$188K for school boss

Well, I hope the man is worth it. Read the details here.

David Sklarz is getting a 3.5 percent pay hike that puts his salary on track to break $200K in another year or two. That’s hard to swallow when the district is doing things like cutting back on Quest and wiping out positions that would help kids directly.

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236 Comments

Filed under budget, David Sklarz, education, News, Schools, West Hartford

236 responses to “$188K for school boss

  1. EJ

    Gee, I guess not everyone has to share the pain.

  2. David Jones

    Three points in regard to the raise.

    1) The article refers to this as salary. I would like to know the amount of the total compensation package.

    2) Given what we have just experienced, the citizens speaking loud and clear, I believe this to be a bit on the high side. It sends the wrong message, one that suggests the BOE still isn’t listening to the citizens. I believe an increase of under 3% would have been more in line with community thinking. I realize the difference in dollars is negligible, but the symbolism is important.

    3) Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that our school superintendent is overpaid you must first compare his compensation to that of superintendents at comparable school systems. Ultimately, the market sets the rate for fair compensation, not our collective opinion.

  3. Joe Visconti

    No David
    We compare his salary with what the hell we all can afford to pay in these times. At this rate the SKLARZ Racing Star will be getting close to the earnings of his Nascar Idols.
    Cuttoff the head and the body will die (metaphorically speaking)!

  4. Tom Cooke

    $180k for an executive to run any entity, even a public one, with the number of employees and the size budget of WHPS, is perfectly appropriate.

    On the other hand, I am disappointed that Mr. Sklarz did not take this opportunity to demonstrate that he cares much about what is going with respect to taxpayers in West Hartford at all. I would have hoped he would have offered to take no pay increase as a gesture of good will. This would have also been a good political move. This just exemplifies his contempt for anyone not employed by the school district.

  5. Citizen Kane

    BOE to WH citizens: “screw you”
    They would cut Quest and money to the South end of town schools and instead give Sklarz $188,000
    Shame on them all.
    What a slap in the face to the taxpayers of this town.
    Dems or Republicans .. it doesn’t matter.
    I can’t wait till November.
    Where are people who demand accountability and fiscal constraint?

    Well now Sklarz can go racing on Fridays in style with more dough in his pocket..and as for comparable compensation…. that’s BS as far as I am concerned… he made plenty before.

  6. Joe Visconti

    Listen folks, job security is no longer job one with Municipal or State Employees. Since all the State laws to protect the Public Employment tenure have been fused into Law, they only have one goal now, more pay and more pay, no matter what.

    It isn’t a matter of rethinking how we do things anymore, that has long been buried and restricted by decades of bureaucracy. The only solution for responsible government is to remove binding arbitration and make Connecticut a “Right to Work State” again. Then the Unions can exist and collective bargain and strike and we can replace them with young college grads for 30% less.

    Let the old reptile teachers with thick skin from decades of milking the system retire. Lastly dump the pension system so these jackals have to get a second job like the rest of us Good Non Union Folks have to in order to make ends meet if they want to continue to support the Excellent Education System they helped to themselves.

    Public Servants they are? Serve this!

  7. Joe Visconti

    OOps and as for Sklarz, catch him on Fridays at the Speedway and try to get a copy of his contract to see what he really makes. Rich Goshdigian showed us the Feldman- Francis Pay scheme for Municipal Administrators but didnt have time to turn his Sword of Truth onto Sklarz. It is a good time to make changes since Nardone split, the 3 Card Monty table will soon flip and show all the cards. I am sending a copy of the transcript of Mr Goshdigian’s testimony at the Budget hearing to the Hartford Courant Publisher to ask for the firing of Dan Jones immediatley due to his incompetance on not reporting the Breaking News from Mr Goshdigian findings in reference to Financial reporting tricks. Moody’s will also get a copy as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission for review. Hold on Folks cause the Triple A is going away!

  8. Speed Racer

    Sklarz BMW race car at Lime Rock
    http://www.the16v.com/images/lrp02/pages/052702_sklarz.bmw.htm

    I don’t see a sponsor sticker on there that reads West Hartford Taxpayer – do you?

  9. Joe Visconti

    Hey, Good idea, lets ask him if he would let us put a Sponsorship Sticker on the Beemer in exchange for him not taking the extra 10k. “Education Cartel Leaders Racing Team”

  10. Joe Visconti

    Ok. I figured it out. We do have to cut Sklarz a little slack, if I had to deal with the Behemoth (SP?)bureaucracy he has to, I would strap my ass in a Beemer and find a place to punch it with no limits too. Hold on Tight David, we just may need you to figure out the rubics cube Administrative Dung “Heap ” the Educational Cartel has lobbied into place over the decades! Chula!

  11. Digging a bit using HotJobs data, here’s some information that might make the discussion a more informed one. How all of this applies to Mr. Sklarz’s resume, background, and experience is probably something you can help us understand better. So here goes:

    School Superintendent
    Directs and manages a school district. Oversees all aspects of the district’s operational policies, objectives, initiatives. Responsible for the attainment of short- and long-term financial and operational goals. Requires a bachelor’s/master’s degree with at least 10 years of experience in the field. Demonstrates expertise in a variety of the field’s concepts, practices, and procedures. Relies on extensive experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Leads and directs the work of others. A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected. Typically reports to top management.

    School Superintendent Salary Ranges:
    25th Percentile: $107,120
    Median: $131,133
    75th Percentile: $158,234

    Breakout using Median:
    Base salary $131,133 74%
    Bonuses $0 0%
    Social Security $7,481 4%
    401k/403b $8,130 5%
    Disability $2,098 1%
    Healthcare $5,328 3%
    Pension $5,508 3%
    Time off $17,148 10%
    Total $176,826 100%

    King’s comments: Sklarz must be at the top of his game to be paid $188 based on the US data above. And interesting note is that (rightly or wrongly) he is actually paid more than a United States Cabinet Secretary which comes in at $181,100.

    This page: http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/layouthtmls/swzl_salaryrangenarrow_50.html will help you compare six figure salaries in a number of occupations to help give you a reference to job value across a larger scale.

    Well, if this site isn’t useful in helping you decide whether Sklarz is getting equitable pay or not – if nothing else – after tooling around the site – you may find yourself on Monday either talking to your boss about an increase or posting your resume out there for something better. LOL.

  12. Osemasterofdoom

    Thanks for the enlightening information, King. I was interested in finding a breakdown of Connecticut superintendents’ salaries by town, but a cursory search did not find anything. If anyone has any other ideas on where to search, I’d appreciate hearing them.

    What I did come across was the February Boston Globe article linked below, on trying to hire superintendents. I know know it’s not perfectly analagous to our situation, but I found it informative.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/02/11/in_like_manny_why_school_chiefs_get_the_big_bucks/

    Also, as the Geico commercials constantly remind us, Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the nation, with a correspondently high cost of living. Thus, I would expect that most CT superintendent salaries would skew to the high end. Nobody’s saying that Sklarz and his cohorts are scraping to get by, but on a national scale, it’s not out of the realm of reality to expect a higher than average salary.

    Having said all that, I think it definitely sends the wrong message to have this increase approved after what the town went through budgetwise. I think someone needs a little PR lesson.

    And King, the truth is that virtually all Cabinet Secretaries take a big cut in pay when they move into their new jobs. Usually they are motivated by a shifting mixture of ambition, pride and a desire to serve the public good. What exactly constitutes the “public good” differs from individual to individual, of course, but there are still some people out there who view public service as just that.

  13. Rick Liftig

    Does anybody think that the timing of this is suspect? After such a clear budget referendum and cuts, you would have to be more than clueless to not consider tabling the issue for several months. Plus, there is an election on tap.

    I suspect there will be something more resulting from this in the next few months.

  14. EJ

    Once again the BOE opinion is taxpayer be damned!

  15. David Jones

    Rick,

    The timing does seem odd, but I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the decision. But clearly it’s a PR problem.

    As for as political fallout, this was approved on a bipartisan basis so I’m not sure who would benefit politically. The two BOE members who voted against it are the same two who voted to keep the $240,000 in the budget for the purpose of providing late transportation to those who wish to sleep later, so I don’t see how they can be viewed as guardians of our pocket books.

    Hopefully a BOE member will soon log on to explain this vote. I will withhold final judgement until I hear the explanation. I know you and I both have a great deal of respect for our elected officials and their volunteerism, but I think everyone wants and deserves an explanation of this vote.

  16. Joe Visconti

    Don’t scratch your heads anymore, I told you over and over again that the Educational Cartel controls everything. The clear message was sent by the Ed Jackals that they dont give a sh-am what the public thinks. Remove Binding Arbitration at the State Level and make Connecticut a “Right to Work State” again, then the People will have control of their destiny once more.

    All system’s which do not truly help humanity will inevitably fail. The False Gods of Measure, Number and Weight want your Tax Dollars and more of them, only with an influx of humanitarian non Monetary effort can we preserve True Education. It’s only a matter of time before the Education Bubble bursts, so enjoy living in the Myth while you still can.

  17. In small town politics there is little to no accountability. If you look at it from the Dems perspective – they have it in the bag. It’s not like all of a sudden the GOP is going to gain the majority – in this town. And two members of the GOP have already turncoated on principle this year (or perhaps it was just a matter of their true colors shining through – you decide). Fact is that there isn’t a GOP in town, just a former shadow of the one that once existed.

    Hence the problem. These people don’t care one iota what you or I think, or what the referendum vote was, or will be – for that matter. And their base loves them no matter what they do. They just do as they please because they know that the next election is going to be another walk in the park. Getting folks to vote against a crazy budget is one thing, but motivating residents in a heavily liberal town to cast any ballot for a Republican or a fiscal conservative is next to damn impossible.

    Prove me wrong, Donatelli! ‘Cause if the Democrats can get away with all of this madness and win re-election – then you’ve given them the green light and the message to go for 10% next time, and they’ll know that a little referendum, and a sprinkle of WHTA articles here or there, is nothing more than the peanut gallery complaining in the back, a minor logistical set back, and their agenda is sure continue for decades (when its going to be too late to reverse the damage).

    PR Campaign. Yeah right. Like they actually care about PR. That’s a laugh.

  18. Harry Captain

    Apologies for my absence from the vote. My family and I were vacationing in California. While in CA, I did participate in the 6/28 BOE meeting and the subsequent Executive Session regarding the Superintendent’s contract by telephone – to my family’s dismay (and that’s putting it very lightly).

    While many view the timing of the decision as “odd” or “bad PR”, the BOE was REQUIRED to act by 6/30 per terms of the Superintendent’s contract. The BOE pushed the timing out to 7/6 only after acquiring an extension. Without an extension, the BOE had to act by 6/30 or be in breach of contract.

    My apologies again for missing the vote. Had I voted, the margin would have only been tighter than 4-2. The ultimate outcome would have remained the same.

    The BOE spent a considerable amount of time deliberating the Superintendent’s contract this year. Much more time than I have experienced in the last 6 annual evaluations.

    Superintendent(s) are NOT a unionized employee(s) and CT binding arbitration law does not apply to their contracts.

  19. Speed Racer

    Harry – It doesn’t matter much.. the fact that the BOE would give this guy a huge raise in light of people having to move out of town because they can no longer pay their taxes is disgraceful. On top of that, the South end of town’s schools got screwed over by cuts.. and so did some other programs.

    Here the BOE was crying poverty because no where can they find places to cut and they hand this guy a $12,000 raise.. just like that. What line item was that in Harry (or anyone else in the BOE)?

    Quite frankly.. he’s not that good… other school system’s are just as good and people are starting to move to those towns where taxes are lower.

    By the way – even businesses in the Center are struggling.. did you read the Courant today? It’s a matter of time before old standards like Pfaus will be gone, and it isn’t because people want a GAP store.. It’s because only chains will be able to survive the high rents and high taxes here.

    Hmm.. maybe we ought to start a Taxpayers party instead of the Dems and Reps, because int he end we see they are only all the same. Let’s get some real people at the helm who can spend responsibly and with some compassion for it’s residents.

    No one wants to trash the school system, or our services.. but really, this type of salary compensation give away is indicative of the problem regarding spending in this town.

    The PTA moms ought to be fuming that items/programs were cut for their kids and this guy gets an extra $1000 a month so he can have more monogrammed shirts.

  20. Joe Visconti

    SpeedRacer

    I like the way you think.

    Binding arb doesn’t affect this guy and he’s not in the Union and the Board still couldnt get it done? No Balls, except Schmidt and Putterman, who would have thought?

  21. Speed Racer

    Yeah I wonder what’$ going to happen with the other contract$ that are up for renewal this $ummer..
    probably hand tho$e clown$ more money too.

    Doe$n’t anyone in thi$ town know how to $ay NO?

  22. Joe Visconti

    yeah, the Unions, they say no all the time, to pay cuts!

  23. Sean McCann

    Speed Racer: “No one wants to trash the school system, or our services”

    Not true. Read Joe Visconti’s post about “humanitarian non Monetary effort” (huh?) above or any number of other similar comments made by him and the other dittoheads around here. Some people _do_ want to trash the school system very much. It would be nice if they stopped pretending otherwise and just said, yeah, I don’t give a damn whether we have crappy schools, just don’t touch my wallet.

    Here, btw, is an interesting fact they might want to consider. Yes, Connecticut has a teacher’s union. So do all the states in our region. Where aren’t teacher’s unionized? Alabama, Mississippis, Arkansas, and the rest of the deep south. Whose schools perform better, do you think?

  24. WH Parent

    I agree with Sean’s comment that bashing the teachers union demonstrates an underlying lack of concern for the quality of education offered by West Hartford’s public schools.

    While Joe Visconti and his gang might be right that the BOE could cut costs in the absence of a union, the impact of the loss of teacher morale and the probable desertion of the most capable teachers to more enlightened towns would be devastating to the quality of education offered by this Town.

    In addition, union bashing is a waste of good electronic ink. Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to bargain collectively will never give that right up. And since teacher positions can’t be outsourced overseas, Corporate America’s favorite technique for destroying collective bargaining is not an option.

    So rather than bash the union, why not consider them a co-equal partner in the goal that I believe most taxpayers in this Town still support—quality education that is beyond the norm and second to none in the state of Connecticut.

  25. Speed Racer

    Sean and WH parent – First off: giving Sklarz a raise is not going to make us the best school system in the state. Giving him a raise took money away from the classroom yet again. If he were to walk because he didn’t get a raise then I say let him and let’s find someone who can get better quality educating our kids with less money. Other school districts do it, why can’t we?

    If you honestly think people want to trash our school system then you really need your heads examined. Reductions in spending can be made (like not giving administrators huge salaries) without hurting quality. I think that’s all many people are trying to say. It’s been done in business and it can be done with this. I think Sean and WH Parent are really over-reacting to the notion of making townwide reductions. The proof to this is that if the taxpayers wanted to trash our system they would have gone out for another referendum. They didn’t.

    As for being equal partners with the unions.. that’s not going to happen as long as they remain the greedy lot that they are. Look at the proof – they wouldn’t even open up their contracts to help out the town this year. They refused flatly. So much for “being partners” and “working together”.

    All I can say is the budget crisis this town had this year is nothing like what the next few years have in store.. Blue Back or not.. there’s a little thing called MDC bonds coming our way, and higher energy costs as well as a host of other pressures bound to hit. If we don’t rein in spending now to prepare for that we will have to pay the price sometime.

  26. Tom Cooke

    I am a Professor at UConn and about four years ago when the state was supposedly bankrupt our union agreed to forgo our annual raise. We usually do quite well, something on the order of a 2-1/2% cost of living increase and then some significant merit increases which, if you are doing your job well, can mean consistent 5%-plus pay raises. Since this will never be recouped the compounded effect on my future income is very large and so this will continue to have a large effect on my long-term income.

    I bring this up to demonstrate that there are some unions and some public employees that actually do recognize who is paying the bill and who do care about the big picture.

    I will continue to challenge the administration and the teachers union to make a much smaller (perhaps cut their raises by 1/2% for just one year) but very symbolic gesture toward the citizens of West Hartford.

  27. WH Parent

    Speed Racer, I agree that some valid concerns have been raised regarding the necessity (or propriety) of raising our Superintendent’s salary in excess of a typical cost of living increase (2.5-3.0%) in a year when so much else has been cut. But what does that issue have to do with everyone’s union bashing?

    Your response to my suggestion that we embrace the Union as an equal partner by labeling them “…the greedy lot that they are…” doesn’t do anything but demonstrate a vindictive disdain for working people who are legitimately trying to improve their working conditions and lot in life through collective bargaining.

    It’s this type of rhetoric that is part of the problem in West Hartford, and not the least bit constructive toward a long-term solution. If the taxpayers of this Town truly want the Union to share in the fiscal pain over the next four years, stop the name-calling and denial of the Union’s legitimate role in maintaining the high quality of education that you profess to support.

  28. EJ

    Perhaps the key point is the term “collective bargaining”. Does it indeed exist?

    After all we seem to have a BOE that appears to give the union all it wants despite the results of a referendum. The nurses contract the most recent example. There wasn’t a need to go to arbitration was there?

    The BOE seems to give the Administrators all they want, while approving program cuts. If we can no longer afford Sklarz let him go. Maybe he can find a school system out near Bridgehampton so that he can still race.

    Anyone yet know how the $500K suddenly was found for the last round of cuts.

    When approached for help the Union supposedly told the BOE no. Why not call them greedy? They certainly weren’t forthcoming with help, and I’m sure we won’t see any offers from them this summer the way the BOE seems to be signing contracts.

  29. Osemasterofdoom

    WH Parent:

    You have to understand that just because someone is the most frequent poster on this blog does not mean that he represents the majority view of those that post here. Also, “Speed Racer” and other pseudonyms that Joe uses are just his way of creating the appearance of agreement with his views. You can usually tell when this happens by the presence of phrases such as “I like the way you think” or “Good point Joe.” It’s also his response to those of us on the blog who prefer not to use our real names, but that’s a subject for another blog topic.

    There are very good reasons for the unionization of teachers and the presence of collective bargaining. I think there are very few West Hartford taxpayers who would dispute that. However, I think you need to acknowledge the very legitimate frustration of taxpayers when they are confronted with the choice of a tax increase or cuts in spending/services, but then are told that the biggest increase in the budget (town employee raises) is off limits for trimming spending.

    In an objective sense, I don’t begrudge the unions for pressing for and winning the raises. Hey, if you’ve fought hard for leverage and for benefits (and I know the unions have), use them for all they are worth. But in a real-world sense, I think the recently-ended budget battle showed clearly that we are beginning to cut back on the tools and programs that teachers need to do their jobs well, and at least part of those cutbacks are made to fund the salary increases mandated by binding arbitration.

    No one but the verbal bomb-throwers enjoy overheated rhetoric and name-calling. But until everyone comes to the table ready to work together and give a little in trying to solve these problems, these individuals are going to find more and more fertile ground for their ideas to take root.

  30. WH return

    Unbelievable: Sean, WH Parent, and OSE whatever, read the tea leaves, you just got hosed. Hello!

  31. Sean McCann

    I have to admit that it hadn’t occured to me that Joe Visconti might be using sock puppets. I, for one, would be grateful if more people would own their views and disown their pseudonyms.

    Speed Racer, whoever you might be, I’ve read through a lot of threads here, and I’ve seen a lot of bilious ranting from the anti-tax folks–including not only union bashing, but teacher and PTO bashing as well. I don’t recall many, if any, of those posts expressing concern about the quality of WH’s public schools and the possible effects on it of spending cuts. So, yes, I will continue to doubt the sincerity of rhetorical feints that suggest otherwise.

    If I were in the teacher’s union (I don’t have collective representation, but I wish I did), I wouldn’t want my representatives to back down. Why? Because you can bet that every year thereafter there will be howling for concessions. Look at the way you put it, Osemaster: “you need to acknowledge the very legitimate frustration of taxpayers when they are confronted with the choice of a tax increase or cuts in spending/services, but then are told that the biggest increase in the budget (town employee raises) is off limits for trimming spending.” What that says to me is that some people don’t want to pay tax increases and don’t want to accept cuts in the services they’re getting, but do want someone else to bear the costs. No doubt that’s true. But that’s exactly why workers want unions. That they’ve been successful bargainers meanwhile might be one reason that West Hartford has been able to hire and hold onto excellent teachers.

  32. Osemasterofdoom

    Come again?

  33. WH return

    The town got screwed by the BOE who basically has no accountability to its citizens because they keep getting plaudits from some that tell them what a great job they are doing.

    $12,000K more in Salary alone, what a deal. Once again, no one ever said cut teachers or programs that others on this board keep insisting we have. There is no reason to worry about teachers because with a BOE like we have, you have to cut somewhere. This is an over bloated management / supervisory / AP municipality and that leaves two areas to cut (programs & teachers).

  34. turtle

    Come on, Speed Racer is not purple enough to be Joe Visconti.

  35. turtle

    The town got screwed by the BOE who basically has no accountability to its citizens because they keep getting plaudits from some that tell them what a great job they are doing.

    They are doing a great job. That’s why so many people want to move here. I hear it from realtors all the time.

  36. WH return

    Turtle:

    Keep drinking the cool-aid.

  37. Speed Racer

    WhParent
    you said ” Your response to my suggestion that we embrace the Union as an equal partner by labeling them “…the greedy lot that they are…” doesn’t do anything but demonstrate a vindictive disdain for working people who are legitimately trying to improve their working conditions and lot in life through collective bargaining.”

    Trying to what?
    Tying to improve their working conditions?
    Give it a freaking rest ! This isn’t the 1920’s sweat shops we are talking about. This isn’t Norma Rae scenarios we are talking about, and if anyone is being taken advantage of it is the taxpayers in this town and every other town in CT.
    The binding arbitration back door secret deals are just plain wrong. So is the attitudes of extortion that go along with it (i.e. give us what we want or we’ll do “x”).
    I wish these town leaders would have some balls and say no and let these “people who care so much for our kids” go on strike.
    The union members get plenty – teachers in CT make the highest salaries in the country- and I am sorry if that offends you or them – but they ARE a greedy lot – they prove it over and over again.
    Let them show a smidgeon of being reasonable in their demands and I will change my attitude – unions have ruined the schools, and they prevent bad teachers from being dismissed, and they constantly bargain for more money and more time off. More, more, more.
    More money to do less work.
    That’s not trying “to improve their lot in life”
    That’s greed.

    And yeah for the record I have utter disdain for the NEA. So what.

    Be that as it may, Sklarz job is not unionized and I feel very strongly that his raise was totally unwarranted. Period. Don’t like that opinion? Tough beans pal.
    Bottom line is that giving him a raise ultimately took money out of some kids’ classroom. Explain that to the local WH soccer mom from Charter Oak who really got screwed over this time around. Take money from the South Side of town and line ole David’s pockets with it. Good one. The guy needs a down payment on another Beamer. Forget the kids who lost a reading specialist.

  38. Speed Racer

    Turtle get a grip – more people are moving to other towns with less taxes and just as good schools. Houses are harder to sell here. many have been sitting on the market for months. Our population has actually shrunk.. didn’t you see the latest study about the population shifts in CT towns?

  39. Gary Reger

    Some unrelated observations:

    On unions and collective bargaining. My wife remarked to me the other day on the irony of the fact that the very people who yell about “unions” and their power seem to have no problem when people they agree with — like the members of the WHTA — group together collectively to use the power of their numbers to get what they want.

