Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing

I received this message from Brian Grau, a teacher from LaFollette who recently visited his hometown of Racine, who like Madison is going to referendum. Enjoy!
The Journal Times, Racine, WI, 3/24/05
Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing
By Jeff Ruggaber
Hey Racine! It’s that time again. Time to complain about money spent on schools! Who’s to blame? Let the finger pointing begin! Hey, there’s a group of teachers. Let’s blame them. They are just over paid baby sitters! I wish. I figure if I got paid $5.00 for each kid (25 per class), for 6 hours a day, for 180 days. I would make $135,000 a year! Let’s give those with a master’s $7.00 and hour per kid. That’s $189,000. Reality $39,000. Between my wife and I, last year we paid close to $7,000 just to keep our jobs (property taxes, classes to renew licenses, fee for licenses, and out of pocket expenses to supplement our classroom’s). I love paying close to $1000 of my own salary in property taxes. Healthcare. The district offered us the plan. Would you have turned it down? Should we pay more? Remember that teachers did trade salary for benefits.
Let’s point fingers at the school district. All they have done is cut spending year after year. Costs go up, spending goes down. You do the math!
Attention Racine: we have schools that were built during the Abraham Lincoln administration! Can you accurately guess from year to year how much it costs to keep these buildings running, when the ghosts of the 1800s still run through the halls! More cuts need to be made even if this does not pass. This district does not have the money to give you what this city deserves. Kids learning in run down, overcrowded buildings is a very real thing.
Next, let’s point fingers at the taxpayers. Those same people who spend $1 to $2 for a bottle of water. Those people who spend a dollar a day at the soda machine at work! Those people who don’t think twice at paying $4-$5 for one beer at Harbor Fest, Summerfest, Lambeau Field and the rest. Those people who are still driving their SUVs, pick-up trucks, Cadillac’s, and other gas guzzling cars. Those same people who pay $40-$50 a month so they can make sure their 12-year-old has a cell phone, $50 cable bills, $200 utility bills, $40 video games to baby-sit your kids, 20 cent increase for a gallon of gas this past week, the list goes on! Complain about those. Oh yeah, those things don’t go to a referendum, Why is it that when schools need more money, everyone complains? One person wants a user fee. The more kids you have, the more you pay. So I should pay more for the fire department if they put out my fire and I have 10 kids? Same concept! I’ve never used the fire department yet, can I get a refund? One lady offered the keys to her house. You got it! That will save three teachers jobs. Thanks! For those who think you don’t benefit from Unified because you have no more kids there, well then I think we need to make Unified and Non-Unified lines at every place of business. So when you go to the store, doctor, or gas station you can only go to the line where your tax money is spent.
Now the Racine Taxpayers Association gives the referendum a thumbs down. They say not enough cuts have been made. Have you been to our schools? Have you seen the plaster falling on kid’s heads? Have you seen the paint chipped so bad the wood is rotting underneath? Have you felt the below zero wind blow through the cracks in the 100 year old windows? Have you tried to teach in a classroom where the temperature varies from near 90 degrees to 60 degrees all in one day? Oh, that’s right, you think teachers should pay more for their insurance. Well if we do, then I want a raise back on my salary that I gave up for the past 10 years. The bottom line is that we have a serious problem.
So either fight for a better educational system and support it, or get out of our way. The future is now!
Without support, you can’t imagine how bad things are going to get.
Jeff Ruggaber is an art teacher at Red Apple School.

3 thoughts on “Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing”

  1. Johnny – thanks for posting this.
    here’s some additional background and commentary:
    Racine School District spending data is available here:
    another article, from a Racine Businessman, is available here:
    This article puts per student spending data @ 12K in Racine vs about 13K in Madison.
    I think it would be very, very useful to look at sources and uses changes over the past 10 years (it would be great to see this for the Madison District). School Districts face numerous challenges, some of which should likely not be paid for with local funds. A single point in time analysis, while somewhat informative, masks the larger changes occuring in our schools over time.
    I hope that the next Madison School Board takes a very strong position on changing the school funding process. Clearly, seeking a solution fropm the Governor and lobbyists is not a winning approach.

  2. FYI:
    The referendum in Racine did not pass. The school board is going to cut all sports, after school activities, librarians, and possibly the tech ed. department.

  3. Let’s differentiate between maintenance costs and salary and benefits. The first is 15-20% of most school budgets. Unfortunately, most school districts will not spend the money necessary to hire competant property managers who are familiar with commercial property and honest and will not be “bought” by contractors. Nor will they spend the money hire highly qualified skilled workers from the construction trades that would pay for themselves through cost advoidance. Why? Because it would highly offend the snobby teachers who, in many cases, are over-qualified with masters degrees but get raises automatically because of their contract. In the real world, that’s not the way it works. You get a promotion if there is an opening in management or you move on. In addition, most teachers get a second job during the summer and work year round just like the rest of us. If you don’t like teaching, change professions, after all, this is America. Sooner or later WEAC will get the message that it is out of step with other unions’ benefits.

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