Monday, August 15, 2011

Free Money (For The Government)

Not too long ago, a popular measure passed the legislature: school boards could increase their portion of real-estate taxes only if the voters approved. (It's a little more complicated than that.)

In Franklin Township, the School Board was facing a shortfall after voters rejected a tax increase. Property tax caps had resulted in a nearly 20% decline in school funding. They had to save money somewhere -- and so they decided free bus service had to go.

This resulted in predictable outrage. One parent wondered, "If we're not going to provide even just the basics to try to get them to school then you know, where are we as a society?"--Read the linked article and you'll see one answer: parents are organizing car pools.

There will be school buses, mind you, they just won't be free; they'll cost $55 a month per student. That's a heck of a blow, but it does mean the cost is borne by (oh shock horror) the user.

...Or, you could try turning the School Board upside down and shaking really hard. That's exactly what State Senator Patricia Miller hopes to do. In her words, "It is important to note that the Franklin Township School Corporation has more than $17 million in its rainy day fund." I'm not seeing any mention of the reduction in tax money collected by the school board in her open letter, nor any of that dull, boring math that might show how much of the shortfall is made up by dropping free buses -- or what the School Board will do after they've depleted their rainy day fund and it happens to start rainin' on 'em.

--We had a fix for this, once: more and smaller schools, within walking distance of the neighborhoods they served. You have to wonder how a referendum on building neighborhood schools might've fared. You have to wonder -- because that idea was never floated. (For that matter, they used to build schools around here close to the streetcar lines and the city bus lines hat replaces them. It's still pay buses but more cost-effective.) In a completely unrelated news item, American kids continue to average chubbier than is good for 'em....


og said...

but-but- but- if you had small, local schools, they might- you know- reflect the values of the individual communities, and some schools might be better than others, and then how would we form the jugend- i mean youth into the monolithic, PC, green, tattling morons/monsters of tomorrow?

I've been driving my kid to school for ten years now. And paying for the public schools, and paying for her education out of pocket, too. Hard for me to feel much sympathy.

I don't expect to ever see anyone realize that our public school system, like our bloated government, is irretrievably broken, and no amount of cash will ever unbreak it.

Frank W. James said...

No money in local schools Roberta.

The big law firms and the even bigger architectual firms in Indianapolis don't make big profits off 'small' schools, ONLY BIG consolidated ones and that's the way Indiana has been run since the 1960's.

In my opinion, that's one of the big reasons why education is in the mess it is in Indiana.

Oh yeah, that and saying that EVERY child has to achieve a certain score on a standardised test, which is about as intelligent as saying every female has to look like a fold-out in a skin magazine or every man has to have the wealth of Bill Gates.

When it comes to education and Indiana politicians, we are the laughing stock of America...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Phillip said...

Y'know, I went to school in the 70's... We had a three story schoolhouse, but it was incredibly small, about four classrooms per level, and went 2nd through 5th grade I believe. 1st floor had the principal's office, and he had a secretary... I seem to recall that was the ONLY administrative staff on campus. There were specialists like speech teachers and school psychologists that came in from the central offices, but they only came in once in a while.

Since when do we need a support staff that is the equal of the number of teachers for EVERY school? Yeah, it's broken. It's broken because of government, lawsuits, regulations, and helicopter parents. And frankly, it'll never get fixed until we have a total breakdown of the current system.

America seems to go through these cycles, where we forget the things that made us great, and only remember when our backs are against the wall. Tough times seems to bring out the best of us, and makes us less tolerant of the shirkers. I keep seeing people saying "Tough times are ahead", and the only bright spot I can think of is that our last true tough times were WW2, and that brought out some heroes. I hope we're as lucky & as good this time.

Brian J. said...

It's not just the architects and law firms. With small schools, you don't need superintendents with $200,000 salaries and a phalanx of subalterns soaking up Federal and State tax pass-throughs.

We recently had the (young) editor of a local news weekly wonder why one local town, Battlefield, sent half of its students to Springfield Schools and half to Republic Schools instead of having a Battlefield High School. Did I mention he was young?