    On greed If teachers’ union members are greedy because they insist on a raise, then aren’t all those who refuse to pay more taxes to support public services at least as greedy?

    On ask-backs from the teachers’ union. It is indeed a very serious matter to forego a raise, no matter what the cause. I find this whole discussion extraordinarily disingenuous and I can’t take seriously anyone who tells me unions should voluntarily refuse a raise until s/he can tell me, honestly and truthfully, that s/he has her/himself foregone a raise already negotiated and approved by his boss because the company told him its profits were down. If there is such a person then I have a new nominee for sainthood. Let’s not hold teachers to standards we would baulk at ourselves.

    On the amount of the raise for teachers. No one has given the actual figure, which it would be very interesting to know. But the Consumer Price Index for Urban Workers rose 2.8% between May 2006 and May 2007. Anything less than a 2.8% raise would therefore be a pay cut. If teachers got 3.5%, then their actual raise in constant dollars was 0.7%. You get the picture.

    On teachers and the distribution of our education budget. Talk to anyone who knows anything about education and they will tell you: the crucial component to high quality education is high quality teachers. You can get by in a classroom without a dedicated smart board, but all the smartboards in the world won’t help a bit if the teacher is second-rate. My conclusion: if there is need to cut, leave teachers’ raises alone.

  40. Harry Captain

    Speed Racer:
    “The binding arbitration back door secret deals are just plain wrong.”

    ENOUGH with your innuendo. Binding arbitration is an open PUBLIC process. Anyone could have sat in and witnessed the process. Anyone can FOIA or just ask for a documented copy of the Arbitrator’s judgment.

    “I wish these town leaders would have some balls and say no…”

    The BOE said “NO” and went to arbitration. The BOE presented a case. The Mayor and the Finance Director (currently our Town Manager) testified. That’s as far “NO” as the law allows us to go.

    Maybe if you had a pair of balls you’d come out from hiding behind an alias. Put YOUR name on the line. Put stress on your family, your career, your children’s relationships with their teachers, your relationships with neighbors and backed up YOUR beliefs by running for unpaid office. Yeah, I thought not.

  41. turtle

    “Speed Racer” (Judy–I know it’s you!), didn’t you see the latest study about the population shifts in CT towns?

    No, I haven’t, but I would like to see it. Link?

  42. Gary Reger

    Last week there were claims on this list to the effect that our per pupil spending has gone up without our getting more bang for our buck. The Town has now just sent me all the data they have on per pupil spending. I will not list it all here but simply go from the earliest they have directly to today:

    1990/1: $7364
    2006/7: $11,255

    If you express those 1990/1 dollars in today’s worth, they are the equiavalent of: $11,574.

    In other words, in constant, inflation-adjusted dollars, West Hartford’s per pupil spending has stayed exactly the same for the last 16 years.

    This leads me to another observation. I have read again and again on this list that the Town hides information, that even after “months of trying” you cannot get anything out of them. I made one phone call last week to the Town finance office, and today received a spread-sheet with all the data I had requested. Of course, I did ask nice, like I learned in kindergarten.

  43. David Jones

    Bravo Harry!!!

    Harry, you’re an outstanding member of the BOE, you bulldog.

    Let’s focus on the issues we can control. The teachers aren’t going to de-unionize, and binding arbitration is the law of the land.

    The more I think of the 3.5% raise granted Mr. Sklarz the angrier I get, both at the BOE members who voted in favor of this raise and at Mr. Sklarz himself. Mr. Sklarz, set an example. Lead!!!

    Of the above mentioned parties, one is a group of volunteers. While I disagree with the vote of the 4 who voted for the raise, I very much respect their service to this community.

    Following up on an earlier comment, to all of us who do not work as teachers, would we really step forward and give up our raise if we were in a similar situation? My guess is the answer for 99.9% of us is no.

  44. Osemasterofdoom

    Harry Captain — Please don’t let Speed Racer (aka Joe Visconti) get to you. I think I can say with confidence that most of us on this blog have gained a great deal of respect for you from your willingness to post, be us Democrats, Republicans or Independent.

    Gary Reger — You make several good points, particularly with respect to the willingness (or unwillingness) of others to take a pay cut “for the good of the community.” My quarrel is not with the teachers, it’s with the process. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough, but still have not heard of a binding arbitration decision that resulted in a salary decrease. The process is just too weighted to the benefit of one side. That doesn’t make the side with the advantage evil, it just means the process has to be changed. Unfortunately, there has not been much stomach for athat up at the state capitol.

  45. Joe Visconti

    Good Morning Vietnam!

    It isnt like me to defend myself cause I am the one usually coming out swinging but here I go:

    Just got home from a horrible day roofing in Wallingford, for those of you that dislike me, you will enjoy this, I partially fell through a rotted roof today as I was working with my eldest son. The weather was at 100 degrees and it was hard to breath all day. I had no access to a computer and am not some of the pseudonyms I am acused of being, whom I see posted all day.
    For a long time David, Harry, Rick and I have asked people to own their words, for many they are afraid to and I do repsect that but now we can see what happens when this is allowed, the “Cowards With No Names” acuse the people with courage to identify themselves of being as they are “Cowards with No Names”.

    As far as the Unions, Collective Bargaining and Returning Connecticut to a “Right to Work State Status” these issues are controled at the State Level but if the law of the land can get changed it starts Locally.
    “The Agenda for the People” should be to allow Unions to exist with Collective Bargaining but not subject employees to have to join a Union or be represented by a group. As far as Binding Arbitration it’s time is nearing it’s end. No one or group should be “Forced” into a contract they do not feel is right for them. True freedom of choice regarding entering into contracts should be a Right for either party to walk away from the table, for those who represent the people it should be their Right to replace employees when they feel their constituents cannot afford Special Interest demands. For those Public Servants who want more in compensation than many of those they serve, their Right should be to protest and hit the streets with their pickets where they will learn that without a contract they are “At Will Workers”.

    The Unions will say ” there will be chaos”, I say yes there will be and much will be at stake, but chaos is the condition many residents find themselves in when they cannot afford “The Agenda of Special Interest”. Others may view this as extreme because they are still able to afford the Myth’s of the Educational Cartel!

    To be continued…..

  46. WH Alum

    Osemasterofdoom –
    …still have not heard of a binding arbitration decision that resulted in a salary decrease.

    Can you please tell us when was the last time you took a salary decrease ??? How much did you give up?

    That being said – Sklarz’s increase seems quite excessive under the circumstances. And it’s not just a beemer – think he’s got a Land Rover, too.

    And if I’m not mistaken – Norfeldt lost its magnet status tonight without any discussion at all. Someone suggested that they will lose special funding they got with magnet status. Anyone know if that is true?

    With the loss of the 1.5 Quest positions and Norfeldt’s magnet status – we are starting to look like a community that is not willing to support the needs of the higher-end students. I hope that I am soon proven wrong.

    Harry – thanks for stepping up to the plate. I can only imagine what the stress of the past budget season does to your family and your actual paying job. Thanks to all the BOE members who have our kids’ best interests at heart.

  47. WH Alum

    whoops – sorry – looks like my end-of-italics did not work right.

  48. JTS

    Go Harry go! For the love of God, someone let the other BOE members and the Council know that there is a an extremely interested audience just waiting for them to share info, explain votes, clarify the process, defend the decisions that were made, convince people of a given course of action, you know…lead. Anyone? Anyone? (other than Harry that is) WHDad, what are the traffic stats here? I see 70k hits, how many unique visitors? Electeds: those are voters! Talk to them!!!

  49. Harry Captain

    WH Alum –
    “Norfeldt lost its magnet status tonight without any discussion at all. Someone suggested that they will lose special funding they got with magnet status. Anyone know if that is true?”

    Unfortunately, only a handful of Norfeldt students are “magnet” (+/- 20). The rest are from the neighborhood – that’s my and Tom Fiorentino’s neighborhood. There is NO “Special Funding” lost, that is if by special you mean from the State or other non-WH taxpayer source. Norfeldt is not a Title 1 school.

    Current magnet kids are grandfathered and can stay. Norfeldt does lose Latin, which was offered in grade 5. Foreign language, currently French, will continue to be offered K-5. It will be offered at a reduced level of frequency than currently, however the frequency will be equal to the frequency of foreign language taught at other “non-magnet” neighborhood schools.

    The Norfeldt parents who spoke to me regarding this cut after I proposed it earlier in the process were not aware of the low number of magnet students. Their primary concern was that foreign language would continue to be offered.

    You probably did not hear discussion on this topic tonight because the BOE has gone over this several times previously during budget deliberations this year. This decision was unanimous. (And it personally affects my daughter, a current Norfeldt student) It is my hope that Norfeldt continues with it’s “timeless, classical” education theme – which could be a style taken up at any school.

    Tonight, we did commit to accepting the “FLAP” grant – grant funding provided for the next 3 years to provide foreign language in ALL WH schools, K-12. Learning a foreign language early in life is more effective and educationally appropriate than the predominant U.S. model that begins foreign language instruction at the middle school level.

  50. turtle

    I also wish to say Hooray for Harry!

    Not that the zealots on this blog ever seem to listen to a word he says.

    It is distressing to see middle school and high school activities cut by 25% each and Latin lost at Norfeldt. Of course, we can always blame Dr. Sklarz’s cars.

  51. Joe Visconti

    Zealots? And those who Defend their Positions otherwise are not?

    And Harry, you volunteered for the job so stop complaining, or better yet step down and find yourself a replacement, someone who will put in the time, and can take the heat.

  52. Gary Reger

    Joe — I am sorry to hear about your work accident. I hope you and your son are okay.

  53. Joe Visconti

    Thanks Gary

    We are.

  54. Speed Racer

    Yes let’s give Harry some kudos.. he’s a great guy after all. He sits in those endless hours of having to listen to all the parents and teachers complain and has to listen to those school administrators patting each other on the back or whining how they need more resources . To top it off he has to listen to the other BOE members. .. and you challenge me to run for that office? Thanks but no thanks – I’d only wind up complaining how I spend too much time away from my family and how it’s a volunteer position and how much heat and grief I get from everyone as a result of doing such public service.

    Turtle thinks I am Judy Aron.. haha that’s just too funny really. My wife wouldn’t agree with that at all. In fact she’d probably sue for divorce. Keep guessing Turtle, it amuses the masses.

  55. Osemasterofdoom

    WH Alum — Since you asked, I have taken a pay cut in the past to move on to another job, and been told many times that I and my coworkers would have to go without a COLA or any other increase becuase the funds just weren’t there. However, I don’t feel that’s germaine to the discussion here. My contention is not with the teachers but with the process itself. I don’t expect the union leadership to just give up an advantage that they have won. That’s just not the way the system works. I do think it is incumbent upon us as taxpayers to urge our state lawmakers to change the process. I also think there’s not a lot of understanding among the taxpaying population on whatbinding arb does to their town budgets. That’s one of the reasons this forum is valuable. I know I have learned a lot more about how things work from this blog than from watching hourse of public access TV.

    Joe, I am also sorry to hear about your accident at work. I am sure itnocsiV eoJ, Turtle Stomper, Elvis Conti and the rest join in my sentiments.

  56. Harry Captain

    I will cherish the irony of Joe Visconti telling me to “stop complaining”, “step down”, “put in the time”, and “take the heat” for all the days of my life…

  57. Osemasterofdoom

    LOL!

  58. Joe Visconti

    Complaining is job 1 as an Activist!, but it is Ironic isn’t it Harry?

  59. Beth Bye

    wow

    What a discussion. So much to read and learn. Many thanks to WH Dad — who I believe is the blog master… Is that right?

    And the discussion started because DS got a raise. It is easy for me to sit here and say I was upset to read that he got the raise (I was). And I was proud that Bruce and Terry voted against it. Harry would have voted that way too.

    I am disappointed in Dr. Sklarz because he could have showed leadership here and taken a freeze. He is very well compensated.

    At the same time… full disclosure… I can’t say I ever voted against his raises… and I know what it is like to be in that room with multiple variables at play… Volunteers… trying to do what is right for the district.

    When you look at the # of employees and size of the budget… you would have a tough time finding an executive that makes less. And as the CEO — he make double what the highest paid teacher makes (not that his job is easier by any means — but in terms of looking at executive compensation in context) He makes about 3 times the average teacher. Tax dollars are compensating the super — but put in a corporate context — the pay compared to average worker…

    Here is what is going on in corporate US: Tampa Bay News (or something like that!)

    CEOs at larger U.S. corporations on average earn $430 for every $1 earned by the average U.S. worker.

    Twenty-six years ago, CEOs received an average of $10 for every $1 earned by a U.S. worker.

    So I know there is another side. But this year was the year to say — enough. Didn’t happen. Too bad.

    And way to go Jim Francis for doing so… even though your base is lower.

    The whole discussion is a sign of the property tax issue. Folks are overburdened… and the schools are a natural target as they eat up most of the budget.

    But the schools are the foundation. My property taxes are goign up over 20%… so I feel it. At the same time my home value has gone up a great deal as well, leading to the increase in taxes — and I believe it is because of the schools.

    Beth

  60. Wow. Rough sequence.

    Someone explain this to me…

    If the issue is that arbitration is always (or often) ruled in favor of the teachers at the expense of the taxpayer (which from what I reading absolves the EoD from accountability with teacher increases), then how do you get at the arbitration process – to correct it so that taxpayers and the EoD have better positioning when it comes to determing the outcome – thus correcting the unfair advantage that the teacher’s union has when it goes to arbitration.

    In other words, if what I’m reading is true – arbitration means taxpayers lose and the teacher’s union wins every time.

    What is the remedy for this?

    And this isn’t a slant against teachers, its simply a question of process. From what I’m reading it seems that the outcome is pre-determined each time.

  61. I have to reply to Beth Bye….

    Your comparisons are a little unfair with regard to private vs public sector CEOs (i.e. profit centers vs non-profit); clearly, they are on entirely different scales of measurement – profit margins vs tax dollars.

    See my posting at the top… use the link to navigate and compare positions in both private and public sectors. Without rehashing my post above, its expected that private sector CEOs are compensated far greater than what even Cabinet Level secretaries are paid. And we all can make the case that the position of even Agriculture Secretary is far more important than CEO of McDonalds Corp.

    Glad to hear that you think Sklarz is being somewhat greedy. Any thoughts from you as to why the teacher’s union refuses to give a little in the face of our budget concerns? How can you put some pressure on them to step up to the plate? Will Barbara Carpenter work on our behalf or will she just represent the Union’s views? You have insight… what do you think?

    As for property values going up… I think that’s a great thing, but you only cash in – when you sell.

  62. Monkey for the Masses

    I remember reading on this blog that it is not true that “arbitration means taxpayers lose and the teacher’s union wins every time”.

    It may have been Harry or some other upstanding individual like Gary Reger.

    You could trawl the archives.

    My numbers may be off, but didn’t the teachers get around 2.4% above the rate of inflation? Sorry, but I can’t get my britches all in a twist over 2.4%.

    And while it would have been a grand gesture for Dr. Sklarz to forego his raise, his salary seems well within range of what a superintendent running an operation like the WHPS could expect to make after 10 years on the job.

  63. EJ

    As president of the union, Carpenter’s job is to represent the union, not the taxpayers of WH.

  64. Osemasterofdoom

    I think Harry Captain would be better qualified to describe the binding arbitration process, but I’ll take a crack at it hoping he’ll correct any errors.

    Basically, if the administration and the union cannot come to an accord, the they go a board of three arbiters, one selected by each side and one selected from a list agreed upon by both sides as “neutral” for lack of a better term. Each side gives the arbiters their last best offer (I’m not sure if it has to be their final offer from the last round of collective bargaining or if it can be adjusted prior to submission). Then the arbiters weigh the two amounts based upon a set of predetermined factors (I believe two of them are a town’s ability to pay and pay scales from like towns nearby). The arbiters then decide which of the two offers is most appropriate and rules on that side. One of the key factors in the process is that to arbiters cannot select a “midpoint” between the two offers; they have to pick one or the other. Both sides have to live with the arbiters’ decision with no appeal.

    The problem is that the administration is put in the difficult position of having to calculate between what they feel is an “appropriate” amount and an amout they can “live with” from a budgetary point of view. If they come in too low, then the arbitrators will side with the union offer and the administration will have to find the money to fund the increase. Thus, things like cost of living increases are almost a given in the administration offer (and I think it’s fair to say that they “deserve” at least the COLA; heck, don’t we all?) . The real battle comes in the percentage increase over the COLA. Then, once the decision is reached, the teachers in neighboring towns comparable to ours have the advantage of saying “See? teachers in Town X got this increase, so it’s logical that we get the same increase or a little bit more.” And the next time arbitration comes around for Town X, it has to weigh the “little bit more” that was given to the educators in the comparable towns, and the process spirals ever upward from there. Thus, it is possible for the town to “win” an arbitration hearing (i.e. have their offer accepted over the union) but it has already had to factor in the increases in the other towns AND the need to not have their budget increased to the level of the union offer. So the arbiters’ choice is not between and increase and a decrease, it’s between two increases, one smaller and one larger.

    And please, do not take this as a criticism of the teachers and their union. The fact is that they are organized and effective. In that sense, they have earned the influence they have. It’s not about backdoor deals or dirty campaign contributions or bribes, it’s the simple fact that they can speak with one united voice. Even despite that, though, there are still issues at both the state and federal levels on which they get screwed (the battle over teacher pensions and their lack of social security benefits are just two examples). They are not all-powerful. They are simply better organized than Joe taxpayer.

    I hope that’s accurate. I stand ready to admit ignorance if someone more experienced in the process than I sees any inaccuracies.

  65. Harry Captain

    Appreciate the accurate synopsis Osemasterofdoom.

    Attached is a link to a brief legislative history of binding arbitration from the State of Connecticut website for those so inclined.

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/lab/rpt/2003-R-0764.htm

    As a reminder, arbitrator’s ruled as follows regarding the current teacher contract. The ONLY issue to go to arbitration was wages in each year of the contract. (Both parties reached agreement on benefits, contract language, etc.)

    2006/7 – Teachers Union Last Best Offer (LBO)
    2007/8 – Town of West Hartford (LBO)
    2008/9 – Teachers Union (LBO)

    It is my opinion/observation that the results of each town’s arbitrated contract seem to set the bar at “the floor” and not “the ceiling” for other districts that are in either the negotiation or mediation phase of bargaining (phases prior to arbitration). This is most unfortunate.

  66. Gary Reger

    Monkey — Thanks for the kudos but it wasn’t me who said anything about binding arbitration.

  67. Harry Captain

    If you’re really interested in “a read”, here’s a 155 page January 2006 report on Binding Arbitration for Municipal and School Employees. It does have an “executive summary”… 10 pages… only the State could call 10 pages an executive summary.

    http://cga.ct.gov/2005/pridata/Studies/pdf/Binding_Arbitration_Final_Report.pdf

  68. WH return

    First off, I have been in and out so I have tried to read all the posts before commenting.

    I want to thank Gary for his comments regarding Per Pupil $ versus inflationary spending. Based on pure economic measurements, it is hard to argue. What I believe is that individuals including myself see the absolute dollars being spent and begin to wonder where it stops. $11,000 versus $7,000 doesn’t seem to be out of sight over the time-frame you mentioned, but what are we measuring against? Have scores improved? Is there a better way to teach? How has technology enhanced education today and are we getting our value? It takes action and questions to ascertain the facts in order to make an informed decision(s). It seems to me when people question the actions, all hell breaks loose. Why?

    It annoys me when people (such as the WHTA) question their leaders and then get vilified by those who don’t want to question anything and continue to say “yes” to every item the BOE wants. No, we must determine what is right and what is wrong.

    Dr. Sklarz should be ashamed of himself but than again if someone handed me a $6K raise, I wouldn’t say no either. It’s not the CEO’s. They don’t vote their increases, it is the board of directors. It is the same thing with the BOE. Dr. Sklarz was granted an increase based on a contract and approval by the BOE.

    To those who rant on about house values. I can’t eat the siding. Yes, I can sell my house and move on but that doesn’t make everything right. Government at all levels is out of hand and the masses need to start saying enough. We continue to throw money in the black hole of education and the scores keep going down.

    I hope the BOE gets their just due in November because in my opinion they have let the town down by ignoring the voices of the community.

    Last, while it might seem that answers to questions and obtaining information is easier, why is that? I can assure you I tried to get data for a long time and it was not an easy process. Maybe a little commotion has loosened the mentality at Town Hall.

  69. Monkey for the Masses

    Have scores improved? Is there a better way to teach? How has technology enhanced education today and are we getting our value?

    It’s the old “Have scores improved?”! I think it’s fair to say that socioeconomics often come into play with regard to test scores and that the administration is clearly interested in finding ways to bring underachieving students up to speed. Or would you dispute that statement?

    As for technology, I would suggest that it is sound policy to acculturate children to technology, which, after all, defines the environment in which they will someday have to compete, while exploiting technology to advance literacy in all areas. Technology in some form has always been used in the classroom; why is this suddenly controversial?

    However, I would echo whoever said that technology isn’t worth a hill of beans unless you have good teachers to begin with, and further, not all good teachers are comfortable with technology.

    It annoys me when people (such as the WHTA) question their leaders and then get vilified by those who don’t want to question anything and continue to say “yes” to every item the BOE wants. No, we must determine what is right and what is wrong.

    Please. To the extent that that WHTA is vilified, it is because its officers resort to demagoguery, character assassination, innuendo, and outright lies to push their agenda. I agree that the taxpayers should scrutinize the budget and see to it that their money is being spent responsibly. On the other hand, I think the initial education budget should reflect an ideal, ambitious vision for the schools, and if that vision is too expensive, trim accordingly. I do not agree with scapegoating the administration and the BoE for higher taxes due to reval or hacking away at programs and services for schoolchildren. If the WHTA played an honest game, I would be OK with them. But they do not.

    And you know what? I got our tax bill today. Mind you, our assessment went up over 100% during reval. This time we’re oppressed by a whopping $80 increase over our last bill. Whoa! Yeah, we live on the low-rent side of town, but still. It makes me livid to think of what was sacrificed in the education budget over numbers like these.

  70. EJ

    MFTM, glad to hear your tax bill went up only $80, you were one of the lucky ones.

    Mine went up $400 and it would have been $2000 if there was no phase in.

    The way the Town and BOE like to spend, by the time phase in is over my bill will be up way over the initial $2000 est. After all Jim Francis already admited to the WHTA that we’ll not see the 29.17 mil rate claimed by the Mayor. Yet, None of you seemed to make a big deal over the Mayor’s misinformation.

  71. Monkey for the Masses

    OK, $400 is a hit. I am sorry to hear it.

    I would be annoyed with the mayor if he deliberately misled people about the mil rate, but I don’t know the story here.

  72. Joe Visconti

    Check out Yankee Institute for Public Policy’s website@ http://www.YankeeInstitute.org, look at the educational archives and the archive on the “Public Employee Complex” thats here now.
    A little appetizer below for the Educational Cartel Commrades!

    by Lewis M. Andrews, Ph.D.

    November 2006

    “The Coming Crisis in Suburban Schooling” reveals that the financial stability of public schools in expensive suburbs will soon be threatened by a combination of factors: the rebellion against high property taxes by homeowners without children in public schools, the growing popularity of school choice, the declining academic performance of all public schools, and the increasing incidence of school corruption.

    Dr. Lewis M. Andrews is Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy Inc. at Trinity College, a Connecticut research and educational institute.

