Commentary

Op-ed: The Not-So-Secret Libretto Tricks of School Budget Intimidation

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by Pem Schaeffer

I’ve been watching Brunswick school budget theatrics for a dozen years or more. After thinking about it, I concluded they remind me of “The Phantom of the Opera,” which we’ve seen three times on the stage and perhaps five times or more in the film version.

Why? Because as well as you think you know the script and music of a favorite show, each time you see it, you see and hear things you hadn’t picked up on before. And so it is with the annual school budget pageant, a tragedy used to intimidate local taxpayers until they fall under the spell of something akin to the “Music of the Night.”

New staging and new expressions of the original script keep the production fresh, and eager fans pay dearly to see it over and over. And always, when the mask comes off, illusions end and harsh reality sets in.

I’ve decided to catalog the standard “tricks of the stage” I’ve detected in the local production. I hope they’ll help you better understand the show when it comes to your town and make reading between the lines of the carefully adapted script a bit easier.

Axioms of acceptable public discourse; disagreement with any is grounds for being declared out of order:

• “It’s for the children.” While this proven winner is wearing holes in its knees, it still carries the greatest emotional effect. If “it” truly was for the children, student and teacher performance would be on curves of steady increase. Instead, payrolls increase as enrollments decline, and raises are handed out independent of merit or performance.

Student achievement is an embarrassment for what we spend and, tragically, is sinking lower and lower in comparison to other countries. “It’s for the unions” is closer to the truth. As we’ve written here in the past, “we’re all union members now,” contributing big sums to their campaign war chests whether we realize it or not.

• Truth and reality are outdated concepts; and absolutism, their foundation, is counterproductive to justice in all its forms, including social, economic and educational justice. Fairness and educational equity are preferred concepts, as is “access” to any of the foregoing. Employ “rights to” to magnify the effect and. when necessary, “basic human right to …”

• “We have the best schools and the best teachers”… even though we scrupulously avoid all manner of evaluation and performance metrics because they are flawed and unfair. Unless some rare good news surfaces, in which case the evaluation and metrics clearly demonstrate the value of more spending.

• Any attempt to discuss basic education concepts like “the three Rs” is strictly off limits, and is clear evidence of a “failure to understand” that modern-day government schools have “moved beyond” such outdated priorities.

Official Posturing:

• Never, ever, ever let the words spending, increase or more cross your public-servant lips, especially in any public setting. Use only words like revenue, shortfall, cuts, decrease, less. Strive for innovative combinations of these emotional triggers.

Slash is gaining great popularity; shortfall, decrease, less, etc., have been known to trigger green eyeshade MEGO problems. Erode, deteriorate, hack, slice, sunder, whack, axe, shear, decimate, devastate, chop, amputate are gaining popularity, as are invest and imagine.

• Focus attention on districts that spend more, and act as if none spend less. “You get what you pay for,” the Yuban marketing bromide of John Arbuckle, is a reliable standard. Now ask yourself in how many other pursuits do we measure success by spending more than others? Do you feel superior if you spend more on food, utilities and clothing than your neighbors and friends?

• If you do spend less than other districts, pat yourself on the back for your efficiency. At the same time, complain you can’t be expected to deliver the performance that other higher-spending districts deliver. Even though all proclaim excellence is the norm, and discussion of failures to make AYP are verboten.

• Equate spending to school system excellence. It’s the only tangible figure provided and, apparently, the only one deemed fair and reliable. Funny how if you refuse to yield to increased budget requests, your schools will suddenly lose their excellence. Yet if you spend millions more, nothing changes—and perhaps gets worse. What’s wrong with this picture? (Here’s hoping you didn’t attend any public colleges; they spend far too little compared to private colleges to give you a decent education.)

• Take credit for already cutting numerous “positions” instead of individuals. This allows you to take advantage of the fact that some teachers may be paid for 3 or 4 “positions.” For example, in Brunswick’s FY2011 payroll, 196 “positions” represent 34% of the total payroll entries, but only 10% of the payroll dollars.

This provides an excellent opportunity for demonstrating sincerity to the public. The key, of course, is not citing how much you saved in doing so. Readers might want to go to Maine Open Government to check their own district payrolls and look for similar phenomena; try sorting the spread sheet by last name, and see how many duplicate entries you find.

• Emphasize major physical plant problems. As others have written, ‘what belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.’