North said...

I have been driving my son to school for about a decade. Expensive private school. The drive is 40 miles. Lots of gas. Plus I pay for the craptastic public school.

He is a helluva good person. That isn't just my opinion, but that of most adults that interact with him. The Mrs and I chose not to raise a child, but instead to treat him as the respectful adult we want him to be.

He still has moments of being a moody teen, but overall is a fine gentleman. Very responsible. What we did seems to have worked.

At 15 even he sees the disparity between his classmates and the public school cadged animals. It is unfortunate that our schools systems have degraded - but what can be expected when it becomes a federal program?

Anonymous said...

I just have to wonder how our ancestors ever managed to learn to count to ten without free school bus transportation, free school lunches, free school breakfasts, free schools...

I appreciate that the world is perhaps a little more complicated than it was when a single school teacher could and did teach a room full of kids ranging from first through eighth grade, but I don't think it's THAT much more complicated.

og - but-but- but- if you had small, local schools, they might- you know- reflect the values of the individual communities, and some schools might be better than others, and then how would we form the jugend- i mean youth into the monolithic, PC, green, tattling morons/monsters of tomorrow?

Yep, and parents might actually have to take an active interest in their kids' education rather than "outsourcing" to legions of teachers, vice principals, principals, school boards, superintendents, state school boards, state superintendents, the Dept. of Education, etc.

og said...

If you really want to feel like crap about our current system, read "The Elementary School Curriculum" by Fredrick Bonser, published in 1920. You can read the actual original book online here:

Wouldn't it be nice of schools taught now like they taught then?

Eck! said...

I started public schooling in fall of '58 and would graduate in '71 as a matter of course. Along the way I witnessed a lot of changes.

Waking to school was the norm unless you really were far away. The town I lived in on LI, NY was big. Average walk was about 1.2miles yes we are talking 6300feet! I still don't consider a mile any great distance.

Teachers were law and rules were basic but enforced.
I even remember dress codes.

If you did crap work you got the crap grade or even an "F".

You were expected to show up every day unless the school was closed (typically a day or two at most for snow or power failures per year).

You could ride to school, on a bicycle.

I remember standardized testing in 7th grade. Nothing new here.

Oh, and the new math was horrid, more so because the books were worse.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the tip about the book. How times have changed.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, since most City Buses are Federally Subsidized, there was some ruling that came down awhile back that they HAD to take School Kids at a Highly Reduced Rate, so a lot of the City kids up here just show their School ID and go to class that way. Even the College Kids get the same Privilege from Akron U. Now, I know that this burg may not have a City Bus Line, but if the County can afford to run Short Buses for the Elderly, maybe they can subsidize the Buses. Lots of ways around this ShakeDown that the School Board is trying to put over their Tax Paying Bosses.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I tend to support the parents of Franklin township, though not for the reasons stated. My past experience has taught me that school districts restrict or eliminate buses for the same reason cities layoff police and firefighters - they inflict the greatest pain on taxpayers that won't DO AS THEY'RE TOLD!
Maybe Franklin really has caught out all the waste, but I doubt it.
This is also why I oppose mass transit schemes. When you give the government control over your freedom of movement, they will use it to their benefit, not yours.

Roberta X said...

I'm a little torn on this one; I've never been comfy about taxing all homeowners to pay for the education of everyone's kids -- this results in childless people paying for a service they do not receive. And it seems to me that a "rainy day fund" should be held back for an actual "rainy day," not a funding shortfall that bids fair to be long-lasting.

On the other hand, since the .gov makes schooling mandatory, it's something of a catch-22 if parents are over barrel to either pony up or drive 'em there; and we're stuck with the small-number-of-large-schools model that requires carrying the kids long distances.

I don't have a solution.

Overload in Colorado said...

Even worse. My parents live within walking distance of North Central, but my brother and sister could't walk to school as there's no sidewalks between them and school. They're too close for bus service, so they were driven every day.

A local community college has sidewalks to get between buildings, but no sidewalks onto campus.