  73. Sean McCann

    What I believe is that individuals including myself see the absolute dollars being spent and begin to wonder where it stops. $11,000 versus $7,000 doesn’t seem to be out of sight over the time-frame you mentioned, but what are we measuring against? Have scores improved? Is there a better way to teach? How has technology enhanced education today and are we getting our value? It takes action and questions to ascertain the facts in order to make an informed decision(s). It seems to me when people question the actions, all hell breaks loose. Why?

    D’oh! You know, there was a time when you could buy a loaf of bread for a dime. And yet the price keeps going up and up. When will it stop? Is the bread better? Do we get more slices? The greedy bakers are just out of control and want more and more.

    What you should be measuring, if you were being intellectually honest, WHreturn, is the real cost of expenditures. It’s not $11,000 versus $7,000, we should be talking about, but $11, 255 vs. $11,274. In other words, as Gary pointed out, in real dollars we spend less per pupil than we did in 1990! (Let that sink in for a second, why don’t you.) We should all be grateful to him for introducing a little accuracy into the conversation. Unfortunately, all you guys can do is ignore him or change the subject.

    BTW, it would be nice if you or anyone at the WHTA really did show much of an interest in pedagogy and performance. Frankly, I don’t buy it. It’s not exactly topic A with you guys.

  74. Sean McCann

    a Connecticut research and educational institute

    Please. This is not a research organization; it’s an advocacy group whose agenda is to blow up the public sector. Literally. Here’s how Dr. Andrews, Ph.D., describes the mission: “I compare the Yankee Institute’s role in Connecticut to Doolittle’s raid over Tokyo.” (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3827/is_200211/ai_n9151492)

    Charming.

    And, btw, exactly what incidence of school corruption in WH are we talking about?

  75. WH Alum

    Osemasterofdoom –
    Since you asked, I have taken a pay cut in the past to move on to another job…

    To move on to another job – not to stay in the same job with the same hours, responsibilities, etc – and perhaps even more because of cuts around you (like the middle school Quest teachers.)

    MFTM –
    My numbers may be off, but didn’t the teachers get around 2.4% above the rate of inflation? Sorry, but I can’t get my britches all in a twist over 2.4%.

    I agree with you. Especially because it wasn’t 2.4% over the COLA – it was 2.4% period. Some would argue that it was more because teachers rising through steps got more, but those “at the top” got just the 2.4%.

    Sean – thanks for that clarification!

  76. WH Alum

    According to http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/colaseries.html (Social Security website) the 2006 COLA was 3.3%:

    “Based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2005 through the third quarter of 2006, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive a 3.3 percent COLA for 2007.”

  77. Gary Reger

    Dr. Lewis M. Andrews is Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy Inc. at Trinity College, a Connecticut research and educational institute.

    This statement, identifying Dr. Andrews, is at best misleading. The “Yankee Institute for Public Policy” is not “at” Trinity College; it has no association with Trinity College at all except in so far as a professor at Trinity is one of its founders. (The mailing address given on the Institute’s website is in fact that professor’s house.) Dr. Andrews himself is not an employee of Trinity or connected with the college in any way, shape, or form.

    Sean is also correct in his characterization of the Institute, which does not conduct research but polemicizes for its positions.

  78. Joe Visconti

    Excellent work from Armand Fusco, easy reading for Sean and Gary- http://www.Yankeeinstitute.org

    Stopping School Corruption
    by Armand Fusco

    Hartford, May 17, 2006 — In a new manual for Nutmeg State taxpayers, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy outlines strategies to combat corruption in Connecticut’s school districts.

    “Stopping School Corruption: A Manual for Taxpayers,” by Armand Fusco, Ed.D., is designed to assist Connecticut taxpayers who are seeking responsible answers from districts about whether school resources are being protected from abuse.

    Fusco’s manual lists ten questions school boards should be asked to determine whether school corruption is being committed. Topics covered by the questions include asset management, credit cards, student-activity funds, state/federal grants, contracting, and personnel policies.

    “This manual will be a powerful tool for citizen-activists all over Connecticut,” said Yankee Institute Executive Director Lewis Andrews, Ph.D. “‘Stopping School Corruption’ is the latest step in the Yankee Institute’s mission to supply helpful tools to the leaders of taxpayer groups, who are fighting important battles at the local level.”

    Fusco, the former superintendent of the Branford School District, is also the author of School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust. The book, published last year, documented hundreds of examples of corruption in government schools throughout the nation.

    “We must realize,” Fusco said, “that Connecticut is no stranger to corruption in its school districts — no state is. This problem can only be addressed responsibly and effectively by alerting the public and by generating outside pressure and public discussion. That’s what the Yankee Institute is committed to doing.”

    Dr. Fusco holds a master’s degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts. Since retiring from his superintendent post in 1992, he has authored many professional works, as well as a regular column, “Inside Education,” which is published by several Connecticut shoreline newspapers.

    “With 10 simple questions,” Andrews said, “Dr. Fusco empowers citizens with the ability to discern if their school districts are really being run in the best interest of the community.”

    Yankee Institute Philip Gressel Fellow for Tax and Budget Policy D. Dowd Muska believes the release of Fusco’s manual is timely, given the municipal-budget fights that are currently being waged across the state: “Adjusted for inflation, Connecticut more than doubled its spending on government schools between 1981 and 2001 — despite a very small increase in student enrollment. It is entirely appropriate for taxpayers to demand greater transparency and better management of school districts.”

  79. Sean McCann

    Well, just to ruin my night I went and read Dr. (Ph.D. in social psychology, btw) Andrews’s “Coming Crisis in Suburban Schooling.” What a stew of half-truths, misinformation, and vile innuendo. My favorite line was this charmer: “public schooling in the suburbs is a form of upper-middle class racketeering.” Lovely. With brilliant logic Dr. Andrews then goes on to describe the same suburbanites as an “upper middle class under class.” I get it, they’re depraved because they’re deprived—even though they’re supposed to be ripping off themselves.

    Oh, and the terrible incidence of suburban school corruption? Andrews has . . . wait for it . . . one example—Roslyn, NY. Yeah, this is serious research.

    Come to think of it, who exactly is the cartel to which Joe refers? Is it public schools, whose finances are open to public inspection? Or is it these right-wing so-called think tanks who, propped up by unnamed sponsors, obfuscate their mission (and even their addresses, in some cases apparently) so they can flood the media with cheap propaganda labeled as non-partisan research?

  80. Sean McCann

    I understand, Joe. “Excellent work” means, “says what you like.” But, if you’ve read Fusco’s book, what exactly is the growing incidence of school corruption? Got any data, or is it just more innuendo?

    I particularly like the line about how the book “documented hundreds of examples of corruption in government schools throughout the nation.” I’m schocked, shocked. Hundreds of examples you say? Let’s see, how many schools are there in this country again? Hundreds would be what percentage? (That’s not even considering time period and seriousness of the crimes. Something leads me to believe that Mr. Fusco will be shaping the data toward the conclusions he wants to imply.)

    Oh, and another nice touch. Getting one member of the think tank to praise the timeliness of another’s book. The herd of independent minds over there, I guess.

  81. Joe Visconti

    Dr. Andrews also covers “The Public Employment Complex” a real eye opener, search Yankee’s archives for more on this great work @ http://www.Yankeeinstitute.org Can’t wait for Sean or Gary to Rewrite portions of the Posts!

    America’s Second Civil War: The Public Employment Complex vs. Taxpayers

    by Lewis M. Andrews, Ph.D.

    Yankee Institute for Public Policy

    Politicians have made more salary and benefit promises to public employees than American taxpayer can possibly afford. The result will be the most divisive domestic conflict since the Civil War.

  82. Joe Visconti

    Praise the Lord Sean !

  83. Joe Visconti

    Educational Cartel Member…… For more info http://www.UnionFacts.com

    American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
    National Headquarters
    555 NEW JERSEY AVE NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20001

    “I’ll start representing kids when kids start paying union dues,” said former American Federation of Teachers President Al Shanker. You’ve got to give the AFT credit: it is more open about its mission, which it now claims is “to improve the lives of our members and their families,” than is its rival, the National Education Association. The smaller of two national education unions, the AFT is a member of the AFL-CIO.
    Like its AFL-CIO brothers, the AFT indulges in the language of conflict. Among its bank accounts are a “solidarity fund” and a “militancy/defense fund” ? the union’s single largest war chest with more than $31 million in the bank.

    The AFT’s militant behavior is best illustrated by its association with one group in particular: In 2004, the union gave $100,000 of its members’ money to a minimum wage ballot campaign in Florida. That campaign, designed to increase voter turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate, was run by a shady group called ACORN, which has been tied to voter fraud in at least 10 states. Undaunted by the fraud that beset that campaign, the AFT’s New York state federation paid the radical group more than $125,000 to organize teachers.

    The AFT isn’t afraid to flex its financial muscle in the policy realm either. In its fiscal year 2005, the union spent $7.7 million on government relations (influencing their own employers) and almost $5.5 million on public affairs (indirectly influencing their own employers).

    And while there are countless AFT members who don’t like the causes the union supports, there is no one that condones the fraud seen by local AFT unions. One of the most egregious examples of union staff taking advantage of their members comes from the AFT’s Washington, D.C. affiliate, which lost as much as $6 million to embezzlement.

  84. Sean McCann

    I don’t know what that’s supposed to prove, Joe. More innuendo and misinformation showing what exactly? That the AFT wants to protect the interests of its members and organize workers? Shocking. There oughta be a law.

    I’m still waiting, btw, to hear about the growing incidence of corruption in suburban schools. My guess, it isn’t there.

  85. Joe Visconti

    Sean

    There’s a little sample of corruption in the Hartford Fishwrap this morning from Hamden, but my God it’s a charter school, that won’t matter will it?

  86. WH Return

    Well, like I said – individuals come forward to raise some objections and all hell breaks lose. The WHTA didn’t do anything misleading (nor am I a member). If anyone has mislead, it is the Town Mgr. who already has admitted, the mill rate will never get to the point that was initially stated.

    Duh! I realize a movie was .50 when you were growing up but at $10.00 today, I don’t go. Lets take the attitude and do nothing, then maybe the BOE can get another $12k raise for another member of the bureaucracy.

    By the way, for the upteenth time, I or no one ever said cut teachers. It is the only place left to cut when you continue to hand dollars over to the top members or pay for programs that present no value.

  87. Sean McCann

    No, Joe. I think it does matter. Why? Because the solution that the Yankee Institute proposes to the alleged problem of suburban school corruption is . . . school choice. So, what the Hamden example shows is that, if there are in fact opportunities for corruption in schools, those opportunities will exist at least as much–of course, probably more–in the very thing the Yankee Institute offers as an answer.

    In fact, the Hamden example arguably shows two additional things. One, in the efficiency with which Blumenthal seems to have responded, it shows the necessity of an effective public sector to the protection of some public goods like schooling. I.e., oversight matters. Relatedly, in the fact that the school parents defended the school even despite its founder’s corruption, the example shows why the market-based solutions that Yankee Institute proposes to the problems it invents probably won’t work as Yankee fantasizes. (I.e., in an efficient market, corrupt merchants lose business. That’s not gonna happen with the Hamden school because the parents rightly recognize that they have to balance their interest in a good education for their kids with their interest in making an example of rip-off artists.) So, in effect what the Hamden example suggests are some reasons why, despite the smears and innuendo of their ideological opponents, public schools, and public servants to oversee them, remain necessary.

    These are all obvious points, of course. Is the Yankee Insitute aware of them? Of course. They’re not idiots. They’re ideologues. If they were intellectually, and politically, honest, they would bring these points up themselves. But they’re not. They’d rather make vague, unsubstantiated allegations just to stir the sense that something is wrong.

    The same qualities are on display in your post about the AFT. You wouldn’t know from it, say, that Albert Shanker has been dead for years and was last president of the AFT 10 years ago. Or that he ultimately became a political appointee of Bush I. You wouldn’t know either that ACORN, whose connection to the AFT seems to be pretty minimal, is “tied” to voter corruption in the sense that: (1) it has seen a few cases of employees working for personal gain, who were fired by ACORN itself (i.e. pointing to no pattern of corruption or specifically political motivation); and (2) charges were brought against it that ultimately had to be dropped because of lack of evidence (hmmm, I wonder why).

    I mention all this only because they are yet more examples of the low standard of intellectual honesty that seems to prevail among antitax ideologues.

  88. Look folks, every “source” has some agenda, from those who think we don’t pay enough, to the WHTA, to the Teacher’s Union. There’s probably a little truth in all of the information presented.

    The question on the table is how much are people willing to pay out of their budgets. West Hartford is very expensive and taxes are clearly, clearly – one of the highest in the region. So it gets back to the basic question – how much is enough to keep the lights on without huring middle class and lower class familes, and those with a fixed income. It seems there has got to be a better response than — “move out you old bat.”

  89. Gary Reger

    I’m not sure why reading the studies issued by the Yankee Institute should cause me to “rewrite portions of [my] posts.” Nothing I read there has any bearing on the issues I’ve tried to address — actual per-pupil spending costs, importance of teachers in education, the disingenuousness of calls for teachers to accept pay cuts.

    I skimmed through America’s Second Civil War: The Public Employment Complex vs. Taxpayers(/i>, by Lewis M. Andrews. It’s a strange screed. Andrews says that liberal critiques of conservative views always take the most minor problems and elevate them to the level of the apocalypse, but he himself calls the “problem” of funding future obligations by states to public employee retirement funds “a second civil war.” That’s pretty offensive when you remember that at least 618,000 people died in that conflict. We are talking about taxes, for goodness sake.

    Andrews’ “research” to support his claims rests largely on newspaper articles and essays by right-wing commentators. He throws around a lot of numbers but offers no real data. An example: he says that in Illinois obligations to the public employee pension funds will reach $4 billion/year by 2010 (his source is the Manhattan Institute, yet another right-wing paper machine). That sounds like a lot of money till you discover that the Illinois state budget in fiscal 2004 was $56 billion, meaning that these obligations represent less than 7% of the total state budget. And in all his ranting about the imposition of higher taxes by states Andrews breathes not a word about the fundamental cause: the enormous Bush tax cut for the wealthy passed in Bush’s first term essentially ended federal block grants to the states. Most states went from running budget surpluses to facing huge deficits. In other words, the “crisis” that Andrews identifies, to the extent it is real, owes its existence not to the greed of public employees but to the greed of the wealthiest Americans.

    I could go on and on but will refrain with just one more amusing bit — Andrews warns us suburbanites who’ve built “gold-plated schools” based on the assumption that rising property values will cover the cost (apparently Dr. Andrews does not understand that a higher evaluation is a paper profit, nor that taxes are determined by mill rate, not assessment, nor that, in West Hartford, anyway, our education budget has simply kept up with inflation, not increased) will be shocked when property values collapse because free enterprise will bring flourishing schools to inner cities. This claim alone shows the fantasy world he’s operating in.

    One is amused, at the end of Andrews’ text, after the footnotes, to find a nice page begging for donations to the Institute, starting with a suggestion contribution of $10,000. I think this tells us something about the audience at which Andrews’ and his fellow thinkers’ analyses are aimed.

    I am very sorry to waste so many of the list’s electrons on this post that’s really beside the point. I hope we can return now to duscussion focused on our own Town.

    In that context, I do not know but would like to know the basis for the claim Joe quoted that in real constant dollars spending in Connecticut on public schools has doubled since 1981. For that to be true for West Hartford, our per pupil spending in 1981 would have had to have been about $2500 in 1981 dollars. Unfortunately the data the Town provided me with went back only to 1990/1991.

  90. Joe Visconti

    Anti Tax? Sean?
    Amazing, so you are Pro Tax?
    Newsflash:
    There are “Anti- Overtaxed Citizens” that don’t buy the Union Myths which grant Teachers raises every year of their carreers no matter how bad the economic climate is for resident taxpayers and then there are the “Pro Tax us more Citizens” that buy the Myths of the Education Cartel who lobby for laws that protect their jobs and block any chance of Educational Alternative’s or Innovation!

  91. Gary Reger

    I apologize for the typos and formatting howlers in my post.

  92. turtle, your MFTM

    The WHTA didn’t do anything misleading (nor am I a member).

    Not true. As you know, the flyer that appeared in Tradewinds was, to put it charitably, “misleading”. No matter how often you repeat that the WHTA did nothing wrong, it will not make it true.

    Thanks, WH Alum and Harry, for the links.

    King: It seems there has got to be a better response than — “move out you old bat.” You almost had me there before that cheap shot.

    And Sean baby, rock on!

  93. turtle

    And Gary Reger, rock on!

    Your humility about typos is too sweet coming after one of Joe’s 18th century formatting jobs.

  94. Gary Reger

    Thanks, Turtle — and call me Gary (just like Ishmael!).

  95. It was humor turtle.. .but let me point out that that was a quote… specific quote from my fixed income neighbor who is in her 70s. She actually said, what are they saying to me… “move out you old bat, if you can’t afford to pay the taxes.”

    Maybe that context will make you feel a little better about it.

  96. Joe Visconti

    18th Century Turtle? Hmn, The Renaissance Man Cometh, to show all the Specialists from the Educational Cartel that Myth worshiping will inevitably lead us all to another October 1929 correction.

  97. Gary Reger

    Most “Renaissance men” were what we would call, I suppose, “public employees.” Machiavelli worked in the foreign ministry of Florence, many other “Renaissance men” worked as secretaries for the rulers of Italian city-states or in the Vatican bureaucracy, and some were faculty at public universities. So I guess the return of the “Renaissance man” will mean a huge increase in public employees, and I guess big tax increases to pay their salaries and attract the best.

  98. Good point, Gary. But I’m sure Machiavelli, et al weren’t knocking down the then-value of today’s 188K’s salary and then asking for more.

    I hope folks understand, I mean really understand, that after all the chest pounding and smoke and mirrors blow over after all the union debates are over, the teachers I know BRAG about how great they have it. Summers at the beachhouse and better hours than I have to work, etc.

    So I know the “stick-to-the-message” postings you see here, but when you know teachers – outside of this little forum and when the cameras aren’t on… they are happy folk. Just so that you know. And God bless ’em – if they managed to become well-organized, work a sweet deal, and enjoy their jobs, and make great wages and have great healthcare (then a lot of us). That’s the way it is. No complaints from me there.

    Hey, we all could have become teachers. But we chose what we chose and you benefit or suffer accordingly.

    My issue is specifically with the out of dollar taxes I pay here, and how that amount is derived. It’s not with the people, although I think as others have posted – some could step up and be a little more helpful. Then again, Sklarz is living high on the hog. If we are willing to pay it, then why not take it? It’s good old capitalism – everyone gets a piece!

  99. And Turtle… I want to really give you a fair shake.

    As I mentioned, my neighbor “Mrs. B” and her husband on on fixed incomes. And they are in their 70s and have been living in town for 46 years. Yet taxes have gone up on them every year, not 1% or 2%, but on average of 4% since 1991.

    So, I’d like to know what you (and maybe McCann) would tell Ms. B when she says, “what they are telling me, is move out you old bat, if you can’t afford it.”

    Ok, that is how she and her husband are feeling because they are not seeing increase in their retirement checks to keep up with WH taxation increases. She says, who speaks up for people like me at these increase meetings?

    I printed off some of the musing on this forum. She says its a lot of “fancy talk”. I can’t blame her for that statement, but at the end of the day, as she’s living on a fixed income, she feels she’s being taken advantage of, after paying in all these years to a system that doesn’t take her situation (and many other seniors’ situations, into account).

    So what do I tell her, Turtle, McCann?

    I will hand her your response.

  100. Gary Reger

    I keep feeling that at the bottom of much of the discussion on this thread lurks a suspicion of, or even dislike for, the free public school system itself. Saying this I do not mean to impute views to anyone; I recognize many contributors simply want accountability and transparency, and I do too. But I also feel that it is not inappropriate to say something more general about this institution.

    The United States pioneered free public education. This was not the standard way people got educated in Europe before 1800. In many ways, free public education grew up with American democracy. A basic argument in favor of it was that a thriving civil society and vigorous participatory democracy demanded an electorate that was not only educated, but that shared an education. Free public schools were supposed to offer that shared public education. As the country expanded the electorate from the original body of property-owning white males to include white males without property, former black slaves, citizens of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and women, the role of free public schooling in providing a basic civil education shared by all became commensurately important. It is no exaggeration to say that the greatness America has achieved rests in no small part on its dynamic commitment to free public education for all, and that this is an institution of which we should be justly proud: it is perhaps the most wholly democratic institution in the country.

    Indeed, the American dream, that anyone no matter background or poverty, can succeed, depends crucially on free public education. Without it, no poor person can get the education needed to enjoy personal and professional success because they cannot afford private schooling. For myself, product of a great free public school system, I can say without hesitation that I owe my current middle-class life to that education, which gave me skills and put in my head ideas about achievement that would otherwise never have been there.

    To get a sense of the importance for vigorous democracy of free public schools one need only look at all too many third world countries. Completely lacking public education, or with a system direly underfunded and understaffed, the only people who get an education that allows them to succeed are the children of the rich, whose parents can afford expensive private schools. The result? In all too many cases grindingly impoverished countries run by a tiny but fabulously wealthy elite who appropriate for themselves what wealth the country generates.

    To ground overselves in a little reality, let’s remember what a private education costs just here in West Hartford:

    Kingswood-Oxford: $26,600/year — 71% at full
    Renbrook: $25,900/year — 80% at full
    Watkinson: $25,200 — 65% at full

    Suppose your annual property tax bill is $4000. Since about half the Town’s budget goes to the schools, you’re paying about $2000/year for education. That’s less than a tenth of what a private school would cost, per pupil. Given the quality of West Hartford’s schools, this is an amazing bargain. And it’s a bargain too for every resident without kids in school, because the quality of our schools is directly related to the very low rates of juvenile crime and to the high incomes we can expect those kids to achieve later in life — when their taxes will pay for our social security, streets, cops, fire protection, etc.

    I know some will say — “This is a false dichotomy! We don’t want to eliminate public schools! We want school choice/charter schools/accountability.” Let’s not forget Hartford’s disasterous experiment, a few years back, with putting its schools into the hands of a private company: unqualified teachers, poor or no equipment, teachers paying for paper and crayons out of their own pockets, a distant management in Philadelphia that did not answer to the City or its taxpayers. It was in fact the worst of both worlds: bad education with no accountability. If you want accountability, nothing beats a public institution. Can you imagine the response I would have gotten asking for proprietary information about per-pupil spending from a private company? And as for issues of corruption, let’s not forget Enron, Worldcom, Adelphi — the biggest scandals of corruption in recent memory have occurred in private business.

    By none of this do I mean to glamorize the public schools. Like everything human beings do, they are not perfect, they benefit from vigilance. But they are ours, as citizens, and we have the right and the duty to scrutinize their operations and maintain their excellence. In so doing I ask that we all bear always in mind the fundamental linkage between the free public school system and American democracy, for to honor, support, and strengthen the one is to honor, support, and strengthen the other.

  101. John Hardy

    Oh good, something I can chime in on (I’ve been concerned that this thread was heading in the direction of those Western Civ. survey courses I slept through almost 30 years ago. I was almost waiting for Mr. Visconti to ride his horse to Town Hall and nail his 95 Theses on the front door).

    King – what you say to Mrs. B is, yes the means for allocating civic financial responsibility in Connecticut is wrong. We ought not be taxing value to the extent we are. (Yes, I not only mean real property but the estate tax is also unfair for the same reasons). We need to pass a fair (to all segments) progressive income tax in this state to allocate that financial responsibility to those who can afford to pay, rather than those who by happenstance of paper value seem to be able to pay.