Portland has recently employed this approach, as reported in The Forecaster: The city’s elementary school buildings also need drastic improvement, and in the case of Hall elementary, should be replaced entirely, Morse said. At Hall, Morse said, “there are sprinklers sprinkling, smells smelling, walls wet. We as citizens of Portland need to own that problem and we need to face it,” he said. “Now is the time, this is the year, to take that step necessary to put together a capital gains plan.”

The Forecaster also reported this on Brunswick: “School buildings aren’t being kept in good condition, the department’s director of facilities told the School Board Wednesday night. The total value of the department’s facilities is $88 million, Facilities Director Paul Caron said. But the cost to fully repair all of the buildings has risen to $44.4 million, more than 50 percent of their total replacement value.”

Related to this is the notion that those who fail to plan are planning to fail. Locally, we’ve found that forgetting to shovel snow off roofs can be a way to get rid of the open classroom pods brought to us by experts of some years back, raising worries about why we build new facilities with so many flat-roofed elements.

• Bemoan “costs beyond our control,” which in just about every case are actually pre-approved costs, like multi-year teachers contracts.

• Avoid disclosing that virtually all spending increases don’t add much of anything, but even the smallest reduction in proposed growth devastates parental and student favorites.

• Work hard to stay in the “budget” domain rather than the actual expenditure domain, and avoid disclosing surpluses.

• Make sure you have a threatened cut to energize every constituency: sports, music, art, AP classes, etc.  Emphasize the need to eliminate “programming,” but provide no figures on how much each cut saves and how.  Does eliminating one AP class mean you’ll dismiss a full-time teacher?

Teachers Contracts:

• Never, ever talk about teachers’ contracts or explain any of the details. Be sure to approve a new contract before the budget proposal for the coming year is put before the public and elected officials for approval. Leverage inexperienced reporters and pliant media by giving them soft-soap details that downplay the scale of salary increases.

• If in any year teachers get a step increase but no general increase, declare that there was a “pay freeze.” To convince the public how thrifty you are in negotiating new contracts, cite only the general increases to the salary structure, without mentioning that it adds to the step increases built into the contract.

• Don’t let on that the tables have been turned, and that most of us are now working for the teachers union, instead of the other way around.

• Repeatedly claim that “we have the best teachers,” even though there is no objective measure to support this, and none will be accepted by union negotiators. Religiously protect the dead wood, which any sizable organization inevitably has, and continue to pay the very best the same as the very worst, and vice versa.

• Never, ever discuss teacher performance issues as they might relate to school/student performance, especially at budget time.

• Defend to the death the standard contract methodology: continue to call contract discussions “negotiations,” when they are hopelessly one-sided meetings of lions and lambs.  Praise union officials for their generous cooperation.

Proven Deceptions and Distractions:

• “The problem is the unfairness in the EPS model and failure to comply with the 55 % mandate in Augusta.” Forget the Maine Constitution. Ignore the spending; shine the light elsewhere rather then look in the mirror. This is like blaming your employer for not paying you enough to cover your overspending at home.

• Twiddle with $20,000 here and $40,000 there while the million-dollar elephants hide from sight by wearing their sunglasses.

• Never, ever talk about performance improvements plans, because there are none. Unless it’s adding more grades: pre-kindergarten, pre-pre-kindergarten, etc. (Did you know we now fund Head Start and Early Head Start programs?)

• Ignore enrollment declines and the effects they should have on costs and staff. Never, ever talk about growth in per student costs, unless it’s to show that others spend more. But if enrollment should grow, no matter how little, demand substantial budget growth to cover “increased costs.”

• Start 10%  over the perceived public resistance level, and look like heroes for settling for a few percent less.

• Roll out the demonizers; label as grumpy those who look at facts and analyze data. Suggest that seniors who can’t handle the tax increases should move elsewhere.

Public Sentiments:

• Use hyperbole freely. If you give the school advocates a tidbit or two, they’ll gladly exaggerate to their hearts content in public and in print.

• “Hard to see how there can be much waste when we’ve cut for three years.” But there haven’t been any cuts at all, and per teacher and per student costs have grown steadily and very sizably.

• “This town  has to decide what it wants to be. What that leaves for us as a local municipality is the decision as to what type of educational program are we going to have in this town.”

