Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sensible? Responsible? Not the Sun Prairie School District

There's a great article in the Wisconsin State Journal today regarding the looming national debt crisis. The parallels here in Sun Prairie are simply uncanny. Here we are facing massive cuts to education in the form of state aid. The governor has declared that, "Wisconsin is broke".
"A family, if they get over-extended ...what they do is, they say, how do we start cutting our monthly costs?
We don't stop sending our kids to college, we don't stop fixing the boiler or the roof that's leaking. We do things in a sensible, responsible way."
---President Barack Obama
What the President is talking about is MAINTAINING.  He's talking about choosing NEEDS over WANTS.  Our school district administration wants to discuss MORE spending tomorrow night. Their own public hearing slide show (slide19) says: we added in the individual costs of each initiative...which the district conveniently left out. "Let's not talk cost...let's just look at the value and not worry about cost, eh?" Do any of you REALLY just go buy something without looking at the price? ( maybe if you are in the $100K club, that's how you operate). When you go buy a you just write a check for the sticker price plus tax? (please, please, say no) Or do you negotiate...haggle? Do you maybe decide that as much as you'd like to get a Mercedes, you're going to settle for a nice, sensible, reliable, economy car?

So...when a family (or the nation) is struggling, what they do is they cut costs. What does the school district want to do? Keep spending and simply raise your taxes!
Why can't this school district say, "Hey...maybe we could do without that administrator position...after all we managed just fine for a number of months with a substitute for far less cost"?
Why can't the district say, "Hey..maybe our principals' cabinet money is being used too much to stock up on Twinkies and Ho-Hos. Maybe we cut that expense."?

Certainly some of the district's initiatives are worthy of funding. But there's only so much money to go around, and we can't just keep on tapping the taxpayers for every whim. Many average Sun Prairie families (not one of the $100K club) says, "Gee, it would be really nice to spend a couple of days at the Kalahari and enjoy the awesome waterpark, but money is tight, so why don't we just go camping instead?". Or, maybe they're saying, "Ok, let's spend the money and go to the Dells, but in return, there'll be no dining out for the next month". Reasonable people make reasonable compromises. If the district wants to fund some of their desired initiatives, they need to take the taxpayer off the table and give something else up instead.

How come the district was able to (using their words here), "aggressively bid the district’s insurance (worker’s compensation, liability, and property), such that the district will save $150,000", yet they seem incapable of "aggressively" scrutinizing their own internal spending?"

Over the last few years, we've heard these property tax increases likened to "just a couple of less pizzas per month" for the average family. Has anybody actually thought about how many pizzas per month we've done away with over the past 5 years? Did any of us really ever eat that much pizza to begin with?  And what is the long-term increase we've paid?

More to the point...what "bang" did we get for all our bucks?  Well...other than a few palatrial schools? Are our kids any brighter?  Absolutely... if your metric is the honor roll or the number of graduates receiving "high honors".  But what if you look at a less skewed scores relative to districts our size?  How about National Merit Scholars (or scholarships) relative to other districts our size?  How about grades in college relative to grades in high school?  Is SPASD really juicing our kids' brain cells?  Or are they just juicing the GPA?

Just sayin...