  102. Sean McCann

    Well, King, there’s a lot I might say to her–though if she thinks that what I’ve said already is just fancy talk, she might not be inclined to listen.

    I’d say that I sympathize with her, as I do with anyone who under financial stress. I don’t have a problem with the estate tax myself, but like John, I’d prefer it if we didn’t use property taxes to finance public education. It would be nice if we could change that, though it seems unlikely. You could tell her, though, that she could press for means-tested tax relief for seniors on fixed incomes. I’d be glad to support that.

    I’d ask her, too, whether she has children and if they went to WH schools. If the answers to those questions are yes, as Gary points out, she in all liklihood benefitted disproportionately to the taxes she paid for all the years her children were in school. I’d ask her, also, if she remembers similar debates from when she was younger. I didn’t grow up in WH, but if she has children, I might be around their age, and I remember senior citizens in my wealthy suburb complaining about the tax burdens that school financing placed on them.

    If she’s owned her house for 46 years, I’d also point out that she stands to make an enormous amount of money from the investment she made in her home. I might add, too, that if she paid for the house with a mortgage, she was the beneficiary of a very significant public subsidy (via federal tax deductions). In effect, other taxpayers not only subsidized her housing expenses, they also helped her to accrue great wealth, which she someday may be able to pass onto others.

    I’d also say that I’m glad I live in a town that seems to provide good services for its senior citizens and that is a vibrant community where I’d be glad to live myself when I’m older. That’s possible, of course, because younger people live here and do the work, feed the economy, and pay the taxes that make WH a good place to live. If our schools crumble, those other things will go with it, and WH won’t be such a good place for seniors to live.

    Finally, I’d say regrettably that sometimes people do have to move when their expenses exceed their ability to pay. That could be because of any number of rising costs. My mother moved out of my childhood home decades ago. Though it’s sad, lots of people do and prosper. Mrs. B is in all liklihood lucky that, if she does someday have to move, she’ll make a great deal of money and will have many options. I’d like to see younger people have those options someday too.

  103. John Hardy

    One other thing for Mrs. B: Make certain that she is aware of the tax relief programs that are in place. While the offsets aren’t tremendous, they can make a difference to some. http://www.west-hartford.com/townservices/towndepartments/AssessmentOffice/AssessmentTaxLinks.htm

    Note, the income levels are derived from state law.

  104. Sean McCann

    btw, King, your historical analogies, like Joe Visconti’s are pretty doubtful. I’m no expert, but I’d be willing to bet that the Renaissance men were actually wealthier relative to their average contemporaries than today’s teachers or even administrators.

    Joe, of course, has forgotten that the 1929 correction came at the end of a decade of laissez faire.

  105. turtle

    Huh. I’ve enjoyed the historical backdrop a lot.

    I see that Sean has already posted with far more acumen than I, and I have nothing to add, really, but…

    King, you may say I’m humorless, but the fact is that people like Teresa McGrath have been quick to accuse education advocates of being willing to boot little old ladies out of their homes. Excuse me if I placed your remark in the context of the customary cheap rhetoric.

    I resent the assumption that those in favor of a robust education budget are callous to the plight of seniors on a fixed income. But of course, you can be a senior on a fixed income and still have resources. I do favor relief for seniors in straitened circumstances.

    Meanwhile, I appreciate that Mrs. B has paid into the system, but (as Sean pointed out so expansively) she has also gained from it, especially if she has children who attended the West Hartford schools. Knowing little about Mrs. B’s circumstances, however, it’s difficult to comment, except to say that I hope that despite her tax burden she is able to stay in her home.

  106. Gary Reger

    Sean and John make excellent points. I might add:

    If Mrs. B. depends in whole or part for social security for her income, she should have been getting regular cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Many private pension plans provide COLAs too. If she has not been getting them, she needs to check right away with the Social Security Administration.

    One option for people who are equity-rich but cash-poor is a reverse mortgage. These are very popular and from what I understand safe — Mrs. B could talk with a loan officer, at no cost, at her bank to see whether she would qualify and whether such a program would be right for her.

    It’s always a good idea to have a reputable financial planner to help with figuring out money matters. I was astonished at some federal tax savings I missed until I started getting advice! I just glanced at the IRS regulations about property taxes and there may be ways to save there as local property taxes go up. Again, reputable advice! Your bank may be able to recommend an advisor, or try the AARP for references.

    It might help to reconnect with the public education system. Schools are crying out for volunteers, especially to read with kids K-3. You can do as much or as little as you like. Gives you a more concrete sense of what your taxes are paying for, and the kids love having new caring adults in the classroom! Call the principal at the local elementary school.

    I wouldn’t depend on others to “represent me” on issues I care deeply about. When you authorize someone else to speak on your behalf, you never know what they are going to say and claim you support! Better to go to those meetings yourself, or if you can’t, write a letter. Same holds on the state and federal level — write Dodd and Lieberman and tell them to push for bigger COLAs for social security!

    Good luck, Mrs. B!

  107. Joe Visconti

    Ah, how fast we forget that the West Hartford Residents rejected the Budget by a vast margin. With all the lenghthy Posts it looks like the Education Cartel commrades are really trying hard to reinforce the deteriorating Union Myths. Let me put some soundbites together for ya

    Unions are good
    Schools are strong
    Just pass the buck
    We’ll pass the bong

    Teachers do care
    Super does too
    Give them more money
    To write more rules

    Taxes are high
    But that’s Ok
    Cause we love taxes
    They make our day!

  108. Gary Reger

    Boris, darling, I worried. Joe Visconti call us “comrades”. You think he know what we up to?

    Don’t be silly, Natasha. Joe as dumb as moose and squirrel. We plot to undermine America with public schools. Ha ha ha!

    But Boris, remember, we plot to undermine America with fluoridated water. That scheme not work! Only give Americans stronger teeth to bite us in rear!

    Natasha, you always look on bad side. Stronger teeth make it harder for squirrel to gnaw down incisors! Have to chomp all day! No time to chase us!

    But Boris, what about scheme to undermine America by giving blacks the vote? Supposed to cause second War Between the States. Now look, Atlanta is rich city! Or plot to undermine America with women’s liberation? Now have Ann Coulter!

    Ah but now Americans must listen to Hillary and Barak all day. Give them BIG headache. Ha ha ha!

    Boris, I not so sure this good plan. West Hartford schools top rate. Kids go to college. Get good jobs. Make lots of money. Like capitalism. Sound to me like we not undermining America, we making it stronger.

    Silly girl! West Hartford schools now so good moose and squirrel flunk out! Make school non-performing under No Child Left Behind! Plus, no moose and squirrel, Boris and Natasha do whatever they want!

    Boris, you are brilliant!

    I told you so, Natasha!

  109. Harry Captain

    Reality check over rhetoric:

    Looking at tax bills that arrived yesterday, our house is up $306. Our cars are down -$288.

    NET taxes 2006 vs. 2007: An increase of $18 or .25% (that’s 1/4 of 1%). YIKES!

    Oh, and have I shared yet that the value of our home doubled? But hey, you know, that’s only a paper gain… of $207,815… What was I thinking when I tapped my 401(k) for $20K to buy in WH?!

    Better call the moving van… I can’t handle this.

  110. The King

    That’s mighty fine rhetoric, Harry. Yours checks out fine. Be careful or you might find Joe Visconti helping you pack that moving van. *smile*

    Mrs. B didn’t fair as well as you did. Something is awry.

    Everyone else – thanks for your input, I will share with Mr and Mrs. B. 46 years certainly makes her a staple. No doubt she’ll love McCann’s last paragraph, and the fact that some of you think she and people of her “time” somehow managed to benefit disporportionally (a bizarre notion to say the least) but at least McCann honest about what he thinks and his agenda is loud and clear. And Mrs. B will likely be happy about all the sympathy she’s gained, but she’s still stuck with the bill.

    (And as an aside, I did urge her to talk to the town tax folks to make sure that everything is in order).

    As for my historical reference (singular) being the same as Joe Visconti’s … well, we’ll see. I’ll post some additional facts for you on just how “well off” Renaissance men actually were. I think you might be surprised at actually how they lived and died. Most of these men were tools of their masters.

    One things is for sure, McCann. When it comes to history, you can bet I have it right. You may not like it, but its correct.

  111. Harry Captain

    I’m sorry to hear Mrs. B didn’t do as well.

    How did you do? You’re her neighbor so your homes were probably close. Then factor in the cars.

    Seriously. Total tax increase, 2006/2007 year. How much?

  112. EJ

    Sorry guys, the car issue doesn’t hold.

    Cars depreciate every year, so car taxes will go down even if the mil rate stays the same.

    You can also sell an expensive car and replace it with a less expensive car without seriously effecting your life style, your home is a different story.

    This year you got lucky with the cars, next year when the town has to raise the mil rate it will be a different story.

  113. Sean McCann

    King, my agenda is that West Hartford have decent public schools and and good public services–that we do our best to see that all of our children get a good education and that we try to create an educated workforce so that our economy will grow and our houses expand in value. I hope that is loud and clear.

  114. Joe Visconti - Mr Know it all

    But Boris
    “Kids go to college get good jobs make lots of money “somewhere else, never come back to help out town. Teachers don’t care, make more money no matter who they teach, everyone sell homes, Old Folks get reverse mortage, Unions add more job try to figure out why kids score’s drop, they don’t care make more money when scores drop , just add more tests.

  115. Harry Captain

    So now the laws of mathematics no longer apply?

    Yes, cars depreciate. However, the mill rate WAS reduced. Therefore if you have the same property as last year, the tax increase on your home is offset by a tax decrease on your automobiles. This is exactly what you were told by the Town Council.

    Next year, the grand list grows as the next 17.5% of revaluation is phased in. The grand list grows further as Blue Back Square and condos in Bishop’s Corner and Elmwood come on line. Next year the mill rate will again be lowered and tax increases on homes will again be offset by tax decreases on automobiles. This isn’t due to some one time occurrence of luck. This is math.

    You all have your bills… please do the math…

    When you compare TOTAL property tax bills year over year for the same property and SEE what the difference actually is – you may be just as surprised as I was at the difference.

    I spoke to a Montclair Drive resident today about this… and then heard from them later on in the day… their total increase was $54.

  116. Joe Visconti - Mr Know it all

    Mr Mcann
    You loud and clear but make no sense, you keep try to create educated work force for all hot jobs out there with same old system. Good & Decent expensive words, how bout Fair & Affordable? me like those words best. Me like deals, me like when I get bargain, me no like to have to pay all time, too many rules, too much paperwork, cut out middleman Unions, me like that. let young college grads teach my kids for cheap, bring them back home to work in same town, at home, push out old teachers who always want more for doing same old job. me like that lots.

  117. Joe Visconti

    Nice try Harry, my Parents live on Montclair Drive, don’t even start with the $50 something tax increase for some resident on that street (probably Kathy Wilson) unless you want a call from them, sample more houses and do all the math. BTW, next time try to stay in Town to vote down salaries like Mr S which is the Issue we are addressing.

  118. turtle

    Joe?

    Harry Captain: My apologies again for missing the vote. Had I voted, the margin would have only been tighter than 4-2. The ultimate outcome would have remained the same.

    Pay attention. And what difference does it make whose taxes on Montclair Drive went up $54? The point is they only went up $54!

    Silly girl! West Hartford schools now so good moose and squirrel flunk out! Make school non-performing under No Child Left Behind! Plus, no moose and squirrel, Boris and Natasha do whatever they want!

    That made my day.

  119. Ed

    Gary Reger – You absolutely have no idea about the real reason of the emergence of free public education in this country, do you? You have obviously read the romanticized and sanitized version probably put out by the NEA. American Education was built on the Prussian education model and was designed to keep those darned Irish Catholics away from those decent hardworking Protestants. It was designed to keep the common masses apart from the elites in private institutions.
    Reread your history sir. There was no noble intention to eventually raise up a group of intellectuals from all walks of life.

    It also came more into vogue for purposes of getting children out of the workhouses during the Industrial Revolution via compulsory education laws, and before that time most average kids in pioneer times only got their learning in one rooms school houses for purposes of being able to read the Bible and figure out how much their crops were worth. Others got schooled by private tutors or by their own families.

    Is public education a necessary institution these days – sure it is.
    Is it an infrastructure we must fund. Sure – within reason.
    Does it have problems? It sure does because it is failing many kids. All one has to do is look over in Hartford where they spend $13,000 per kid to see that. And so it goes that more money does not always equal a better education.

    No doubt the comfortable life you are leading is not directly related to free public education, but the fact that you completed a college education which you most likely paid a lot for. Most kids come away with $40,000 in loans these days.
    Nowadays just a free public education (k-12) doesn’t get you much, and many kids sadly need remedial classes even in college.

    As for comparing what it costs in West Hartford to a private school education, I would venture to say taxpayers are shelling out $11-12,000 per pupil which is probably what some of these parents are actually paying towards private school if you count in the scholarships private schools give out. Yeah it’s a bargain all right – West Hartford parents are getting close to a private school education for their kids courtesy of the WH taxpayer, many of which voted against raising their taxes. Maybe your taxes haven’t gone up much, but there are others who have reached their tipping point. Guess it’s their time to leave. Oh well, who needs that riff raff anyway. Trade in those old people for more Yuppies.

  120. Harry Captain

    Joe,
    I’d be happy to assist your parents in calculating their total year over year tax increase and report the results back here on this blog.

    Set it up. We can report on your house too if you’d like.

  121. turtle

    Ed:American Education was built on the Prussian education model and was designed to keep those darned Irish Catholics away from those decent hardworking Protestants.

    Interesting. Wikipedia says:

    Because the public schools focused on assimilation, many immigrants, who resisted Americanization, sent their children to private religious schools. Many of these were Roman Catholics. Though the new private schools met opposition, in 1925 the Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that students could attend private schools to comply with compulsory education laws.

  122. Rick Liftig

    When I look back on these 122+ posts, we seem to keep raging against or demonstrating how we have been victimized by the ‘system’.

    It’s not necessarily the personalities:

    If it weren’t a Dave Sklarz, it would be a John Battles. If it wasn’t Scott Slifka, it could have been Jonathan Harris or Rob Bouvier. The times cloud our judgments and the times often define our leaders. The system mandates public education, binding arbitration, minority representation, racial balance, etc. etc. We have built a Byzantine system of rules and it keeps growing – nothing ever gets thrown out and eventually, every group claims its ‘entitlement’ (whatever happened to sunset laws?)

    After time, any organization, government, or bureaucracy becomes cumbersome and stale. Employees and managers stake out their territory and carve up the power. You end up with fixed costs, fixed procedures, etc. and you can’t easily escape them. Legal challenges. and the laws they produce, further ossify and paralyze the structure.

    So I guess I need to make a point here.

    The cost of living has skyrocketed. Massive government deficits have drained liquidity from the system. The Afghani/Iraq War is draining large sums of money and manpower from our shores. We are mortgaging ourselves to Asia (and the world), because we can’t afford our own high manufacturing and employment costs. Our government is spending vast sums (with questionable results) to increase our homeland ‘security’. And our legislators keep passing well-meant laws and imbue State and Federal regulatory agencies with Draconian powers that will hopefully protect us from each other.

    My point is, as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” The politics, the spending, the ossified bureaucracies and Draconian regulations have filtered down to the local level. We are over-burdened and our ability to pay for all of this stuff has not kept up. It seems that only on a local level do we have any control over our lives and the people/institutions who lead us.

    First, we need a change at the top. “The fish stinks from the head down” and a lot of that stink emanates from Washington, D.C. The weird thing is, they all feel bound up by the system too.

    Then, we need to empower ourselves from the ground up. It doesn’t need to be through the government either:

    – Do we want elm trees? Great! Let’s get a group together and plant them!

    – Is Mom having trouble paying her taxes? Mom – you took care of me all of these years, let me give you a hand.

    – Is the education system disappointing? Tell you what, let’s take a trip to Roaring Brook today and learn something more. Home schooling? Why not?

    And – I am sure that many of us do these things already. Well, we need to do more. I am not knocking any of you, but I implore you to stop acting like victims and empower yourselves to improve our community and build upon it. It’s one of the few ways that you really can change the world.

    Raging against the system can be compared to beating your head against a wall. It feels a lot better when you stop!

  123. Joe Visconti

    Good Job Ed

    Mythmakers as well as all West Hartford Residents should read Harlow Ungers ” The Life of Noah and the Times of Webster, An American Patriot”. Unger uses Noah Websters remarkable Diary to portray how Noah wrote and distributed to many in the First Continental Congress (Including Washington, whom wanted Noah as his Secretary) a little book called “Sketches of America”. Noah being the consumate Schoolteacher admitted to ripping off many of the great ideas from the great minds in History to compile an outline of a future Constitution with ” Sketches”. Our Constitution Today is almost Identical to Noah’s Vision spelled out in” Sketch’s” but in those days he included something in his ” Sketches” called Public Education for all. Guess what? Notta said the Continental Congress to that as well as Womens Right to Vote and Eliminating Slavery. Guess their Plate was full then fighting the English which was gonna be a big task and cost all lot, so free education would just have to wait for a better time. Think the Founding Fathers had their priorities straight then?

    Everyone gets that we need education to be free to the masses but the way the Unions game the process for theirs no matter how bad the kids fail is unconscionable. A little less converstaion a little more action should be the theme here in Blog Land. How are we going to get the Unions to cooperate in hard times? When will the Union law be changed back to where teachers can tutour their own students after class? Is it always going to be everything for a buck? The more Union rules that are created by lobbying from the Education Cartel, the higher our taxes will be and the less chance that these new College Grads that are working in Inner Cities have a shot at working in our Town as it begins to slide towards Hartford.

  124. Rick Liftig

    Postscript:

    This can work globally, too. I’ll mention two examples from Rotary International.

    1) After the Falklands War, the governments of Britain and Argentina had cut off diplomatic relations. The first contacts between the countries were initiated by the Rotary clubs. They essentially said, this is ludicrous, let’s re-start our student exchange program. Screw our stupid governments.

    2) Many areas of Central America experience disastrous mudslides and have no emergency options. The central governments do the minimum, if anything at all. One of the Western Massachusetts Rotary Clubs partnered with a Nicaraguan Rotary Club. Without government assistance (and all that entails), they sent down supplies and assembled a team of local experts to advise and set up emergency teams and procedures in Nicaragua. This was done for a fraction of what the government aid would have cost and 100% of the funds went to the project.

    Think of how our government botched the Katrina hurricane relief. I daresay, anyone of us could ave done better.

    We are seeing a surge in service clubs internationally as people across the globe have become disenchanted with their governments, what the governments represent and their failure to help the people. Groups like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Optimists and UNICO have rabid international devotees who realize that government is not the only means to an end. Rotary International even has a seat in the UN General Assembly. The international membership of these groups outnumbers the US membership by a five to one margin. Maye they realize something that we don’t.

  125. Joe Visconti

    Excellent Rick

    Why don’t you run for Council, seriously, you do get it, I’ll even ride a Horse to announce to the Residents your candidacy. Rick Liftig is comming! Rick Liftig is comming!

    One little problem though Rick is that those silly little people who get entitled are not willing to share or allow change and that’s where the Head Banging begins (could have worse addictions). Draconian? thats’ putting it mildly, we haven’t seen anything yet regarding bureaucracies. In Ten years when Al Gore’s Internet meets George Bushes’ War on Terror, Big Brother will be sure to monitor every breath we take.

  126. Rick Liftig

    Joe –

    Why would you wish that fate one me? (running for Council?) People will be calling me at all hours saying, “Why don’t you do this? Why did you do that? You should do this!” UGH!

    And seriously, I can’t walk into work in the morning if I have been out too late at meetings. (I can’t be anything less than 100% at work for obvious reasons… oops, so sorry – it was a long meeting )

    I have found I can do so much more working parallel to ‘the system’ A lot of community effectiveness comes from forging personal relationships and following the Golden Rule. What you give, you get.

    – but many thanks for the compliment.

    Public service is a wonderful thing. And I would like to pass that compliment on to all of those folks who serve us.

  127. turtle

    Rick,

    Actually, the town government has done a pretty good job. As my spouse pointed out to me this morning, since 1990 there has been a sea change in education in terms of regulation, testing, demographics, etc., yet West Hartford has managed to maintain standards while, as Gary Reger demonstrated with facts, per pupil spending has remained effectively flat. No small feat. Meanwhile, the town enjoys a AAA bond rating and grand list hunkasauraus Blue Back Square will open in the fall.

    But let’s throw up our hands and get the Rotary Club to run the show (!). You’re right, though, that many of us do volunteer and try to participate in civic life as much as possible, and that we could always do more.

    I agree with you, also, about the renegade Bush administration, whose appalling record can in part attributed to its ideological antagonism to government and the public sector.

  128. Sean McCann

    Joe Visconti: “me no like to have to pay”

    There it is, the core of the antitax ideology in one simple proposition. There will always be people who want to get something for nothing and who can come up with endless rationalizations and evasions to make it seem fair. That’s who you guys are.

    Plus this, of course:

    “push out old teachers who always want more for doing same old job”

    I.e., contempt for our teachers, especially if they’re skilled and experienced, and disdain for the work they do. Please, let’s not hear again how this isn’t about wanting to wreck the public schools.

  129. David Jones

    1) Rick, good job as always. I appreciate your pragmatic, middle of the road approach to things.

    2) There are many noble ways to serve your community, bitching isn’t one of them. In addition to elective office there are so many volunteer opportunities that can make our town a better place. People like Rick Liftig give so much to this community without being an elected office holder. Rick, while I would certainly support you if you chose to run, we would also have a large void to fill given all you currently do in your role as a community leader.

    3) To some of you I ask the question, why live in West Hartford? There are alternatives. There are other towns with good school systems, there are towns in the area with lower taxes, there are towns where the cost of housing is significantly lower. It seems some believe the town is on the verge of collapse. The anti-tax crowd believes in a few years everyone but the wealthy will be driven away by high taxes. The parents concerned about education seem to believe that without an open checkbook policy toward our education system our children are destined to a life of mediocrity. While I do believe this is a good debate to have, at some point people need to step back and appreciate all that we are blessed with. West Hartford may not be perfect, but if I believed there was a better alternative you’d see the moving van parked in front of my house. I don’t have to stay here, I choose to.

    I do strongly believe that West Hartford is the envy of the state. Within an incredibly diverse communtiy we have a terrific school system, economic vitality, an aesthetically pleasing environment in which to live, and an ample supply of amazing community leaders, both elected and unelected. In short, this is a community that is working. This is the reason I choose to live here. My office is in West Hartford, as is my church, my dentist (Rick), my doctor, my eye doctor, and any other service you can name. We have great places to dine, from A.C. Peterson, Sally & Bob’s, Prospect Cafe and Effies Place to Corner Pug, Elbow Room and Max’s Oyster Bar. Again, while I appreciate the debate and I actually believe it is warranted, it’s time to step back and be appreciative.

    4) I’m sure many of you are very active in the community in positive ways, but for those of you who love to focus on what is wrong, who love to be against something, who love to bitch and criticize, please consider getting involved in a positive way. There are youth teams to coach, not-for-profit boards to serve on, places of worship in need of volunteers, neighbors in need, lonely senior citizens who could use a friend, trees to be planted, etc. etc. Debate the issues, but then go out and make a difference in someone’s life.