• Make statements about a “fourth year of cuts,” etc., to create the impression that budgets have been getting smaller each year, when in fact they have not. “We represent a group of Brunswick parents, grandparents and residents who are committed to protecting and preserving the Brunswick public schools. We believe great public schools are worth fighting for. This year we are facing another round of major budget cuts that pose a real threat to the quality of our schools. The purpose of our group is to create an easy mechanism for parents to stay informed and get engaged in the process.” And then use the site to post ample obfuscation.

• Use “cut” to describe a reduction in proposed increases, as politicians do everywhere. If your kids want their allowance increased by 50% and you only increase it by 25%, do you tolerate them saying you “cut” their allowance?

• Make frequent use of scorched-earth cataclysmic claims and tragedy talk. “Nothing will go untouched; English, math, social studies, etc.”

• Take umbrage at questions and suggestions about spending and spending growth, etc. “It’s my right to take your resources by force of law for what I want!”

• If possible, use local professors as spokesmen for your cause. They easily hide behind the mask of academic freedom and ooze the moral superiority and self-righteousness of academia, higher education and “life-long educators.” They are oblivious enough to reality to do it all with a straight face, never understanding there is another world view. Sanctimony comes naturally to them, especially if they are in the “liberal arts” domain.

• Roll out Sally Sellit, beloved local realtor. Just like she’ll tell you “this house is a real charmer,” she’ll state that people only move here because of our great schools, with no information to back it up. And she won’t tell you why people move out of town or why they buy elsewhere. In our town, some schools parents rave about have significant achievement problems, according to state evaluations. Have you ever met a parent who would say they send their kids to terrible schools?

• Don’t forget those who will say budgets have been declining for decades. That’s what a Bowdoin professor said last year. And don’t forget those who claim they will gladly pay more—but have never done so—and will not commit to an increase they would pay.

Tickets, please; we hope you enjoy the show.

For those interested in independent study, see“The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts” from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Pem Schaeffer is a retired engineer and blogger; you can read more at http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson the editor of The Maine Wire. A native of Dexter, Maine, Robinson is a graduate of Bowdoin College.

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Roland Wyman says:

Thank you for this.  I will forward this wherever I can.  I am one of the grumpy ones trying to hold the line in our town.
http://www.rolandwyman.com/2012/06/on-sacos-proposed-tax-increase-one.html 

SamRN13 says:

Ah, Bowdoin… sucking the taxpayer cow dry. Do you think Bowdoin may find it in its heart to contribute some funds to ease the pain of looking “Bowdoin”? Any reciprocation?

Levanger Hallowell says:

Mismanagement is defined as compliance with Federal regulations and guidelines; doing on-site compliance checks is only one aspect. 

My ‘best friend’ is a business administrator who’s got the entire budget in his computer with month by month outlays, can produce a check run for every staff member w/ subsidies, and provide documentation for every expense outlay. 

You have to realize a superintendent’s/principal’s job is tightly bound up in ‘red tape’. I still have copy of the ‘bible’ with all the regulations. No decisions are made without checking the fine print and details. 

If you can do it, shadow a super for a day and find out how they manage their time….like how much is spent with distraught, influential parents with ‘connections’ or over ADA and other concerns for the kiddos. 

I have the greatest admiration for the best super’s who seemed to have assimilated the entire system into their persona and make it look so easy. 

In the County, they hire large scale farmers to run schools. I met one once and was most impressed with his approach to school management and dealing with the union reps. and their contract demands.

Levanger Hallowell says:

I think that ‘faculty’ breakdown for Stowe is new and reveals how extensive the staffing is–two Physical therapists,  ‘connections teachers’, etc.  Brunswick has the equivalent of a major health care center at Stowe and lots of teaching assistants. Obviously, this is an educator’s ‘dream’ school, with every possible frill you can imagine. 
One result was:

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said more than 20 new students were added over the summer, including at least a dozen whose parents pulled them out of private schools to attend the new school ”

Here’s another aspect of how the JONES live.In poking around I was  surprised to see how many subsidized out of district placements there still are. Starting with the 17 sent to Waynflete and 14 to N.Y. A. and on down to 2 sent to the Camden Community school and 1 out of state. Brunswick is def. the ‘JONES’s’ of  Maine public education. We should all have a ‘connections’ teacher!A glance at the grade enrollment indicates far fewer students will be at the high school already hit by the loss of 140 Durham students in a year, as the wave of smaller classes moves through the system.

Reducing staff is difficult, but their computer system does a nice job of assigning and scheduling classes. Under Jim, class size was uniform and slightly above 22 for core classes. 

