her out on my blog and provided detailed evidence where she had lied and misled the board. Not long after that, the board put in place language threatening to sue members of the public for claims they might make during the public comment section of the board meetings. One of their employee lies to them and I am the bad guy.

Here is a link to that post from August 2010: /blog/2010/8/27/just-the-facts-maam.html

Why am I bringing this back up now?

Because of the details that have recently come to my attention about our district’s budgets. I looked into BTA president, Jody Behrens-Blaul's claims about the district's conservative budget strategy. I found my kids, along with many others, were short changed. Those are years my kids will never get back.

Our administration has been significantly over estimating expenditures and underestimating revenues. Our board continues to support the administration by authorizing these budgets. Why would our administration be following this budgeting strategy and short changing my kids and why do our board members fail to do their due diligence and honor their promises to keep the cuts as far away from our kids as possible?

Here’s what I think:

Our superintendent has been boasting how well our finances have been managed and how strong our financial condition has been since before the cuts of 2009. During this same time, his salary, and those of his assistants, have been extended and left unscathed by the state budget cuts. His pension has been increased significantly under this board.

Why has our board been complacent? This is a little harder for me to understand.

I believe some board members are more concerned with getting along with the administration then making waves. I believe they feel better when they hear the superintendent's statements about how much better off we are than our neighboring school districts. As long as the test scores and reserves are high, some of them no longer believe they have to think for themselves.

I think the bigger issue is the way our budget is presented to the board each year. The focus is on the general, aggregated numbers and too much is lost in the details. This is what I have been arguing for a couple years now. It is time we demand more from our board, our kids are depending on us. We need to stop this. Our kids will never get these years back. I may be alone in my outrage but I am going to do everything I can to get these people to stop short changing my kids.

Here are the numbers we should all be concerned about:

Expenditures:

Years Budgeted Exp Actual Exp Net dif
08/09 $60,701,847 $58,139,838 $2,562,009
09/10 $58,967,034 $53,888,804 $5,078,230
10/11 $57,840,184 $55,037,511 $2,802,673

 

Revenues:

Years Budgeted Rev Actual Rev Net dif
08/09 $58,703,656 $63,389,571 $4,685,915
09/10 $56,604,677 $56,313,669 $(291,008)
10/11 $52,612,122 $56,821,667 $4,209,545

 

Totals:

Years Net Miscalculations
08/09 $7,247,924
09/10 $4,787,222
10/11 $7,012,218