  130. Rick Liftig

    And for God’s sake, stop the anonymous bitching!

  131. Joe Visconti

    David, Standing Up for West Hartford again? How bout asking the Council to put up ” No Bitching Signs ” outside of Chambers at Town Hall, and force all malcontents to stand at the podium silent for their 3 minutes of fame if they don’t volunteer to coach. The idea of loving one’s Town can be expressed in different ways, Your way bless’s the system and condones the cronyism. My way is…. well you know how I Love West Hartford. BTW David would you like to work with me on a positive campaign? Seriously, this is right up your alley. Seems Blue Back Square does not want a Trolley/Tram mode of transportaion picking up shoppers from Blue Back Square parking Garages (which we own) to Uptown Lasalle Road. Blue Back should back the Tram for the Grand Opening and after but they are not. The Town needs (Scott and Chuck) to work with Mr. Francis on getting immediate proposals for bidding to companies who can provide the service (write some Ordiance please). The service can also be underwritten with sponsors/etc and should come at no cost to the Public. Clear Plastic Money boxes can be installed in each of the 3-4 trams to encourage donations. David, maybe you can speak with Richard Heapes or Bob Weiner about the above cause my sources tell me they are stonewalling the idea, they want folks to park and stay downtown West Hartford. Now folks this is where guys like me come in handy. I didnt pose in Paid Blue Back Brochures like Babs and the Mayor, and can help the Town, as the Town now starts to get muscled by Streetworks/JDA et al.

    Sean, Harry, Gary, Turtle

    What does my above comment to Dave have to do with the pay for Sklarz? It is for Education that most of Blue Back Tax Revenue will go to, Blue Back and more dense developments like it provide that extra cash the Educational Cartel needs for it’s fix, also cause if people don’t go to Blue Back after a walk uptown, or if people don’t go Uptown ( not Likely) after a romp a Blue Back then Blue Back might not generate sales to warrant the tax base we have counted on, which is another 3 million a year. BTW we need a Blue Back built every 3 years to keep up with the Educational Cartel Agenda.

    Oh and Sean, it’s the Teachers Union who always want something for nothing, like more money for teaching the same course. So lets see Barbara Carpenter has been given how much of a pay raise over the last how many years to teach kndergarten children to sing Old Mac Donald? Please, enough of the MythMaking we can replace that woman with a College Grad teacher for half the money.Capitalism Rules Baby!

  132. David Jones

    Joe,

    Unfortunately, everything with you is either a slogan, a quip, or a dig.

    You can disagree with people without disrespecting people, or at least most people can.

  133. Joe Visconti

    David

    So you won’t help me with the Tram Idea?

  134. Ed

    Turtle – you are relying on Wikipedia for historical information? amazing!

    The religious entities were separating themselves from everyone else, there was no notion of “assimilation” . Remember why people first settled this country.. religious freedom!
    Take a look at how college institutions were founded.. a counterpart of the private schools of the time.

    Three groups descending from the seventeenth-century Puritan Reformation in England have been principal influences on American schooling, providing shape, infrastructure, ligatures, and intentions, although only one is popularly regarded as Puritan—the New England Congregationalists. The Congregational mind in situ, first around the Massachusetts coast, then by stages in the astonishing Connecticut Valley displacement (when Yale became its critical resonator), has been exhaustively studied. But Quakers, representing the left wing of Puritan thought, and Unitarians—that curious mirror obverse of Calvinism—are much easier to understand when seen as children of Calvinist energy, too. These three, together with the episcopacy in New York and Philadelphia, gathered in Columbia University and Penn, the Morgan Bank and elsewhere, have dominated the development of government schooling. Baptist Brown and Baptist Chicago are important to understand, too, and important bases of Dissenter variation like Presbyterian Princeton cannot be ignored, nor Baptist/Methodist centers at Dartmouth and Cornell, or centers of Freethought like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and New York University in New York City. But someone in a hurry to understand where schooling came from and why it took the shape it did would not go far wrong by concentrating attention on the machinations of Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford, and New York City in school affairs from 1800 to 1850, or by simply examining the theologies of Congregationalism, Unitarianism, Hicksite and Gurneyite Quakerism, and ultimately the Anglican Communion, to discover how these, in complex interaction, have given us the forced schooling which so well suits their theologies.

    Then came the shift from religion to business during the industrial revolution.

    Recall that Horace Mann brought the Prussian model to America in the 1800’s.

    Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed statement of 1897 gives you a clue:

    ” Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. In this way the teacher is always the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of heaven.”

    What is “proper” social order? What does “right” social growth look like? John Dewey knew, so did the Rockefellers, his patrons.

    From mid-century onwards certain utopian schemes to retard maturity in the interests of a greater good were put into play, following roughly the blueprint Rousseau laid down in the book Emile. The first goal, to be reached in stages, was an orderly, scientifically managed society, one in which the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition. Universal institutionalized formal forced schooling was the prescription, extending the dependency of the young well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals would be prevented from taking up important work until a relatively advanced age. Maturity was to be retarded. It still is today.

    You need to understand the roots here. The word pedagogue is Latin for a specialized class of slave assigned to walk a student to the schoolmaster; over time the slave was given additional duties, his role was enlarged to that of drill master, a procedure memorialized in Varro’s instituit pedagogus, docet magister: which means roughly, The master creates instruction, the slave pounds it in. A key to modern schooling is this: free men were never pedagogues. And yet we often refer to the science of modern schooling as pedagogy.

    Pedagogy is social technology for winning attention and cooperation (or obedience) while strings are attached to the mind and placed in the hands of an unseen master.

    The designers of public education knew that effective early indoctrination of all children would lead to an orderly scientific society, one controlled by the best people. (and who exactly were those “best people?” The Rockefellers et al.) Forced schooling was the medicine to bring the whole continental population into conformity with these plans so that it might be regarded as a “human resource” and managed as a “workforce.”

    In a speech he gave before businessmen prior to the First World War, Woodrow Wilson made this unabashed disclosure:

    “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

    By 1917, the major administrative jobs in American schooling were under the control of a group referred to in the press of that day as “the Education Trust.” The first meeting of this trust included representatives of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the National Education Association. The chief end, wrote Benjamin Kidd, the British evolutionist, in 1918, was to “impose on the young the ideal of subordination.”

    the 1934 edition of Ellwood P. Cubberley’s Public Education in the United States is explicit about what happened and why. As Cubberley puts it:

    It has come to be desirable that children should not engage in productive labor. On the contrary, all recent thinking…[is] opposed to their doing so. Both the interests of organized labor and the interests of the nation have set against child labor.

    The statement occurs in a section of Public Education called “A New Lengthening of the Period of Dependence,” in which Cubberley explains that “the coming of the factory system” has made extended childhood necessary by depriving children of the training and education that farm and village life once gave. With the breakdown of home and village industries, the passing of chores, and the extinction of the apprenticeship system by large-scale production with its extreme division of labor (and the “all conquering march of machinery”), an army of workers has arisen, said Cubberley, who know nothing.

    My goodness – Turtle – there is obviously so much that you don’t seem to know about the rise of public education. Relying on Wikipedia for your facts is just incredible. Please read a book about the history of American education, preferably one that is not written by anyone remotely associated with the NEA.

  135. As someone who is now calculating real estate taxes on a daily basis when I am showing homes, I’ve actually been surprised at how little taxes have risen on most properties in West Hartford.

    I would say the average I have been seeing is about a $100-$200 increase, although I have seen a few where the taxes have actually decreased. If the increase in residential property taxes is being offset by an auto tax decrease, it’s not clear to me why all of the complaining is occurring.

    Also, someone mentioned Montclair. I just did a random sample of 30 houses on that street using public assessment data, and the average increase for the year on Montclair is $294. Obviously I don’t have access to automobile tax info, but I’m sure it will offset the property tax increase for most, based on the example Harry gave.

    Just a data point from someone who is helping people find housing in West Hartford…

  136. Question: With higher degrees and experience generally comes higher pay, does anyone know how many teachers (by school level: i.e. elementary, junior high or middle, and high school) have either PhDs or comparable degrees?

    Is that information available to the public?

  137. EJ

    Amy – interesting the average increase your seeing is $100-200, then you comment the average increase on Montclair is $294 – 200% higher than you $100 figure and 50% higher than your $200 figure. I’d suggest you relook at your numbers and get a better data base.

    Those wondering what all the noise was about seem to forget that originally we were going to see a 20-30% tax increase (on average) based on the original budget. This brought about the phase in which took off some of the heat. The referendum then got the spending cut back to under a 2.5% increase, which moderated the tax increase.

    Originally the Town wanted over a 6% increase in spending (The BOE 8%) if I recall correctly.

    Thank you to the WHTA.

  138. EJ,

    I picked one street that was mentioned above as an example. If I picked Randal Ave. the average is $167.

    No matter which street you look at, the increase is a product of the stepped up assessment and the decreased mill rate, which equals a 4.5% increase.

    This year everyone has the same percentage increase and the amount of dollars is just based on the value of your house.

  139. Joe Visconti

    Ed, Ed, Ed- You get an A buddy

    Rousseau was one that Noah lifted from as to his “Sketches of America” So we come full circle with Noah & West Hartford’s Blue Back to the Education Cartel (Trust to the Rocks & Carnegies).

    No wonder Susan Daley is excited as you can read below about Blue Back comming never mind fun in the sun for Teachers -long hot summer, loosley schedules days, how hard they work.

    This is from the Union website:

    From the desk of Susan Daly:
    Welcome back to West Hartford! I know that it is hard to give up the beach, the summer books, and the loosely scheduled days, but the students need us. The 2005 – 2006 school year looks like an exciting one.

    The WHEA started formal negotiations with the Board of Education on September 9th. Our negotiating team has been working hard since February, and we have all of our proposals ready to go. Your willingness to fill out and return the surveys last spring provided us with the feedback that let us know what is important to you. We are entering the second year of a two-year contract, and I am happy that construction on Blue Back Square has already begun.

  140. Truman

    It doesn’t matter how much Blue Back brings in – the Council will spend it faster then they make it.
    It’s probably already spent.
    Don’t count on taxpayer relief.

  141. EJ

    Agreed, you can see much of that attitude on this blog. The Tax increase was only $100-$200 so what’s the problem. My increase this year is $400 and going to $2000 after full reval.

    The problem is that attitude has been going on for the last …….yrs. It adds up. When is the last time the town held the line on spending.

    Accountability, open govt, budgets that can be read are needed in this town.

  142. Joe Visconti

    EJ
    Mine is $600 more and fugetabout full re – val.

    Good News is: Tax on 1986 Jeep with 250k miles is only $19.32, My 1994 Chevy Pickup with 200k miles comes in at a whopping $136.75, My 1987 Harley with only 4700 miles tops out at a staggering $147.18. On the more affordable side my 1961 Gator Trailer (for my 1961 Mahogany Thompson Boat) sits at a comfortable $3.86 (cant even buy a Grande Frappe Latte at Dunkin Bucks for that) and my 1987 Karavan Trailer for my Chris Craft Cuddy Cab sneaks in just under the price of a plain Pizza at Pizza Hut at $12.36 ( not icluding a tip).

    Now Me like these kinda numbers, can we get the Board of Ed to start thinking along these lines???

  143. EJ

    Geee I guess your savings on your vehicles really offset your home increase. LOL

  144. turtle

    Ed: you are relying on Wikipedia for historical information? amazing!

    Wow, Ed, what a patronizing hodge-podge of a post. Yeah, I use Wikipedia all the time and while one must always be skeptical I find it to be pretty good overall. (Why don’t you go in there and challenge the entry!) Obviously, I referred to Wiki not as the definitive source on the history of public education but as an alternative interpretation to your statement that American Education was built on the Prussian education model and was designed to keep those darned Irish Catholics away from those decent hardworking Protestants. By the way, I have no vested interest in defending the Episcopacy.

    Please read a book about the history of American education, preferably one that is not written by anyone remotely associated with the NEA.

    Well, I would take Nicholas Lemann over some of the characters on this blog, that’s for sure.

  145. Joe Visconti

    Turtle

    We still Love you, you Educational Cartel Supporter!

    Wik This!

  146. Ed

    Nicholas Lemann – oh – you mean the journalist who never went to journalism school? He just had good connections, especially after graduating from Harvard.

    He’s the typical “neoliberal” journalist, writing for Washington Monthly, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, etc., and is by no stretch of the imagination a socialist, or even a Sixties idealist (he’s a rather snide sort I understand).

    Although I did enjoy his book about The SAT’s. (The Big Test). It revealed how the SAT was designed by Henry Chauncey, head of the Educational Testing Service, and James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard. and it was intended to be used to produce a different kind of elite, a “meritocracy,” if you will, a fairly-chosen elite of bright and capable people who’d run the complex organizations of the late 20th century. It was a way for “the Ivies” to choose among the population for admission.

    Now we are seeing many schools start to veer away from just using scores as an indicator and predictor of school success. It’s about time.

    However, there are other historians I prefer to rely on.

    As for having a patronizing post? whose opinion? yours? hah – real historical information is too heady for ya? Guess you just appreciate the writings of neo-liberals.

  147. turtle

    Now that you mention it, and since you have yet to cite a source, who are these “other historians I prefer to rely on”? I must admit that the history of education is not on the top of my reading list, but I can’t wait to hear who the non-“snide” (Lemann is not snide), non-“socialist” (Lemann is a liberal), non-“idealist” (god forbid!) historians who stoke your ideology might be.

    Your hamfisted characterization of Nicholas Lemann says a lot more about you than it does about him.

    But… you have succeeded in changing the subject from what a well-run town West Hartford actually is and how the apocalyptic tax hike turned out to be not so terrible after all. Quick, cherrypick a bunch of quotations to suggest that public education is a nefarious conspiracy of the cultural elite! That’ll show ’em at the cartel.

  148. Sean McCann

    Look, at the end of the day, there are a few simple facts the antitax ideologues need to confront. For understandable reasons, they’ll do just about everything possible to muddy the waters. But the facts themselves are clear and straightforward:

    1) Despite hysterical warnings, and despite downright deception from the WHTA, most people’s taxes this year went up very little—if, net of car taxes, at all.

    (EJ claims his or her taxes went up $400. But what percentage of your existing tax bill does that increase amount to, EJ? And, so long as you want to put yourself forward as an example of privation, make the picture complete and tell us what percentage of your annual income $400 amounts to. Without that information, the complaint is, of course, empty.)

    2) Again, despite much insinuation to the contrary, the money WH devotes to its public schools per pupil has remained pretty much constant over the last two decades. Though the antitax ideologues would like us to believe otherwise, there has been no open checkbook around these parts.

    3) Which brings us to point 3. Yet again, despite much shameful innuendo otherwise, WH’s teachers, its school system, its BOE and its Town Council have all, for the greater part, done their jobs remarkably well and with admirable public spirit and honesty. Though some (e.g., Joe Visconti and WHreturn) would like to suggest otherwise, no has presented any credible evidence of fraud, waste, or abuse in the WH public schools. Quite the contrary, all the evidence—including the evidence of people like myself who moved here for just such reasons–points to the conclusion that WH has maintained an excellent school system, serving a large and diverse population, while maintaining a good record of financial management.

    What conclusions can be drawn from these facts?

    Well, one is that there is a loud minority of people who are determined to ignore the facts when they don’t fit a cherished worldview. Another, in my view, is that through dishonesty and demagoguery, that minority managed to scare many people this past spring into a decision that runs counter to their own best interests and to the best interests of WH’s future.

    That loud minority makes its own convictions quite plain in this thread. So far as I can tell they are compounded of two unseemly attitudes—one, an angry suspicion that someone, somewhere must be taking advantage of them; and, two, an unreasoning and unrelenting hostility to the public sector itself. No matter how much it costs, no matter how well the schools are doing their job, no matter what efforts public officials make to respond to their suspicions, they doubt the very mission of public education itself and with varying degrees of severity, would like to see that mission curtailed or dismantled.

    I know that some, like WHreturn, will protest this interpretation and say, oh no, I don’t want to hurt the schools, I just want “accountability.” How do I know such protestations are insincere? Well, there are the repeated comments from the likes of Joe Visconti, King, and Speed Racer about greedy and useless teachers who (in JV’s argument) might be replaced for reasons of economy with inexperienced workers or (incredibly) with outsourced labor. There is no suggestion of thoughtfulness in those comments about just where the teachers might be failing, how they might do their jobs better or worse, or where, in effect, they are taking advantage of the public. There is only the imputation that in some way they’re cheating us.

    Then there are the ideological resources (from the likes of the Yankee Institute which is avowedly committed to taking apart the public sector) on which JV relies to make baseless hints of corruption. Those carelessly assembled screeds suggest no particular interest in facts or issues. They are pure ideology.

    Finally, there are comments like the one from WHreturn in which he says teachers will have to be cut so long as “you continue to hand dollars over to the top members or pay for programs that present no value.”

    Think about that comment for a second. What are the programs that present no value? The fact that WHreturn doesn’t mention one–just as JV makes no mention of any actual corruption–is evidence toward the conclusion that the comment has less to do with facts than ideology. Like the many suggestions in this thread and elsewhere of greed or secrecy on the part of our public servants, it’s the kind of reflex comment that reveals the speaker’s prejudice precisely because there are no facts presented to support it. WHreturn doesn’t know of any wasteful programs. He or she just thinks they must exist– just as he or she thinks per pupil spending must be going up, even when it isn’t—because that assumption fits the crabbily suspicious worldview. Meanwhile, what kind of programs will actually be cut from the WH schools this year? Middle school Quest, middle and hs activities (like, say, the chess club), Latin instruction at Norfeldt. This is what those of you who are so up in arms about school spending should say to yourselves: I’m the person who wants to kill the chess club.

    It’s for these reasons that those of us on the other side of the discussion find the protestations about Sklarz’s salary, with which the discussion began, mainly a distraction. The truth is, I, too, am annoyed that the Board approved the raise, and I’m grateful to Harry Captain for his opposition, even as I think it’s important that WH attract and retain effective administrators. But my annoyance has mainly to do with the symbolic significance of the decision, since its practical import is: (a) not clear; and (b) not likely to be large in any case. I’m far more disturbed, on the other hand, by the people in this thread who pretend to care about how it will affect our schools.

    Take Speed Racer ‘s classically thoughtful post:

    “giving him a raise ultimately took money out of some kids’ classroom. Explain that to the local WH soccer mom from Charter Oak who really got screwed over this time around. Take money from the South Side of town and line ole David’s pockets with it. Good one”

    Well, I’m a South Side soccer dad, and I find this simulation of concern entirely unconvincing. As Speed Racer no doubt realizes, the money that Sklarz’s raise took out of the school budget is pennies besides the cuts that were the result of pressure from the WHTA and the budget referendum. Sklarz’s raise cost us $12,000 or so. The referendum cost us over 2 million. WH schools will be hurt next year, and they will be hurt because of the manipulation and anger of ideologues. Sklarz’s raise is trivial compared to that damage.

    Joe Visconti would like us to believe that all this has to do in some way with the thought that “Capitalism Rules.” But his own comments suggest that his understanding of economics has a lot more to do, again, with ideology than actuality. That’s apparent in two ways.

    First, in the suspicion that, when prices for services go up, it must be because someone is cheating. But the fact is, of course, that we pay more now for many services than we did years ago. In the construction industry, for example, it probably costs more in relative dollars to get a roof done now than it did a decade or two ago. That doesn’t mean roofers are a greedy cartel, though. It probably means that (a) the cost in real dollars may not have gone up at all; and/or (b) that other factors (like the price of labor and material or rising demand) are driving prices upward. The fact that teachers, like everyone, want to get raises is, of course, no necessary sign of greed or inefficiency. Only an ideologue would assume that must be the case.

    (For a possibly illuminating parallel, it might also be noted that when it comes to construction services, like everything else, there are people who are determined to find bargains, even where bargains might not exist. There will always be people who say, for example, “why should I pay top dollar to someone with skill and experience, when I can get the same job done for a lot less by someone with no experience or proven ability?” or who say, “why should I pay more for good materials when I can get by with cheaper substitutes.” Often, of course, those decisions prove to be more expensive in the long run. Joe Visconti’s ideological zeal is apparent in the fact that he doesn’t even consider the fact that firing the most experienced teachers might be a similarly bad bet in the long run.)

    Second, in the unwillingness to recognize that, as pretty much every economist allows, there are public goods for which the market alone does not provide well. Security, for example. (Who would say, “we should replace the Police and Fire departments with private forces paid for by vouchers,” or, “we should fire those expensive, experienced cops and fire personnel and replace them with newbies who will cost less”?) Though Joe himself apparently doesn’t recognize the contradiction, his own complaints about health insurers suggests that intuitively he’s as aware of this problem as the rest of us. The private health insurance market, as everyone knows, is a disaster. That’s what some people want to make of our system of public schools as well.

    At the end of the day, the big question in all of this discussion is whether you believe, on the one hand, that our town has a serious obligation to educate all its students, and believe, likewise, that in the long run, good schools and a well educated populace will be in the town’s and your own interest (as, for example, a property owner, who wants to see the value of your home go up), or, if, on the other hand, you think, as Joe Visconti does, “me no like to pay.” Do you want a good roof over your house, or would you rather save pennies in the short run and throw any old thing up?

  149. EJ

    Sean M-

    EJ claims his or her taxes went up $400.
    This is fact, sorry you doubt it, but there are plenty of others hit more than me. I’ve only gotten 1 car bill so far, it went down $5. I’m sure the others will go down more.

    But what percentage of your existing tax bill does that increase amount to, EJ?
    If you’ve been paying atttention you would know it should be the same 4.5% increase everyone was hit with.

    And, so long as you want to put yourself forward as an example of privation,
    I did not put myself out as an example of privation, you did.

    make the picture complete and tell us what percentage of your annual income $400 amounts to. Without that information, the complaint is, of course, empty.
    Guess again, nice try. You might not understand the difference between a property tax and an income tax, but most of the others here do. My income and the percentage thereof that the tax comprises is not germaine to the discussion and frankly non of your business!

    I have not called for a dismantling of the school system or the town. I expect to pay my Fair share of taxes. That does not give the Town or BOE the right to a blank check, nor freedom from accountability.

  150. Sean McCann

    Sorry, EJ, it is germane–as, perhaps, King could explain to you. When he talks about the difficulties faced by taxpayers on fixed incomes, he acknowledges that your ability to pay bears on the fairness of the tax you’re assessed, whatever kind of tax it is. If it’s unfair for people who _don’t_ have the income to pay a certain property tax, then logically it’s less unfair for people who _do_ have the income to pay that tax.

    And, yes, you have put yourself forward as a victim of privation. Note your language above about the hit you’ve taken.

    Shorter answer, if it’s not the public business to talk about your finances, then don’t bring yourself up as an example. If it is, don’t be shy about providing the full picture.

  151. EJ

    Learn to read. Maybe try a private school this time.

    I made no claim of privation. The claims were made that the average hit was $100-200, I simply said mine was $4oo. Absolutely no claim of privation. Just letting you know others took bigger hits than that claimed and as verfied by Joe.

    I am also aware many will have problems with their property taxes. I did not say whether or not I was one of them. And I will not.

    And again my income is non of your business and will not be part of this conversation.

    I will continue to call for accountable and open local govt .

  152. Sean McCann

    Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate:

    Privation . . . 1: an act or instance of depriving: DEPRIVATION 2: the state of being deprived . . . .