Levanger Hallowell says:

Brunswick doesn’t ‘keep up with the jones’, we are the ‘JONES’…starting with the billionaire scions who attend BOWDOIN. 

Levanger Hallowell says:

First of all, anyone who can step from being a Superintendent of Schools over to managing a town(Topsham), deserves our respect. Jim is a superstar.

Architect of current problems? 

Stowe elementary is the creature of parent/teacher lobbies, I know one of the most vocal ones who designed it for her child’s education. Jim only did what he sensed the lobbies wanted; many architects do their best to protect the client from their own folly, but ‘resistance is futile’ since ownership of any problems is easily traced back to the demands they brought to him.

Everyone knew the school would lose 400-500 students when the Base closed, consolidation took hold and forced Durham to send their students elsewhere—they voted and Brunswick lost out. Ashe did his best to force people to think about cutbacks, loss of enrollment, etc. Their failure to do so only compounded the current distress in my opinion. 

As luck would have it; J.A. was closed by accident and Hawthorne converted. The loss of Longfellow was a result of political deals well above Jim’s head. 

Perhaps you can elaborate on which problems Jim was the architect of? 

RM Russell says:

The primary reason why the school budgets are at today’s levels is the  monetary  grip the teacher unions have on the school systems!  Not only negotiated continual raises but “steps” in salary as well.

David Giles says:

Jim Ashe is the architect of the problems inherited by the current administration.

Pem Schaeffer says:

 Could you define “local mandates” please?

Pem Schaeffer says:

Re: this comment from Levanger Hallowell:

“Schools have long turned into behavioral and other health ‘centers’. ”

Check out this link for the Stowe School –

http://www.brunswick.k12.me.us/hbs/contact-our-staff/

and notice the split between the ‘classroom teachers’ and all the other ‘touch labor’ involved at the school, by which I mean those who actually are involved with the students in one way or another, rather than overhead functions like custodians and food service workers.

Count ‘em all up.  I’m ‘just a blogger,’ but me can count, and the number is an eye-opener.  Unless you’re a non-blogger, in which case it’s everyone else’s fault.

I have no idea how many of these result from ‘state and federal regulations,’ but think about the number involved here, the cries for pre-K, pre-school, pre-Head Start, etc, and then examine our sinking status globally in education.

Yup…..all these great ideas should fix things!  What we’ve been doing has  taken us in the wrong direction, and the only way to fix things is to do it sooner and longer.

 Levanger – Your link is not working, at least for me.
Thanks.

 Charter schools; private schools; home schools. The time is now.

mainenowandthen says:

Seems to me that “former employee, USDOE” would be sufficiently qualified to comment on the mismanagement of public schools – not only that, but his comments are bolstered by pertinent information.  Sorry, snarky comments just won’t fit the bill although I must agree that federal intervention into the local administation certainly has caused inconvenience and expense.  Of course a district could always drag their feet in complying with some of outrageous demands and deal with the consequences.  Then again, that would require some diligent management of funding.

 Isn’t the intimidation factor a lovely manifestation? Kind of like going to the dentist for a root canal. One pays for the “privilege” of suffering.

We need to eradicate public employee unions.

Great compilation, Pem. Seen it, been there, sick of it all.

ps – every time I’m accused of “hating little children,” my son and I have a good laugh.

 Sure. Isn’t that listed on one of Pem’s categories, above?

Nice try; no brass ring.

Greg Hills says:

I agree with you ………. this is why I support a separation of State and School.  

SamRN13 says:

Well-said, SSunnell. Yes, education should not be a burden; and, a major theme in many of the issues we face across the board, including school budgets, are directly related to divisiveness and feelings of entitlement.

Brunswick seems to have a dubious distinction of portraying itself as “unique” from other towns which lends itself to not playing well in the sandbox. At the helm are town councilors who abdicate their representative power of the taxpayers to the town manager. The “visions” of the current and previous town managers are scattered, perhaps this is purposefully done in an attempt to mislead people about how the money is being spent. And, it’s true, they don’t want to hear from anyone who disagrees about the school budget or any other expenditures.

At first thought was Brunswick’s on a “keeping up with the Joneses” mission – Topsham has the Taj Mahal of municipal buildings, and look at Sanford’s police department building; need a new state-of-the-art high school located on the outskirts (the old high school was “good enough” for Topsham’s students, not ours; let’s buy the old Times Record building for $1 million and demolish it later…

Perhaps the taxpayers need to take a closer look at the contracts for all the construction going on; ever wonder why they bother to have a cost savings clause? How much and how often are taxpayers benefitting from this? The net-working webs and unmentioned conflicts of interest are mind-boggling.

The school budget may represent more than 50% of the town’s expenditures, but taxpayers are getting hosed on the other side, too. If there are savings to be gained and a rein on the so-called “capital improvements”, then perhaps there could be less divisiveness on the school budgets.

Levanger Hallowell had a post the people of Brunswick are so upset with the scattered, senseless spending and they’re ready to burn the town. Really? It seems only a handful are continually are writing, calling, or attending the meetings to be directly intimidated.

Levanger Hallowell says:

Fortunately, I’m not. 

So read this:

Education Week: The Frugal Superintendentwww.edweek.org/ew/articles/1995/09/20/03ark.h15.htmlSep 20, 1995 – Charles Adair, the superintendent of the public schools here doesn’t mind being called frugal. In fact, it’s something of an honor in these parts to …

Levanger Hallowell says:

Local School Budgets are both a product of the myriad school sub-cults and parents’ groups; and incessant negotiation with union representatives who under the terms of the contract with the district are embedded in every policy discussion. Taxpayer and other groups critical of spending and programmatic decisions aren’t. 

Brunswick’s upper classes and elites—Bowdoin Community, ‘the owners’, etc. have long nourished a secret tracking system that left Hawthorne elementary–now a multipurpose community bldg., as the school of assignment for working class kids; Coffin School for the NAVY dependents and special needs children(a school within a school for severely handicapped, disabled, and even dying children); Longfellow elementary(swapped in a byzantine deal with Bowdoin college) for the arts & music loving Bowdoin community; and finally Jordan Acres for the ‘gifted’ children of the elite..

The entire system was ‘greased’ with a school busing system that would transport any child who ‘fit’ into a particular school from any corner of Brunswick; for example, a child from West Brunswick would be transported past Coffin, past Hawthorne and deposited at Jordan Acres. 

J.A. classes would remain intact and be passed from one ‘best’ teacher to another. Money was no object, and parent’s groups would lavish gifts and teaching materials on the ‘best’ teachers. 

This system functioned rather nicely up until the 90’s when Jim Ashe, as frugal a superintendent as you’d want to have took over and began to acknowledge the class disparities and other inequities exposed by the battle to build a new high school. 

For those of you new to school building discussions; they are largely a composite ‘wish list’ of goodies from teacher and parent groups, esp. at the high school level. Brunswick High School at one time offered approx. 400 courses to students; and has specialized space including a CADD and computer assisted model lab. 

Everyone got what they lobbied for; and architect glued together all the rooms. A good example is the new Beecher Stow Elementary, whose foot print dwarfs the proposed footprint for a new high school at the site, i.e. only about 1/3rd of the school is for classrooms and one wing is almost entirely counseling and other auxiliary staff.

Jim Grant who chairs the school board evolved from Brunswick’s ‘blue collar’ community whose children went to Hawthorne, and became the token Republican on the Board. Smart and dedicated, able to form alliances and compromise, he ‘won’ his way to the top of the Board.

Approx. 63% of the school budget goes to staffing and the amount paid, subsidies, supplements, benefits, etc. are tightly proscribed by the contract. Once signed, it can’t be broken and any policy, i.e. EVERY POLICY, that affects it must be negotiated. 

The two Jim’s worked productively over the years to tame the runaway budgets and end class allocation….exposing elitist favoritism drives liberals crazy and into deep denial, so be careful whose feet you step on!

A few other tips:

>>Ben Mickeljohn and the GREENS in Portland actually proposed that any union contract undergo a month long period of public scrutiny—a huge change from the meet in secret, vote behind closed doors, then distribute copies of the ‘draft’ contract to a mob of union supporters and a handful of opponents to read and ask questions about in a five minute discussion period before the final, ‘formal’, ‘public’ vote. 

The waiting period got scuttled after the uproar it caused. You must insist that any contract be drafted and go through a 45 day period of public scrutiny as a condition of passing any budget.

>>Schools have long turned into behavioral and other health ‘centers’. Stowe may have several dozen therapists who have office space there. Isolating their expenses and formulating out-of-school options could effectively reduce this compliment of ‘hanger’s on’. School politics breeds cronyism among therapists; and a policy which put their services out to bid could break the political stranglehold these very influential cliques have on the budgeting process. 