    EJ:

    MFTM, glad to hear your tax bill went up only $80, you were one of the lucky ones.

    Mine went up $400 and it would have been $2000 if there was no phase in.

    Sorry, were you not suggesting that you were an unlucky one here and that something was being taken from you that shouldn’t be? If you were, you were presenting yourself as an example of privation.

    Again, you don’t want to make your private finances part of the public record, that’s fine. Totally reasonable. But if you’re gonna use yourself as an example that’s supposed to show some larger trend, then to be fair you have to present the full picture. Otherwise, we can take the suggestions made by Amy Bergquist and others as settled. Property taxes did not go up as much as some people would like us to believe.

  153. EJ

    In your world I guess the larger your tax hit the luckier you are.
    In that case, I wish you all of the luck in the world.

    No one has been screaming since the referendum, in case you have not noticed. The WHTA is not collecting signatures and there is not going to be a 2nd referendum, at least as far as the WHTA is concerned. Had the WHTA not raised peoples awareness we could have been looking at a 30% tax increase this year. Instead, we have a phase-in (delay of the pain) and a budget cut that kept the tax increase to 4.5%.

    The only reason Joe and I mentioned our tax bills is because a number of people were trying to make the increase look insignificant. There are others with larger tax increases than Joe and I experienced, in your world they are even luckier.

    Given what we are seeing so far with contract negotiations, the budget battle next year will be nastier.

  154. Joe Visconti

    Sean

    Here is Part 1

    Wisconsin Interest 9
    In Washington,
    D.C., the public
    school system has
    1,500 employees in the
    central bureaucracy,
    which oversees 146
    schools. In contrast,
    the education office of
    the Washington
    M e t r o p o l i t a n
    Archdiocese has a
    mere 11 bureaucrats
    overseeing 110
    Catholic schools. The
    New York City
    Schools, with 1.1 million
    students, has a
    regional and central
    office staff of 6,000.
    The Archdiocese of New York, with 200,000
    students in its Catholic schools, has about 35
    central office workers. The difference, in large
    part, comes down to culture. The Catholic
    schools are focused primarily on education,
    while the focus of public school instruction is
    clouded by a culture of rules-based compliance,
    paperwork, and meetings.
    The problem with school bureaucracies,
    aside from the fact that they aren’t focused on
    helping children learn to read and write, is that
    they value means over ends—inputs rather
    than outputs. They get bogged down in
    process, compliance forms, and meetings. It’s
    almost as if they sit in one meeting or another
    the entire day, spending more time talking
    about what they plan to do rather than actually
    doing it. The one sure thing that will be accomplished
    is the setting
    of a date for future
    meetings to follow
    up on what was discussed
    at previous
    meetings.
    The resources
    we hope will turn
    around failing
    school districts typically
    are used to
    prime the pump of
    the monopoly that
    holds kids hostage to
    a substandard education.
    The end
    result is a system
    that doesn’t work for
    our neediest kids
    and is extremely difficult to ever reform,
    because there are so many grownups who are
    served quite well by the failing system.
    University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee professor
    Martin Haberman contends that the pattern
    of failure in urban school systems is a
    “predictable, explainable phenomenon, not a
    series of accidental, unfortunate, chance
    events.” We recognize that the needs of school
    children aren’t being addressed, but our society
    does nothing to put its foot down to
    change it. “The extensive resources funneled
    into these systems are used for the purpose of
    increasing the district bureaucracies them-
    THE PUBLIC EDUCATION CARTEL
    JOEWILLIAMS
    From Cheating Our Kids by Joe Williams. Copyright ©
    2005 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave
    Macmillan. Joe Williams is a former education reporter for the
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the New York Daily News.

  155. Joe Visconti

    For Part 2-5 on the Educational Cartel Just Google the term ” The Public Education Cartel”, unless you all want me to post the whole enchilada?

  156. Ed

    You know – Sean and Turtle – it’s the same old crap with you two liberal ideologues and demagogues: you whine about how this tax increase is not such a big deal – it’s only a little bit more than what we are paying (yes thanks to the efforts of the town’s tax group) – but you fail to look at the cumulative effect to residents over the past 5 years and the cumulative effect after the next 5 years. No one is expecting to pay 25 cents for a gallon of milk anymore, but yearly increases of 3-5% make a big difference to those of us who don’t get those cost of living adjustments. On top of that you fail to realize that we were assessed at the height of the housing market – so we are all overpaying on our taxes to begin with.

    No one here is objecting to paying taxes and no one here is objecting to the fact that we have to fund our municipal and education expenses. And no one here wants to eliminate “the chess club”. So don’t rant as if we do. What we are objecting to (since you obviously missed it) is that money is being spent where it doesn’t have to be spent. Sklarz’s raise is a case in point. You don’t seem to think the guy is making enough and us “anti-tax” people (as you like to call us) think that he makes plenty, especially with benefits included. And that goes for Mr. Francis as well. (who “didn’t get a raise this year”, but had to reflect his raise from last year in this year’s budget after all is said and done.)

    The town continues to give out raises that lift the floor of compensation for everyone for more than just a cost of living increase. Did you even bother to listen to what Mr. Goshdigian reported? Do you even care?

    You seem to abhor people who have an idea that perhaps we ought to be more prudent in our spending. I wouldn’t mind more money to education, if indeed that is where it is going. Quite frankly Sklarz’s raise does nothing to help improve reading or raise CMT scores. In fact I don’t believe that he has instituted any policies that have made a significant impact this year to deserve a raise like that. In fact, I don’t believe he has instituted any meaningful cost cutting policies in his “corporation” either. The same goes for Mr. Francis, the poor man who “didn’t get a raise”.

    We could argue all day long as to whether these high salaries and benefits attract better people. We could also argue all day whether more degrees equal better instructors. The truth of the matter is that more money being spent does not deliver a better product, or more efficient delivery of the product.

    You have heard it before, and are loathe to admit it, but there are school systems that do better with less money. And I also find it interesting that when their backs are to the wall, and they don’t get the funding they had hoped from the state or elsewhere, the administration seems to “find” the money somewhere to compensate.

    As for taxes not going up “as much as you’d like us to believe” – the fact is they have gone up; and for lots of people in town even a dollar more can be a hardship when you look at the overall cumulative effect and how much more it will go up. There are actually some towns in CT where taxpayers got a break and taxes went down. Horrors! The fact is our taxes would have gone up more if it weren’t for the people standing up to say “NO” at the polls.
    If you don’t think you are paying enough (the “tax me more crowd”) – you know where you can send an additional check.

    As for me right now, I am satisfied that spending is at least where it was last year – and if the schools want to take money out of our kids programs and give it to Mickey Mouse I couldn’t care less – that’s their issue, but it just proves my point that they are willing to take taxpayer money and use it to line administrator’s pockets instead of buying more library books or equipment to benefit the kids.

  157. Joe Visconti

    Part 1 complete

    selves rather than improving the schools or the
    education of the children,” Haberman notes.
    “This massive, persisting failure has generated
    neither the effort nor the urgency which the
    stated values of American society would lead
    us to expect.”

  158. Joe Visconti

    Ed

    Bravo Might as well Post the rest of “The Public Education Cartel” for those who may not have the time to google.

    The Cartel
    One of the best descriptions of the way the
    American education bureaucracy operates
    comes from Wellesley College political science
    professor Wilbur Rich, who refers to the internal
    power structure of school systems as
    “school cartels,” which are interested primarily
    in self-perpetuation rather than teaching and
    learning in the classroom. In the world of commerce,
    cartels are agreements between most or
    all of the producers of a product to either limit
    their production or fix prices. Rich claims in
    his book Black Mayors and School Politics that
    while the actions of the education cartels profoundly
    influence the culture of school systems,
    pretty much none of what happens within
    the cartel has any direct influence on the
    academic lives of children. One of the things
    that keeps the cartel running smoothly is its
    power over vast sums of other people’s cash:
    “This economic significance of school politics
    has produced a cartel-like governing entity. . . .
    A coalition of professional school administrators,
    school activists, and union leaders maintains
    control of school policy to promote the
    interests of its members. Membership in the
    cartel confers income, status, and perks.
    Members agree to follow cartel norms and
    rules. Violation of these rules can result in
    sanctions by the cartel.” Cartel members tend
    to honor each other’s labor contracts, for example,
    even when they conflict with one another.
    The principals’ union doesn’t criticize the
    teachers’ union contract, and vice versa, even
    though much of what is contained in each contract
    affects the working conditions of the
    other. Cartel members also declare war together
    on any plans that weaken any individual
    member’s power within the school system,
    often declaring such threats “attacks on public
    education.” In that sense, the distinct members
    of the cartel are united by virtue of the fact that
    they have a common enemy.
    When it comes down to preserving their

  159. Joe Visconti

    More…

    own power within the bureaucracy, Haberman
    notes, the cartel members “demonstrate political
    acumen that would rival Machiavelli when
    faced with protecting their sinecures.”
    Members of the cartel get their power in a
    number of ways, primarily through the fact
    that they get to implement nearly everything
    that happens in school systems. In 1998, the
    elected School Board in Milwaukee voted to
    “radically redesign” the way the school system
    handled budgeting. The board approved a
    plan to shift more resources to schools and
    allow them to “buy back” whatever services
    the principals deemed necessary from the central
    office. They also approved a plan to base
    payments to schools on the average daily
    attendance of students, rather than just the
    attendance on one day in September—the
    method used by the state to fund the school
    system. Both measures, which became the official
    policy after they were approved by the
    board, were designed to create incentives in a
    system that wasn’t used to them. Board members
    hoped, for example, that by making
    schools “pay” for the central office services
    they received, they might force some
    nonessential functions of the bureaucracy into
    extinction. They also hoped that by basing
    payments to schools on students’ average daily
    attendance, they would create incentives for
    schools to keep students enrolled beyond the
    first month of school. Before the policy, principals
    had an incentive to enroll kids in
    September to help pad their budgets, and then
    force them out of school after September,
    before they could take any standardized tests
    that would make the school look bad.
    But the unelected forces within the bureaucracy
    didn’t like either plan, because the major
    change to existing practices represented a significant
    weakening of their power. The plan to
    have schools buy back central office services
    was sent to a committee of bureaucrats, never
    to be heard from again. The attendance policy,
    after being officially approved by the board,
    was sent to another committee of administrators
    who officially decided to blow it off.
    “While some schools would benefit greatly,
    10 Winter 2006

    there are others that would be severely punished
    by the process,” Rogers Onick, principal
    of Samuel Morse Middle School, explained to
    the board (technically, his employer) a year
    later, regarding why the schools wouldn’t follow
    the policy. The committee felt that it

  160. Joe Visconti

    More…

    would be unfair to reward schools with good
    attendance and punish schools with bad attendance—
    even though that was specifically the
    point of the elected board’s policy.
    The attendance committee, in rejecting the
    orders of the school board, offered its own set
    of lame recommendations to improve education
    without disturbing the incentives built
    into the system: “Conduct an all-out promotional
    campaign about the
    importance of being in
    school throughout the
    school year,” and “Gauge
    parental involvement by
    having teachers grade
    parents on attendance,
    completion of homework
    and support of respectful
    classroom behavior.”
    Milwaukee school board
    members were furious
    with the inaction of the
    administrators as they
    realized that the bureaucrats
    really held the decision-
    making power of the
    system in their hands.
    In addition to having power through
    implementation, members of the school cartel
    often are the holders of institutional memory
    within the system. They remember how things
    got the way they are and they keep excellent
    files.
    Sometimes the various factions or cliques
    that exist within the cartel have unofficial
    names, a nomenclature very similar to the
    jocks and geeks of high schools. When I
    worked in Milwaukee in the 1990s, several
    groups held power within the administrative
    structure of the school system. Whenever
    someone was promoted, there was speculation
    as to the role higher-ups within that clique
    played in making it happen. Close attention
    was paid to the promotions at the very top of
    the system, because it indicated which clique
    was in favor with the superintendent.
    One of the main Milwaukee cliques was
    referred to as the Deltas. Named after a college
    sorority, the clique tended to include the most
    powerful black women in the system. Another
    group was the “good old boys club” and tended
    to include older white guys. A third clique
    was known within the system as “the boys and
    girls club” and included gay and lesbian educators
    and administrators. Within these
    cliques, members often tended to look out for

  161. Joe Visconti

    More…

    their own when it came to internal politics.
    Few in the outside world,
    however, paid much
    attention to the power
    struggles that existed
    among these groups or to
    the distractions they
    caused for school leaders
    trying to focus primarily
    on student achievement
    and learning.
    One of the most
    bizarre aspects of the education
    cartel’s playbook is
    the way the members try
    to hold back people within
    the system who show
    too much initiative. They
    become expert in throwing up roadblocks to
    make life difficult for these dissidents. As principal
    of the first year-round public elementary
    school in Milwaukee in the mid-1990s, Mary
    Beth Minkley got used to hearing from unsupportive
    bureaucrats all the reasons she couldn’t
    do things at Congress Elementary School. A
    soft-spoken woman with white hair and glasses,
    Minkley heard every excuse for why she
    couldn’t get her building air conditioned in the
    hot summer months. The bureaucrats weren’t
    happy that Minkley was creating extra work
    for them, particularly in the summer. Their
    reluctance to support Minkley’s unique yearround
    program eventually spilled over into
    resistance to her attempts to enlarge the
    Congress Elementary. She was warned that
    They become expert in
    throwing up roadblocks
    to make life difficult for
    these dissidents.
    Wisconsin Interest 11

    she had no business creating an early childhood
    education annex, much less housing it in
    the vacant St. Stephen Martyr Catholic School
    building in the neighborhood.
    Essentially, bureaucrats within the
    Milwaukee Public Schools worked against
    Minkley at every turn, trying to block her
    ambitious plans to expand the school calendar
    and the size of the school. Those unfamiliar
    with how school systems really work might be
    foolish enough to believe that school administrators—

  162. Joe Visconti

    Coffee Break

  163. Sean McCann

    Like I say, muddying of the waters. We live in WH, not DC or Milwaukee, Joe.

    This: “No one here is objecting to paying taxes and no one here is objecting to the fact that we have to fund our municipal and education expenses” is, frankly, bogus. That is precisely what is being done.

    And this: “We could argue all day long as to whether these high salaries and benefits attract better people” is just silly. Ask Joe to explain Econ 101. Good salaries, benefits, and working conditions draw bigger and more qualified talent pools in every industry. In all liklihood that is why states with teachers unions consistently and vastly outperform states without teachers unions. The single, controllable variable that has the highest effect on educational outcomes is teacher quality. And the way you get good teachers is to give them good salaries, benefits, and schools where they want to work. They way to lose them and wreck your schools is to be pennywise.

  164. Joe Visconti

    Hey Sean

    read on

    the educrats—exist to help crackerjacks
    like Minkley do the best job they can for
    their students. The reality is that the internal
    politics of the cartel usually rule the day. Some
    principals get what they want because they are
    part of the right clique and play by the established
    rules: They attend the right church or
    synagogue, work on the right political campaigns,
    are members of the right sorority or
    fraternity, et cetera. Principals and parents
    who aren’t part of the cartel encounter barriers
    that often prevent their students from getting
    what they need.
    Minkley, who referred endearingly to her
    youngest students as her “babies,” was nonetheless
    tougher and more resilient than school officials
    would have preferred. At a 1999 breakfast
    on year-round schooling sponsored by the
    University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Minkley
    told the crowd: “I know there are people from the
    central office in the audience, but you made
    things extremely difficult for us when we were
    trying to make this happen.” They did so by
    throwing up hoop after hoop for Minkley to
    jump through because they didn’t particularly
    care to see any school convert to a year-round
    schedule, which would ruin their own well-established
    bureaucratic routines.
    Meanwhile, Minkley was so successful in
    giving parents in Congress’ north side neighborhood
    what they wanted that she had people
    pounding on the doors to get their kids
    enrolled. What the private sector would call
    increasing market share with a quality product
    that consumers desperately crave, the public
    education system considers rocking the boat.
    Minkley eventually turned Congress
    Elementary School into a mini-empire on
    Milwaukee’s north side, yet she wasn’t paid a
    penny more than other principals who were
    content to follow the traditional rules and
    wishes of the club that controlled the schools.
    Keeping Parents in the Dark
    Part of the cartel’s power (and its ability to
    successfully alienate outsiders such as parents)
    comes from its tight grip on data and information.
    Because the education cartel controls the
    flow of information to the outside of the system,
    parents and the general public often rely
    on dubious forms of transparency in their
    attempts to make heads or tails of their child’s
    education. A 2004 report by the New York City
    Council’s Education Committee, which provides
    legislative oversight for the city schools,
    studied a random sample of school report
    cards for 30 New York schools and found that

  165. Joe Visconti

    More for Sean

    the city’s public school report cards often omitted
    crucial information for parents, such as
    class size, and often provided glowing reviews
    for schools that were terrible. It becomes problematic
    when schools and school systems are
    allowed to evaluate themselves, forcing the
    parent and student consumers to accept the
    producer’s word for the quality of the product.
    The Detroit News in 2004 analyzed all of
    the school report cards in Michigan and found
    that 83% of elementary and middle schools
    that were considered failing for at least four
    years had given themselves A’s on self-evaluations
    worth a third of their overall grades. In
    Detroit, for example, where schools are
    allowed to grade themselves on issues ranging
    from their test scores to teacher quality,
    George Ford Elementary School in 2003–04
    gave itself a perfect score for the condition of
    its facilities despite the fact that it was closed
    in October 2003 because it started sinking into
    the ground. “Maybe the community or parents
    should grade the schools,” parent Trina Parker
    told the Detroit News. True transparency would
    go much further to remove the foxes, who are
    guarding the education henhouse. Being a
    public school parent is often like being stuck at
    an airport due to a delayed flight that no one
    from the airline seems able or even willing to
    explain.
    12 Winter 2006
    Who is Steering the Ship?
    Many times, well-meaning superintendents
    and chancellors take on the job of trying
    to turn around top-heavy school systems only
    to discover that they are not actually the ones
    who are in charge. This became particularly
    noticeable in the 1990s when districts around
    the country began seeking out nontraditional
    superintendents and chancellors who did not
    come up through the ranks of the school system.
    Non-educators, like San Diego’s Alan
    Bersin, Los Angeles’s Roy Romer, and New
    York City’s Harold Levy, and, later, Joel Klein,
    were specifically sought after because there
    was a belief that these types of highly effective
    people could come to the
    system with a blank slate
    to recreate the culture so
    that it would be focused
    more on students. Each of
    these school leaders,
    tapped by supporters
    who believed the Great
    Man Theory of History,
    quickly came to realize

  166. Joe Visconti

    more…
    that the cartel won’t allow
    anyone—no matter how
    clever, intelligent, or
    pedigreed they may be—
    to slash at their internal
    power system without a
    drawn-out fight. In public
    education, there is no
    such thing as a clean slate for school leaders
    because when they inherit the job they find the
    true power within the system rests in labor
    contracts and rules and regulations that help
    solidify the power of the various internal players
    within the education cartel. Furthermore,
    running large school systems, some of these
    nontraditional school leaders learned, is nothing
    like running a major corporation, because
    what you say and do at the top of school systems
    doesn’t necessarily trickle down past the
    bureaucrats to classrooms where the rubber
    hits the road. While the superintendent or
    chancellor appears to have power in the official
    top-down administrative structure, the
    real power over the day-to-day operations of
    school systems is in the hands of the
    entrenched members of the cartel, most of
    whom will still be there long after the Great
    Man is a distant memory.
    School governance expert Paul T. Hill, of
    the University of Washington, notes that the
    bureaucrats have established political and economic
    bases. They know where their money
    comes from and they know how to exert
    power to keep it coming. They have longstanding
    “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”
    relationships with elected officials, teachers
    unions, and parent groups. Those same constituencies
    can quickly be (and often are) called
    upon to create resistance whenever a superintendent
    or legislature
    threatens to put an end to
    their pet projects or causes.
    When programs like
    prekindergarten are in
    danger of being cut during
    lean budget times, for
    example, the employees
    who work in these areas
    usually are able to tap
    into established coalitions
    of early childhood education
    providers and private
    foundations interested
    in the issue to organize
    parents to fight it.
    Smaller-class-size programs,

  167. Joe Visconti

    Stay tuned

  168. turtle

    Ed: You know – Sean and Turtle – it’s the same old crap with you two liberal ideologues and demagogues:

    I suppose I should be flattered that you’re appropriating our terms. Great, we are now at the level of a schoolyard brawl. By the way, where are those “hard” historians you ballyhooed above? Waiting.

    On top of that you fail to realize that we were assessed at the height of the housing market – so we are all overpaying on our taxes to begin with.

    Um, no. I am very well aware that reval occurred at the top of the market, as anybody engaged with these issues would be.

    You seem to abhor people who have an idea that perhaps we ought to be more prudent in our spending.

    Typical of your patently dishonest mode of discourse. I have said repeatedly that I dislike waste and am in favor of judicious spending. So either you’re not paying attention or you are deliberately lying about my position.

    You don’t seem to think the guy is making enough and us “anti-tax” people (as you like to call us) think that he makes plenty, especially with benefits included.

    While I’m not that exercised over Sklarz’s raise, Sean just posted:

    The truth is, I, too, am annoyed that the Board approved the raise, and I’m grateful to Harry Captain for his opposition, even as I think it’s important that WH attract and retain effective administrators.

    So again, either you are not paying attention, or you are deliberately lying about Sean’s position.

    You have heard it before, and are loathe to admit it, but there are school systems that do better with less money.

    Really? Please reference a post where I commented on the cost and performance of West Hartford schools relative to other school systems. Good luck.

    Get your facts straight and quit resorting to dirty pool to make your arguments.

    I admire Sean for slogging through Joe’s incoherent rants. Life is short.

  169. Sean McCann

    I’ll stay tuned, Joe. I’m waiting for you to drop the propaganda and provide some concrete information about WH. I’m predicting it will be a long wait.

  170. TWC

    Wow—I’ve been on a summer break for about a week and just got caught up. 168 comments on a topic that as far as I have been able to digest everyone pretty much agrees on (i.e., that giving the Superintendent such a large raise was a bad decision). Only in West Hartford—which is actually one of the reasons I love this Town!

    I agree with those that have expressed the view that demonizing the teacher unions, promoting baseless claims of fraud or abuse, and advocating the privatization of public schools is wasting our blogging time. If anyone thinks differently, I invite you to participate in the next referendum this Town faces—the 2007 Town Council and BOE elections—and make these topics the center-piece of your campaign.

    The parents of the kids whose educations are being diminished next year may have been caught napping in the first referendum, but I can guarantee you they’re paying attention now. Candidates that demand accountability of our public employees, while offering fresh and pragmatic ideas for addressing the educational challenges this Town still faces will receive my vote. Those who simply carp about high taxes or advocate changes that will continue to degrade my kids’ education can forget about it.

    So WH Dad, can we start a more constructive dialog about the things that this Town could realistically implement to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for the kids in this Town without breaking the bank? I wholeheartedly reject any notion that we can’t have both.

  171. Ed

    Sean – I’d be interested to know how well these teachers and administrators that we hire did on their PRAXIS exams. Are we paying them so well because they sat through classes did their time and got a degree or two or do they really know anything about their subjects, or teaching, or how to be a good administrator? Offering a higher pay does not necessarily bring good people.. it just brings more applicants. Quite frankly the teachers my kids had were nothing special, and I can say the same for the administrators who had very little in the way of creative thinking or problem solving skills. But perhaps I have much higher standards than you do Sean.