Most of these expenses are paid out of MaineCare and in the past the School made money since it would use ‘counselors’ instead of better qualified therapists and bill them out at max. reimbursable rates, making money in the process.  A careful scrutiny of the qualifications of the people, the billing out process, and the reimbursements should yield inequities and disparities worthy of supporting the argument that all of these services should be outsourced, on bid, to community-based providers.

>>If you want to jab your finger in the eye of school politics, you can advocate opening up the school resources to local home schoolers. You won’t win, but in the process you’ll be able to show that it is possible to educate a child at home, rather well, and at a lower cost than the district does it. 

School Choice options are a macro argument that is highly inflamatory; but it is possible to round up the ALT. ED. students and advocate that a charter school be created for them. Principals and Superintendents will support you, because these are the P.I.A.’s in the system with very influential parents who can make their job a living hell of potential lawsuits. Just focusing on Alt. Ed. exposes the ‘failure’ of the public school to meet the needs of many students; now move downward into middle and  elementary schools and a ‘charter strategy’ for the children they are failing to adequate educate.

****Vermont’s governor just gave up resisting the DUNCAN implementation of NCLB’s linking of teacher pay to measured performance using the approved Federal tests. The state board of education requested a waiver:  ““Our main interest was in being able to assess students in a more complete way and not have the arbitrary testing and all the repercussions from that, and that’s not what they meant by waiver,’’ said Stephan Morse, chairman of the state board of education.”  

Right, the Fed’s held tough and Vermont caved in. Implementing this connection at the local level will cause great distress in Maine; so be prepared with the arguments that the Obama Administration used so effectively to deny Vermont a waiver, so that ‘teacher effectiveness’ is linked to student assessments on standardized tests; and in turn to pay. OUCH!

SSunnell says:

Education is not a “burden”.  It is a responsibility we all share on behalf of our children.  The primary evaluation is in the quality of education, not the operation of the school districts. 

One cannot deny that school kids are “averaged” within the public system.  I personally like the above article because it is on point! The problem is bi-polar!  Many parents are indifferent to what is taught, and how well.  Assuming their kids are getting “an education”, they know not what that education is.  Many teachers have the “burdened mindset”, and fall readily within the doctrine their respective union representation utilizes.  It doesn’t seem realistic by either students or teachers that an education experience is not only a challenge, but an enthusiastic opportunity to achieve tools necessary to empower their lives in whatever direction their hearts lead them.  The Joy of an education is disregarded, therefore missed by both sides.

“Rights and privileges” become more important than education.  Entitlements tend to lead all of us to expectations without any effort on our part, and quick to judgment when they don’t.

School district success is only as good as their respective school boards and teacher union representation.  Parents abrogate their responsibility for public education performance to people they don’t know much if anything about by their school board and superintendent appointments.  For all practical purposes, there is no PTA (parent teacher association) today.  Relationships are knee jerk affairs within a structure tasked with one of the most important tasks each family has.  “Hope” has again become a byword to education without support of the community other than the mind set of “taxes paid for services”, like the sewer or water system.  There is little if any interest in union responsibility for monitoring and regulating the performance of their own members. Qualifications, performance, attitude, and content of their teaching are hidden behind “tenure”.

All in all, it is a selfish system that does not work for the benefit of kids as it was originally intended.  There are many reasons which all ultimately come back to us!  If we want our kids to have a good education, we are ALL going to have to change our minds about how to work together to obtain it.

Today I read that Wisconsin turned in a new direction.  Paul LePage is leading us away from the same problems in Maine.  It’s time we all picked up a shovel and put the fires of entitlements out before more homes burn.  It is degrading not only to our children, but our towns, state, and country.  Let’s each one of us get together, communicating with our respective families around the dinner table, legislators in Augusta, the Governor, and townships to refresh our mission and passion for unlimited freedom and opportunity under God, for our children.  This is something all of us need to do together instead of fighting and polarizing an issue, thereby scapegoating our personal responsibilities in the education of our children.

Jamesmeans says:

Step one: abolish Teacher Unions.
Step two: abolish the U.S. Dept of Education
Step three: begin to see improvement.

oldmainer2 says:

Shaeffer is just that “a blogger” someone with no other useful function in life. As a school business administrator I can tell that he has no comprhension of the burdens placed upon school systems today to meet the requirements of federal, state and local mandates on the public schools. This is the primary reason why the school budgets are at today’s levels.