  172. WH Parent

    Sean, you’ve done such an effective job with your July 15 9:58PM comment at destroying the ill-conceived rants perpetrated by Joe Visconti and his ilk that he’s resorting to the dishonorable practice of trying to wreck this thread by burying your comment in a sea of paranoid gibberish.

    Hey WH Dad, isn’t it time to either get Visconti to abide by generally accepted blogging rules or cut him off? His purposeful attempt to destroy this thread because he is so soundly losing this debate needs to be stopped.

    Are you still with us WH Dad?

  173. Joe Visconti

    The Cartel Playbook is being Posted but if it offends your Myth ya’ll can just keep your head in the sand. Please Turtle can you repost my quotes like you do everyone else?

    West Hartford does a great job in Mastering the Cartel Playbook as you can read by my posts above and compare how it’s run here in Town.

    RANTS R US Union Shills s who consider their Posts so Proffessional by quoting Cartel Propoganda just can’t stand the Truth that we can buy a Great Education for our children for less, if we had the opportunity to do so. Binding Arb and State laws gamed by the Cartel just won’t allow for Innovation in Education or any change that doesn’t suit their Commrades, and this the Cartel shills think wise? Come on folks (Cartel Shills)what are you all afraid of, loosing your Myth? Dump Binding Arbitration, let the Unions Strike for work and pay and lets start using that dirty little word “Capitalism” that so many in this Town seem to hate when applied to Education.
    More for Less and on Time!!!!!!!!!

  174. Actually, that is a question that I’ve been wondering about…

    We’ve not seen a new post in over a week. I remember seeing Whdad write that he was going to be taking some vacation… perhaps he has and didn’t fill the “posting role”.

    This thread about sums up the hottest topic under discussed in town, but I think that new threads – even some that aren’t as controversial as this one – like planting trees – help to keep the content fresh. Right now the group is about as divided as it gets, and the postings are becoming increasingly negative. And I’m not pointing fingers, we are all guilty of sitting up on our chair-backs from time to time when we’ve been “tweaked”.

    So, whdad, if you don’t mind – we could use a few neutral posts on other topics. Else, we might have to resurrect an older posting to stimulate some variety. Anyone else with me? Or do I stand alone?

  175. Gary Reger

    I think that Sean has done an admirable job of analysis of the fundamental features of many of the posts in this thread. I have nothing to add to his splendid work.

    Since my paeon to public education contributed, in a minor way, to the subsequent discussion, and especially to the responses by Ed to me — “Gary Reger — You absolutely have no idea about the real reason of the emergence of free public education in this country, do you?” — and Turtle, I feel I ought to respond. I apologize in advance for the length of this posting and recommend to those who are not interested in this question to skip it!

    Ed’s argument seems to revolve around a couple of basic ideas: (1) that the US public education system “was built on the Prussian education model”; (2) that it was designed to prevent intermixing of Catholics with Protestants; (3) that it was intended to create a docile working class that could be manipulated by an elite represented by the Rockefellers and their ilk. I think that is what I distill from Ed’s two main posts on this topic. The basic thrust, I believe, is to paint as naive my view that free public education was seen as essential to inculcating democratic values.

    I hope this summary is fair. I am sure I will hear if it is not.

    On the question of the relationship between education and democracy, Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to make this claim. In a letter to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson wrote that education was needed “to raise the mass of the people to the high ground of moral respectability necessary to their own safety, and to orderly government.” In another, earlier letter to James Madison (1787), he put the duty of providing education in the hands of “the most certain, and most legitimate engine of government” since “[t]he people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Clearly Jefferson believed there was a strong and important link between government-supported education and our democratic system.

    Horace Mann was one of the most important early proponents for a free system of public education. In 1837, in an address to the Bristol County (Massachusetts) Education Convention, Mann asserted, “The pulpit, the press, the Sunday-school, the healthful discipline of the family” are all important, but public schools should be regarded “in preference to all others as the instrument best calculated. . . to carry on the great and important work of qualifying every individual to add strength and beauty to the temple of republicanism.” Mann was initially motivated to promote state control over education because of a Massachusetts law reform that allowed local governments to divert funds originally meant for education to non-educational purposes. He looked to the Prussian system because it served as a model for how such a system might work. He was also extremely concerned about the problem of Irish Catholic children. Offspring of railroad workers who moved a lot following their jobs, these children often fell through the cracks because local governments did not see it as their responsibility to educate them; Mann’s Massachusetts-wide free education system would see to it that these Catholic kids received an education.

    Twenty years later, a Polish count who traveled in the United States, Adam De Gurowski, wrote in his book on his experiences (America and Europe, New York 1857): “The educational system in the American public common schools is the highest triumph of democracy and self-government” (pp. 287-288).

    John Dewey made explicit in his book Democracy and Education (New York 1916) his view on this link: “a democratic community [is] more interested than other communities. . . in deliberate and systematic education. The devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. The superficial explanation is that a government resting on popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated.” Dewey goes on to argue that a deeper link between democracy and education emerges from the fact that the freedom democracy grants to all people regardless of race, class, and national origin requires that they all be educated to the same standard so that they can operate in a free social world. He explicitly rejects the idea that the purpose of education is to create two classes (in Ed’s words, to establish a society where “the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition”): Dewey characterizes a democratic society as one marked by “the liberation of a greater diversity of personal capacities”; a democratic society like our own “to which stratification into separate classes would be fatal, must see to it that intellectual opportunities are accessiblle to all on equitable and easy terms. A society marked off into classes need be specially attentive only to the education of its ruling elements. A society which is mobile, which is full of channels for the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability” (pp. 100-102).

    Advocates of school reform in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries continued to stress this link between free public education and democracy. Charles A. Ellwood, a sociologist and educational reformer of the Dewey school (he received his PhD in 1899), argued in 1920 that “Plainly the success or failure of democracy revolves itself into a matter of the social and political education of the citizen” (Charles A. Ellwood, “Education for Citizenship in a Democracy,” American Journal of Sociology 26 [1920] p. 75). The same link can be found in Ellwood’s article “Democracy and Social Conditions in the United States,” International Journal of Ethics 28 (1918) 499-514, and in other writers of the same period, like M. G. Clark, “A Nationalized System of Education,” Elementary School Journal 24 (1923) 28-37, and Franklin L. Burdette, “Education for Citizenship,” Public Opinion Quarterly 6 (1942) 269-279.

    In other words, the people who promoted the free public education system in the United States, from Thomas Jefferson on, clearly saw that system as crucial to forming a democratic citizen body, a task that became more urgent as immigrants entered the country and needed to be acculturated. (I leave aside here the South, where resistance to free public education was in fact connected with the strong desire of a wealthy, small slave-holding elite to retain the reins of power, although it is worth noting in passing that this counter-example suggests that the interests Ed sees as promoting public education in fact opposed it.)

    Now, none of this is to say that other people did not see education as having other purposes. It is certainly true that some advocates of public education sought to create better workers. But that does not mean that it was not a basic goal of public education to create a democratic citizenry. Most social institutions serve multiple ends and are used by different groups for different purposes; the discussion on this list is an excellent illustration.

    A great deal more could be said about Ed’s dense (and not always transparent, to me at least) argument, but let this stand as an indication that the link between democracy and public education was in fact a central motivation toward the creation of the system.

    A good account of the development of the free public school system in the United States can be found in Wayne J. Urban et al., American Education. A History (New York 2003).

    A few details:

    1. Ed links my current “comfortable life” not to my free public education but to my college education. May I first just say that given that Ed does not know me, isn’t it just a little presumptuous to say that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about my own life? That aside, first, I could not have gotten in to a good college without that free public education (my parents, who did not attend college, could not have afforded a private school), so the Ed’s claim is rather odd. Second, for the record, I attended a public state university whose tuition at the time was $330/semester. (That’s about $1580 in today’s dollars.) But college costs are a distraction to this discussion.

    2. Ed says “taxpayers are shelling out $11-12,000 per pupil which is probably what some of these parents are actually paying towards private school if you count in the scholarships. . . .” This is mistaken on several counts. An individual taxpayer pays about 50% of his/her property taxes toward public education in West Hartford. To be paying $11,000 your property taxes would have to be $22,000. The right figure to work with is the actual per-taxpayer amount, not the per-pupil amount, particularly as our taxes do not go per pupil but to the whole school system. When I listed the costs of private schools in West Hartford I noted the percentage of students paying full fare: of the three I listed, Watkinson has the highest percentage of scholarship students, 35%. The others are lower. But if your property taxes are $4000/year, then you are paying about $2000/year toward public education if you have kid(s) in a private school. That’s it.

    3. Ed talks about pedagogue so that we understand the roots here. Roots are not always important; words change meaning radically over time, and what a word “originally” meant doesn’t necessarily help clarify what it means today. But on the picky details here: “pedagogue” isn’t Latin but Greek; the Romans simply borrowed the Greek word. The saying attributed to Varro, “instituit paedagogus, docet magister” (I have corrected the spelling) does not mean, as Ed translates, “The master creates education, the slave pounds it in.” It means something much less tendentious: “The pedagogue provides the basis, the teacher teaches.” That is to say, the paedagogus in Varro’s view (he was a wealthy Roman aristocratic writing who died in 27 BC) got the kid ready, the teacher did the teaching. (See S. F. Bonner, Classical Review 3 [1053], p. 59.) This is completely different from the implication of Ed’s argument, that education was fundamentally a task for slaves.

    4. Ed mocks Turtle for “relying on Wikipedia for historical information? amazing!”

    What however was Ed’s source for his discussion of Varro and the paedogogus? Let’s look again at Ed’s exact words, as he posted them on July 14. I have added italics for reasons that will become apparent:

    “You need to understand the roots here. The word pedagogue is Latin for a specialized class of slave assigned to walk a student to the schoolmaster; over time the slave was given additional duties, his role was enlarged to that of drill master, a procedure memorialized in Varro’s instituit pedagogus, docet magister: which means roughly, The master creates instruction, the slave pounds it in. A key to modern schooling is this: free men were never pedagogues. And yet we often refer to the science of modern schooling as pedagogy.

    Pedagogy is social technology for winning attention and cooperation (or obedience) while strings are attached to the mind and placed in the hands of an unseen master.

    Now compare what Ed has posted with this:

    “The word pedagogue is Latin for a specialized class of slave assigned to walk a student to the schoolmaster; over time the slave was given additional duties, his role was enlarged to that of drill master, a procedure memorialized in Varro’s instituit pedagogus, docet magister: in my rusty altar-boy Latin, The master creates instruction, the slave pounds it in. A key to modern schooling is this: free men were never pedagogues. And yet we often refer to the science of modern schooling as pedagogy.

    “Pedagogy is social technology for winning attention and cooperation (or obedience) while strings are attached to the mind and placed in the hands of an unseen master.”

    You will notice two things. First, the italicized words in Ed’s posting are identical to the text in the second quotation. Second, Ed has not indicated in any way that he is quoting anything; the words look like his own; nor has he given a source.

    The source is, in fact, a book called The Underground History of American Education
    by one John Taylor Gatto, and this extract can be found on Gatto’s website at http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/1g.htm.

    Gatto’s site is called The Odysseus Group: Challenging the Myths of Modern Schooling, and it takes only a few minutes’ browsing to get Gatto’s political motives. (The usual begging for money appears here too.)

    At the bottom of the website’s main page the reader also notes this: ” © 2000-2003 The Odysseus Group” (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/index.htm).

    For me, this raises a couple of questions. First, is it really fair of Ed to criticize Turtle for relying on Wikipedia when his own source for this discussion of the paedagogus is itself a webpage, and one both rather inaccurate and with a political axe to grind at that? Second, what are we to make of a contribution taken from a copyrighted source and presented without attribution or even quotation marks?

  176. Gary Reger

    Once again apologies for format errors. I thought I had proofread carefully but obviously not. Someone called a while ago for a pre-view function for postings; WHdad?

  177. Joe Visconti

    Ed

    Looks like you really got to em .

    Look folks lets wrap it up remembering that no one wants to destroy education, many think education will be destroyed with a little old capitalism injected into the process but thats Ok. At the end of the day, the bureaucrats will just keep running the Cartel Playbook so keep cool and enjoy the summer.
    Thanx for all the input on both sides of the issue my most excellent Neighbors, I am proud to be associated with you all and love the fact that so many are courageous enough to own their words and are Standing Up for our community with their Opinions and perspectives. Ditto to the pseudonym Crowd even though you still fear comming out.

  178. WH Parent

    Gary, you rock.

    If it’s not the WHTA demagoguing their half-truths or publishing outright lies, it’s participants on this blog deliberately trying to destroy this thread or plagiarizing school privatization fanatics like Gatto to make their point. Do these tax revolt zealots truly have no shame?

    Hurray for the Internet—let the truth in West Hartford prevail!

  179. Gary Reger

    Joe,

    I’m surprised you agree with Ed. His argument about the origins of free public education amounts to the claim that the capitalist ruling classes created it to keep the working classes enslaved. This is precisely Karl Marx’s view. Marx saw the state as a tool used by capitalists to repress workers; that’s why under communism the state was supposed to disappear. As far as I can tell, Ed is the only unreconstructed, doctrinaire Marxist on the blog.

  180. Joe Visconti

    Gary, I didnt say I agreed with Ed, I said “It looks like you really got to em” . All I care is that Capitalistic Free Market Ideas which bring in Innovation can have access to the closed Union Shop called Education. The fear of the Cartel and it’s supporters is that somehow the Education Model will be destroyed if we allow Teachers to strike, it won’t, striking teachers will be those who demand more than Elected Officials believe their constituents can afford. This Educational Isolationism the Cartel strives to keep in place shows they fear change. Eventually the Closed Union shop will fail as do all Unions who push to hard. This Tax revolt Zealot(ooh I like that) wishes the Cartel his best since their days are numbered.

  181. Gary Reger

    My apologies for misinterpreting you, Joe.

  182. WH return

    My God some of you have way too much time on your hands. Me, I have to work.

    Sean, my tax increase was $411 – property. Car Tax went down a whopping $73 so my net taxes are up $338. I can’t wait till next year.

    For the record, what % of income should be assessed against one’s income? Just let us know so we can plan accordingly. When your pal Hillary is elected, you can sit back and smile at the great social programs that will be shoved down our throats. The thirst by government at all levels will never be satisfied while people like you continue to just sit back with their head up their ass and keep doing nothing.

  183. Ed

    Ha! Good one. Gary Reger, You did some research for your pals Sean and Turtle. So wait a minute you’d criticize the writings of a fellow who was voted Teacher of the Year? That’s rich. Just because his analysis doesn’t sit well with your beliefs he’s not worthy of your consideration; he’s yet another “ideologue” with an axe to grind. Yeah that’s a typical response which is why I didn’t attribute it to begin with – I figured you’d look it up if you really cared. You took the bait. That makes me laugh really.

    Congratulations on getting a decent public education – that makes two of us. It only proves that public education was much better when we were kids, because it has really changed as I see what nonsense my grandkids are “learning”. It’s incredible what is being passed off as education these days.

    As for Jefferson..yes, he believed strongly we needed an informed public to preserve the nation.
    “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
    –Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Price, 1789.

    So what does that prove? In Jefferson’s time people did all sorts of things to educate themselves or their children. They hired tutors, they taught their own children, or started private schools, and there were lots of options to educate kids. They had control over educating their kids, but they also knew that it was important to do so. They didn’t rely on the government to educate them. And I’ll wager those kids could figure in their head better than most today and they knew their Latin to boot. In fact all of the founders were privately educated. Government involvement in education was virtually non-existent, and in fact was never mentioned as a power of government in the Constitution – i.e. to educate its population. That in and of itself tells you something. The Founding Fathers simply assumed that education would not be a function of the federal government. As I said, the Constitution does not mention education. Would you care to elaborate as to why early generations of Americans in this country had a command of language and intellect that is superior to today’s generation? Hmm.. it isn’t just the iPods.

    You seriously think Mann and Dewey really cared a whit about educating those masses so they could rise to be leaders? I’ll let you continue to think that. That’s amusing in and of itself.

    Just remember that the Prussian system, that Mann imported, was rooted in Hegelian concepts. Hegel had believed we lived in a universe of Absolute Reason that would be expressed politically as the Absolute State—the exact opposite of the limited government that the Founding Fathers had established. The Prussian system educates children not for intellectual accomplishment but for obedience to the state. That’s been written about in many, many places.

    Yes and Dewey, who you apparently revere, wrote:
    “The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat.”

    Thus was the start of the “groupthink” – collectivism socialistic philosophy to be applied to education. Funded by Rockefeller dollars via the General Education Board, Dewey continued at Columbia State Teacher’s College at in New York City, where he was able to surround himself with progressive educators. Under progressive educators government schools mounted a systematic attack on the minds of children. To those progressive educators, even basic literacy was just an option and not a necessity. Dewey wrote that “it is one of the great mistakes of education to make reading and writing constitute the bulk of the school work for the first two years.” Yes – he had some lofty goals, and he also set the stage for experimental psychology to be included next in the school setting.

    But anyway – manipulating the population, and social engineering came later on, and even Turtle’s beloved Lemann shows that in his writings.

    But so what, you can believe what you will about how education evolved. It’s just interesting to know that people still believe in some of the fairy tales about the founding fathers of public education.

    Yeah I’m a Marxist. You are so good at twisting things around. I’ll bet you can convince yourself you agree with Newt Gingrich at some point. Grand post Reger. My wife will pee her pants when I tell her you think I’m a Marxist. Who knew?

  184. Gary Reger

    Ed,

    You seem to miss the point. You claimed that public education was not linked to democracy. In fact it was, in the minds of many people involved in creating it. That you follow Gatto’s interpretation of the foundation of public education fails to address that fact. If you want to argue Dewey and his ilk were simply concealing their true feelings, that’s your privilege; but you need to acknowledge the facts of their public statements on these issues.

    I certainly hope you are kidding when you say you did not cite Gatto because I would just label him as an ideologue. (Just because he was teacher of the year he’s beyond criticism? Do you bow down to Jimmy Carter because he won the Nobel Peace Prize?) It is fundamentally intellectually dishonest to present someone else’s work as your own. That’s what you did. I did not say at the time, but will now, that the vast bulk of your post is in fact simply copied and pasted from Gatto’s website.

    I downloaded Gatto’s book and have skimmed very quickly about the first 100 pp. Gatto is obviously a passionate man, who says for his 30 years as a teacher he woke up angry every morning and went to bed angry every night. (One wonders why it took so long for him to switch jobs.) His book seems built on a base of experience in the New York school system, clearly with its own horrors, but not very relevant to West Hartford. As a work of history, the book is extremely hard to assess. He offers almost no citations, and the reason he gives for this choice does not inspire confidence: those who agree with him will not need them, those who won’t wouldn’t be convinced anyway. Not an auspicious start. Organizationally the book’s a bit of a mess, jumping chronologically all over the place, which makes the argument hard to follow, let alone assess. The basic idea, however, seems to be a grand conspiracy theory: that compulsory free public education was masterminded by Rockefeller and his lackeys like Dewey to keep the masses in their place. In his preface Gatto himself admits rather sheepishly that all this may be a bit hard to swallow; as any lawyer knows, proving conspiracy is a tough case. But to be fair I have not read the book carefully. You can download it yourself from Gatto’s website.

    Whether you admit it or not, you are indeed a classic Marxist. That’s the fundamental kernel of Gatto’s argument: a Marxist view of history. Sorry.

    But let’s look at a pair of sentences which I have no doubt express your own genuine views:

    “It only proves that public education was much better when we were kids, because it has really changed as I see what nonsense my grandkids are ‘learning’. It’s incredible what is being passed off as education these days.”

    Here I think is the key. You’re a believer in the “golden age” myth that the past was better and things just keep getting worse. The argument here is irrational — if public education is the result of a grand conspiracy to dumb us all down to make compliant workers, why should that education have been better in the past? — but that’s not the point.

    Let’s set aside the quotations lifted from websites without attribution and the Hegelism and what-not. What is it exactly your grandkids are being taught that in your view is “nonsense”?

    Your paragraph that begins “So what does that prove?” is meaningless. The discussion is not about federal control of education. The issue for Mann, for instance, was the states, not the federal government. Please read Article Eighth of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut (easily available at http://www.sots.ct.gov/RegisterManual/SectionI/ctconstit.htm) which requires free public education in Connecticut and directs the legislature to pass laws to make this happen. The Constitution of 1818 already included a provision for a School Fund, which was to be dedicated to public education; the clause about free schools was added in 1965.

    You seem to have trouble following an argument. I never said nor implied that I “revere” Dewey, who certainly had his problems. I merely pointed to a public statement Dewey made about the link between education and democracy.

    You write:

    “’The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat.’

    “Thus was the start of the ‘groupthink’ – collectivism socialistic philosophy to be applied to education. Funded by Rockefeller dollars via the General Education Board, Dewey continued at Columbia State Teacher’s College at in New York City, where he was able to surround himself with progressive educators. Under progressive educators government schools mounted a systematic attack on the minds of children. To those progressive educators, even basic literacy was just an option and not a necessity. Dewey wrote that ‘it is one of the great mistakes of education to make reading and writing constitute the bulk of the school work for the first two years.’ Yes – he had some lofty goals, and he also set the stage for experimental psychology to be included next in the school setting.” I am glad to see your methods of “research” have not changed: much of this is cobbled together from a right-wing website run by Steven Yates (http://www.newswithviews.com/Yates/steven4.htm), although this time you have tried apparently to disguise your source by moving Yates’ sentences around, changing some words here and there, and adding a bit of your own commentary.

  185. Joe Visconti

    Again From Unger’s Noah Webster Biography we hear from Noah’s Diary how when he was crossing the Hudson to Jersey he heard more language’s and dialects than he could believe. Noah knew that America would need a common language to galvanize it under one tongue. Noah also knew America needed it’s own version of English to keep itself separate from England. We had a long way to go back then, before Education could ever begin to be Institutionalized and part of the Constitution it needed a solid foundation of Language to communicate to all the new Americans as well as North/South dialect Citizens. American English was the handywork of Noah, he even invented words and changed the Etymylogical Basis for language just to separate us from England. The Bible and Websters Dictionary were the Two Great Books for almost 150 years.
    So West Hartford is the home of one of the Founding Father’s of the American Education System (not yet a Cartel back then).

  186. Gary Reger

    In writing my post I somehow embedded paragraphs meant to go at the end in the middle, muddling the train of my thought. I wanted to end with this invitation to real dialogue:

    But let’s look at a pair of sentences which I have no doubt express your own genuine views:

    “It only proves that public education was much better when we were kids, because it has really changed as I see what nonsense my grandkids are ‘learning’. It’s incredible what is being passed off as education these days.”

    Here I think is the key. You’re a believer in the “golden age” myth that the past was better and things just keep getting worse. The argument here is irrational — if public education is the result of a grand conspiracy to dumb us all down to make compliant workers, why should that education have been better in the past? — but that’s not the point.

    Let’s set aside the quotations lifted from websites without attribution and the Hegelism and what-not. What is it exactly your grandkids are being taught that in your view is “nonsense”?

    This is the only question, real or implied, to which I was hoping to get an answer.

    Yeah, I think I do have too much time on my hands. I have a pile of real work I have been avoiding all day.

  187. Joe Visconti

    Ditto to the work load

    Gary, I think you are seeking an answer from Ed which is cool, but not the point. Sklarz can get his pay because of a Cartel. Is it a Conspiracy? No, The Cartel operates in the open. Read my previous posts on the Playbook of a Cartel and you will see what gives them strength, the strength locally to approve a pay hike nearing 200k for one guy. Can we do better for less? Of course, if we had to, but we can’t have to with Binding Arbitration can we.
    I will post the rest of the Public Education Cartel Paper now.

    special education,
    arts education, and gifted and talented programs
    also have these built-in constituencies
    that can turn out large groups of parents to
    board meetings and budget hearings if their
    programs are in danger of reduction or elimination.
    The end result is that it becomes almost
    impossible, politically, for hard-charging
    superintendents to swoop into town and set
    new priorities if things aren’t working. The
    priorities are already set, and they are set in a
    way that no one ever has to take the blame for
    problems, other than the top people who are
    powerless to do anything about them. “The
    business of such bureaucracies is not to promote
    school quality, but to isolate problems
    Running large school
    systems, some of these
    nontraditional school
    leaders learned, is
    nothing like running a
    major corporation. . .
    Wisconsin Interest 13

    and diffuse responsibility,” Hill notes. “The
    hero-superintendent is an ideal seldom realized.
    The whole governance structure is tilted
    against strong executive leadership.”
    Breaking up the Cartel
    In St. Louis, Missouri, the school system’s
    finances were so screwed up in 2003 that the
    poor academic performance of its students was
    the least of their problems. Taxpayers were
    forced to turn over their system to a bankruptcy
    firm from New York City for some tough
    love for a year. The time period was basically
    designed to establish a clean exit strategy for
    the firm. The consultants could make the kinds
    of hard choices that are normally politically
    impossible, then, on the specified date, they
    could ride into the sunset to get away from the
    controversy they caused.
    The firm, Alvarez and Marsal, which usually
    did consulting work for businesses and
    corporations, quickly learned two important
    lessons. First, the school district’s financial
    books were a disaster. Second, that schools
    must operate in a realm of local, state, and

  188. Joe Visconti

    Continued..
    national politics that most corporate executives
    couldn’t possibly imagine. Alvarez and Marsal
    sent their vice president, Bill Roberti, to St.
    Louis as the acting superintendent for a year,
    with the understanding that he would take the
    year to save the system before turning it over
    to someone with education credentials to work
    on the academics.
    Trying to reconcile a deficit of between $35
    and $90 million, Roberti closed 16 schools, sold
    40 properties, slashed the number of unfilled
    school buses in a way that reduced costs and
    increased efficiency, and brought in private
    companies to more effectively and cheaply
    take care of tasks like maintenance and food
    service. Previously unused textbooks had collected
    dust in warehouses; the consultants
    instituted a modern inventory system, consolidated
    underused warehouses, and sold back
    unnecessary books to their publishers.
    A politically untouchable Roberti slashed
    the number of employees from 7,000 to 5,000
    without cutting a single teaching job, and
    along the way trimmed $79 million from the
    annual operating budget. You can file that $79
    million under “money the system was spending
    that had no or little benefit for children.”
    “This is not a jobs program,” Roberti said,
    defending the drastic cuts to the number of
    people on the payroll for the district. “This is a
    school system that is supposed to teach kids,
    not to provide jobs to the community.”
    The St. Louis experience shows that these
    severely broken systems can be fixed, but it
    also demonstrates how difficult it can be and
    how reforming schools is a very different ball
    of wax than turning around sluggish businesses.

  189. Joe Visconti

    continued…
    As Roberti told journalist John Merrow in
    2004: “St. Louis brought in a firm from outside
    to do this difficult work because no one inside
    the city of St. Louis could get away with some
    of the things that have to be done and live here
    without suffering the consequences.”
    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has noted that
    Roberti and his firm learned some interesting
    lessons in their work there. “A school district is
    not as simple as running a business,” reporter
    Jake Wagman wrote. “The reality is that
    patronage and politics have been institutionalized
    in St. Louis and many other urban school
    districts.”
    Even Roberti was forced to acknowledge
    that his team had to play some politics, hiring
    consultants with political ties to the school
    board for certain tasks, and hiring early vocal
    critics of the management team to gain their
    support or at least their silence. “That’s part of
    the cost of business,” Roberti said. “There isn’t
    a city in the United States of America that
    doesn’t have some sort of patronage. Name
    one—can you?”
    I can’t. That’s one of many reasons why
    our children always seem to come last in our
    schools. In the meantime, while places like St.
    Louis get their school houses in order, parents
    of the children enrolled there are left with few
    options other than a depressing cocktail of
    patience and a substandard education.
    St. Louis took the unprecedented step of
    bringing in someone from outside the commu-
    14 Winter 2006

  190. Joe Visconti

    Finale on “The Public Education Cartel”

    nity in order to upset the political applecart
    within the school system. But it doesn’t have to
    be this way. Public education can be saved, but
    only if parents are ready for a knock-down,
    drag-out fight with the people who hold the
    power in public education.
    Wisconsin Interest 15

  191. Good God, Visconti was off his meds in a big way. Sorry for letting this one go spiraling out of control!
    But there sure are a lot of brilliant posts in this endless thread, too.

  192. Joe Visconti

    Whdad

    Nice cheap shot with the meds turkey, but what else can we expect from a guy who calls himself The West Hartford Blog. Get an Identity ya coward.

  193. WH Alum

    Joe – I’d love to see some data on this: “Kids go to college get good jobs make lots of money” somewhere else, never come back to help out town.

    It’s not the first time you have directly stated that WH kids leave and never come back. I know MANY many who have. Several who are, in fact, teachers in our local “cartel,” and others who are trying to get in.

    I myself am 2nd generation WH alum, and my kids will be 3rd. Sure, many move on, but when I stand outside the school to pick up my kids, I am amazed at how many of us are still here. Is there anyone out there who has an idea how to get the actual info on that?

  194. Ed

    Congratulations Reger – you can search the Internet.

    I never said Gatto’s words were mine, I never said anything I wrote was mine. I don’t even care if your words are yours or someone else’s. Don’t think I have integrity? Am I supposed to care? I am too old to care what you or anyone else thinks about me or what I do these days. I am not writing a scholarly paper, I am just posting on a blog.

    I actually happen to be very good friends with Mr. Gatto, and I am certain he would not care that they were repeated in the manner they were. I’m sure he’d be amused at your posts. It’s not like he hasn’t had critics before. The fact is he’s been in the trenches and taught in places you’d probably be loathe to work. He has dealt with a bureaucracy that chokes education and fails children, and he has also been able to rise above that and help kids to succeed, just as others, like Jaime Escalante, have, despite the system that sets them up for failure. But you don’t believe that about public education, and that’s your choice not to believe that.

    You may not happen to agree with Gatto or his views or even care for his style of writing, but so what. As if I care, and as if he even cares. The point being, the beginnings of public education in this country are far different then education has turned out to be. I think Mr. Jefferson would be pretty disgusted with the lack of historical training that our kids now receive as well as the lack of understanding of our primary documents. He believed that we needed an educated populace to protect our freedoms, and he was perfectly correct. Just seeing how our freedoms are being eroded is an indication of how generations have been taught little about history and more about the liberal socialist agenda present in our schools. People are all too willing to accept giving up their rights for government to “protect them”. They are willing to give up this country’s sovereignty for globalism. They are taught group think. They are taught to be sheep. That Reger, is not what Jefferson, or any of our Founders, intended.

    I never said that education wasn’t linked to democracy. But you love to put words in my mouth and make twisted interpretations. I never mentioned a “golden age of education” those are your words. All I know is that kids are learning a lot less than what kids were required to know long ago. Kids read a lot less classical literature and in place are filled with contemporary garbage designed for people with no attention spans. It’s all part of the Dick and Jane, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers malarkey, and as a result our kids can’t read well. So our “educators” come up with more dumbed down curriculum like inventive spelling and ebonics and other fads, and pass that off as education. They give kids “word finds” to do, as well as other “busy work”. We produce children who cannot compute simple percentages and need a calculator for simple mathematics. (oh and don’t go assuming that I think all of that is taught here in West Hartford, some of it is and some of it isn’t) It’s a shame really, but you seem to think modern curriculum is o.k., and justifies people like Mr. Sklarz making $188 k a year. After all he has a degree or two, so he must be worth it. I don’t happen to agree. Name some programs Sklarz has instituted that has vastly improved our kids’ education here in West Hartford. What exactly has he done to warrant his pay increases? Just because he “manages” a sea of personnel does not justify his pay. How has he specifically enhanced how West Hartford children are educated that makes them excel above all others in CT? Or maybe he got a pay increase because he threatened “to walk”.

    And I know full well what our state constitution says as well as the constitutions of other states regarding education, because Reger, education was a power left up to the states; not the federal government. However now the feds are busy trying to take that upon themselves as well, and the education bureaucrats are allowing it.

    Right .. I’m a Marxist. Keep believing that one.
    There’s no point arguing with you. So I won’t. Everything is rosy in West Hartford, our kids are perfectly educated, no need for changes, they are all scholars and have unmatched understanding of everything there is to know. Our educators deserve at least a six figure income because, well because Reger thinks so. You think I have a pessimistic viewpoint? I suppose I do simply because I have seen the decline of education and I haven’t seen much in the way of reversing the trend. Schools in general aren’t inclined to get back to the basics. Unfortunately our heirs are the losers. I feel sorry for your optimism and trust in this system, because it’s masking the truth. Overall it’s called denial and it doesn’t matter much what your political persuasion is, the truth is our public education system in this country is broken and is not creating the educated populace that Jefferson intended.

    And you and others just keep paying the educrats more and patting them on the back for a job well done.

  195. eafinct

    Yes, we are losing our rights on a daily basis. But we are losing them to the same folks who are promulgating No Child Left Behind and public funding for private and religious schools. We are NOT losing them to the West Hartford Town Council nor to the West Hartford Board of Education. The teachers and the school boards (both here and around the country) are among those who are fighting hardest against the mindless reliance on standardized tests that conservatives are foisting on our schools. But despite all the time lost to endless testing, our kids, our schools, and our teachers are doing a fantastic job.

    Ed, sometimes I wonder if we are even talking about the same school system. We’ve got the #1 high school in the state, and a number of recognized elementary and middle schools. Our kids are in the highest ranks of achievement, both statewide and nationally — by any measure you choose. Are there kids who could be doing better? Of course — although they will certainly be less likely to get the help they need after the latest round of cuts.

    And as far as kids learning to use original documents, have you been in a WH classroom lately? My kids were using original historical documents in the 4th grade. They are learning more about their country’s history, and earlier in life, than I ever would have dreamed possible. And a much richer and more multi-faceted history than even existed when I was a kid.

    And I have to add, in response to a number of posts about kids leaving town after getting educated here — is it a bad thing that they have their choice of careers and places to live once they are educated? Is it a crime to get a job somewhere besides Hartford County? Is it a crime to move to another town or, god forbid, another state? As long as West Hartford continues to be a desirable place to live, we’re only refreshed by newcomers. Hate to tell you, folks, but the days of living and dying in the same town are long past for the vast majority of Americans. And if kids can’t afford to live here straight out of college — well, that’s more a function of housing prices in desirable suburbs nationwide.

  196. Gary Reger

    All I have to say is that if Ed was educated in West Hartford, then that’s all the proof I need that the schools are way better now.

  197. EJ

    Ed, stop banging your head against the wall.
    It’s useless, the kool-aide drinkers will never listen.

    I’m still trying to figure out how a liberal-socialist can call you who appears to be a conservative-traditionalist a Marxist.

  198. Gary Reger

    EJ,

    I don’t want to fill up the list with still more of this rot but if WHDad is willing to put you in touch with me directly I’m happy to explain further.

  199. EJ

    Not necessary. I’ve read enough of your prattle.

  200. Gary Reger

    I’m sorry to hear that, EJ.

  201. turtle

    Ed: But perhaps I have much higher standards than you do Sean.

    Yeah, at least in the good old days students plagiarized the classics.

    But you love to put words in my mouth and make twisted interpretations.

    That’s rich coming from someone who has been as presumptuous as you’ve been here. And for you to patronize Gary Reger–“I’m sure he’d be amused at your posts“–is just sad.

  202. Gary Reger

    Thanks, Turtle!

  203. Joe Visconti

    UnionFacts.com

    Teachers Union Threatens To “Smash Your F***ing Head In”

    As part of our campaign to publicize the damage done by the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) we stopped by their headquarters recently to pick up copies of their most recent tax returns — which the IRS requires labor unions (and all other non-profits) to turn over for “public inspection” upon request.

    Unsurprisingly, the response we’ve gotten from the NTU bosses has been a tad less than civil (and probably illegal). On our first visit, they called the cops on us. And after telling us he didn’t care what the law said and to “get the f*** out,” one union exec told us:
    If I smash your f***ing head in with this toolbox, nothing would happen to me. I’d have a blanket and a cup of coffee, and be out [of jail] in half an hour.
    The second time around didn’t go much better. Even after repeatedly informing NTU big-wigs Joseph Del Grosso and John Abeigon that the NTU has a legal obligation to provide us with their tax returns and physically showing them the text of the relevant federal law, they still threw us out. Do these guys have something to hide?

    We told the July 4 New York Times that we’re continuing the fight against “this entrenched bureaucracy protecting teachers who ought to be doing something else with their lives other than turning out kids who can’t read their own diploma.

    Stay tuned for more.

  204. WH Parent

    Oooh…a union boss got mad when these sanctimonious a**es showed up to harass him and used a baaad word. Now you’ve really convinced me Joe–let’s get rid of the teachers union.

    And after doing that we can follow the virtuous example of Corporate America and outsource our teacher positions to underpaid serfs from India who can teach our kids via remote training software. That should maximize the “profit” this Town will enjoy from our investment in the future well-being of our kids.

    Bottom-line: This country doesn’t need less collective bargaining; it needs more of it. And you’re wasting your breath to argue otherwise. Give it up and move on to something that you might actually have some influence in changing for the betterment of all of us.

  205. Sean McCann

    I just want to say a major thanks to Gary for having the smarts, and doing the work, to reveal once again the low level of intellectual honesty that appears to prevail among the antitax zealots. Fortunately, they reveal their ill temper themselves.

    Meanwhile, since as EJ warns, they will no doubt be out waving pitchforks again next year, I’ve been pondering some of the slogans they might use to clarify their agenda. Joe’s “me no like to pay” would be a good one. But I think a banner that more accurately captures the spirit of his comments would be: “Education, let’s do the job on the cheap.”

    Or, in keeping with Whreturn’s fruitless search for wasteful programs, how about: “Kill the chess club”?

    For Ed, I’m tempted to propose, “Plagiarists for tax relief.”

    But really, in his vitriolic comments to Gary, Ed offers the single best phrase to sum up the attitude of those on this thread who repeatedly express the suspicion that the public schools, wherever and however they may be, are out to cheat us and ruin the country:

    “As if I care.”

    Perfect. It should be the motto of the WHTA.

  206. EJ

    Sean, what you neglect to take into account is there will only be a battle next year if the Town comes in with heavy spending plans again . If you recall the BOE wanted over 8% this year, and the town I believe wanted over 6.

    Maybe it’s the age thing, but you guys seem to forget the only reason the WHTA came out “waving pitchforks” was becaues the original budget and reval meant a major portion of the town was going to be hit with 30% or greater tax increases. The WHTA and the referendum got that knocked down to a 4.5% tax increase, after phase in.

    I know Sean would consider himself lucky to have a 30% tax increase, but I have not run into too many in the town who wanted that.

  207. turtle

    IIRC the budget the BoE initially sent to the town council came in under 6%.

    It’s a horse race, but “me no like to pay” and “Kill the Chess Club!” may just drive me to the Cafe Press.

    “instituit paedagogus, docet magister” (thanks, Gary!) would also ne nice and could do double duty as a nugget and an allusion to the elimination of Latin from Norfeldt.

    I don’t know how the Norfeldt parents feel about this cut, but I happen to be pretty burned up about it.

  208. TWC

    I’ve got one. How about Quest for Less, which could also double as a campaign slogan for the four BOE members who voted to hack the middle-school Quest program?

  209. Sean McCann

    I like it! I’ve got another I forgot to mention, from the aptly named “The King”:

    “Enough to keep the lights on.”

    Not quite “let them eat cake,” but in the same royal spirit.

  210. Gary Reger

    King —

    Di you ever have a chance to show Mrs. B. the comments about her plight that were posted here? If so, what was her response?

  211. EJ

    Now that the Mastery Test scores are out, is Sklarz worth the money?

    Statewide scores were in the middle of the pack. In our grouping we were 17-19 out of 20 (#21 doesn’t report).

    I hope Sklarz races better than he runs the Schools.

  212. Joe Visconti

    The Myth is exposed!

  213. Harry Captain

    It’s a shame that people are so eager, almost gleeful, to trash the progress made by WH Public School students.

    Our student scores improved over last year. WH is VERY unique in its grouping (DRG – B). No other school district in DRG – B has a 1/3 student minority ratio and the #s of free and reduced lunch students (a key indicator of socio economic status).

    And yes, this IS the same school district with 2 top 10 high schools in Connecticut – for the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school divided by the number of graduating seniors. These schools are in the top 5 percent of public schools measured this way – Nationwide.

    Congratulations students and WH educators! Don’t let the myth makers get you down.

  214. Joe Visconti

    Mythmakers? your the Mythmaker Harry . Progress made? We don’t need progress if we’re numero Uno Bud!
    Sheesh the Propoganda machine from the Educational Cartel Mouthpiece never ends does it EJ?

  215. EJ

    Hi Harry,

    There is no glee in looking at the mastery test reports.

    The reports also seem to trend down as grade level went up.

    Placing #1 or #2 in the number of students taking test doesn’t tell us how they faired on those tests.

    If your giving free meals you can’t complain that kids are going to class hungry and therefore can’t learn. I was under the impression that even the lower income and minority parents in W.Hartford were motivated for their children’s education. Yet you are claiming these factors are a handicap to learning the basics reading and math.

    Mythmakers? The mythmakers are the ones that can accept these numbers and claim the town has done well!

    Do we have a breakdown by school for the mastery test results? You didn’t mention if the problem is across the town or limited to certain schools.

  216. Hold fast. If we give the teachers giant salary increases, the test results will sky rocket. The higher the salary paid, the harder they will work.

    There is a direct correlation. The more you pay, the better things will get. But you’ll be punished if you don’t antee up, Visconti.

    The mastery tests are phoney. They are a tool of the anti-teacher cartel probably paid for by the WHTA and the home schoolers who are hell bent on destroying the West Hartford School System.

    Where is our brilliant physical education cartel leader to weigh in here?

  217. Hey Now

    Do you mean to say that we should accept these test scores because west hartford has a free lunch population?

    I would suspect that everyone in this town wants a good education (even those getting free lunches). Saying that we should accept poor performance because of low social economic status is just a form of thinly veiled racism.

    CMT’s, however flawed they may be, are our only consistent measure of academic performance across grades. Remember that the groupings are based on parent education and income level and you cannot compare between DRG groups. Therefore, w. hartford is appropriately ranked and is not unique. We should stop making excuses for what truly amounts to poor town performance.

    It’s a shame that we rank dead last in 8 out of 18 categories and second to last in two more. Per pupil spending in Avon, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury all have spending similar to W. Hartford–approximately $10,500 – $11,000. It goes without saying they are not in the bottom third. There is no correlation between teacher salaries and higher test scores.

    This town need to get back to basic education– reading = phonics (whole language approach to reading results in 25% of students never learning to read–phonics 1% never learn to read), writing = papers, book reports and term papers not posters and power point presentations, math= memorization (oh my!!!) of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables not calculator usage and statistics in third grade.

    What we need is a 1950’s education. If most parents are like me, we want to help our kids out–lets get rid of the buzz words, acronyms and double speak that school administrators perpetuate and let’s get rid of that annoying patronizing tone of voice that is handed down through the school system (i.e. I know better than you and you know nothing about you kid so shut up).

  218. Osemasterofdoom

    Uhh, the things you just advocated in your post (phonics, writing and math memorization) are exactly the things being taught to my kids in West Hartford schools. Plus I have to say that they are certainly further ahead than I was when I was taught by the good Sisters Philippini (forgive me, Sister Virginia Della Penta!).

    As for a patronizing tone of voice, I can only assume that you are not talking about the teachers, because all the teachers I have encountered have been extremely accessible and responsive, and not patronizing in the least.

  219. AgainstCorruption

    The Board of Education is about to hand the current Aramark Director a $85,000 position as a Manager of Building Services without posting the position……..Was it not Aramark that cost the Town $450,000 in mistakes last year.
    This additional position is not in the Board of Ed
    Budget. There are two Managers in place already,
    What is the need for another? Is this pay back time……..
    Post the Position so the best candidate gets the Job.

  220. Harry Captain

    As a district within “DRG – B” WH’s student population in the aggregate does NOT look like, and is NOT comparable to, other DRG – B towns in the aggregate. That’s a fact, not racism.

    To perform an accurate performance comparison, we need to dis-aggregate the district into comparable groupings. Then compare the groupings to each other within DRG – B towns to truly measure how the district is performing by group.

    When you compare group to group, WH IS performing well versus the same group within DRG – B towns.

    This is NOT to say WH should ignore the achievement gap between groupings. To the contrary, ALL districts need to work on the achievement gap between groups.

    WH residents need to understand that WH’s higher % of “achievement gap” students, as compared to other DRG – B districts, has an effect on aggregate district scores.

    WH is unique. WH students are clearly more diverse and less homogenous than Avon, Canton, Farmington, and Simsbury. And I’ll compare WH program offerings for ALL levels of student achievement (AP, fine & performing arts, foreign language, gifted & talented, remedial, special education) against those towns any day. There is more depth, breadth, challenge and value in a WH education.

    Now, after having said the above regarding the difficulty in comparing WH to DRG -B districts, I’m going to suggest and even more difficult comparison – STATEWIDE results:

    In 2007, WH was ranked 56 statewide in 3rd grade reading. http://www.courant.com/media/acrobat/2007-07/31494642.pdf
    In 2006, WH was ranked 95 statewide.

    THAT is significant, measurable, improvement and the result of hard work from our students and educators. Work for which they should be COMMENDED.

  221. Joe Visconti

    Thanx Against Corruption, it’s Inside Edition all day long with the Education Cartel!

  222. Hey Now

    Osemasterofdoom

    So, you must be happy that your kids are in the bottom third. I’m not. For all the trumpeting that the BOE and town does about what great schools we have, the test scores are not bearing it out.

  223. Sorry Harry. That’s doesn’t cut it. There is no credit for improvement. We stink rank in the tank and it’s embarrassing.

    And the timing is bad with all the budget talk. So the question is if the teachers own this failure, then how can they ask for more when they are already overcompensated for a less than mediocre results.

    You can’t spin the results. You inference that diversity is bringing us down doesn’t cut it. We don’t care about race, we care about results.

  224. Harry Captain

    2007/2006 CMT results are up. The data speaks for itself.

    There IS credit for improvement. Credit goes to the students and their educators.

    What doesn’t cut it is the obvious posturing by partisans to trash the Town at all costs, as a means to promote their candidates.

  225. EJ

    “Posturing by Partisans”? Get over it Harry.

    You keep telling us how great the WH System is and it doesn’t cut the top third. At best that’s called mediocre.

    In our segment we are at the bottom of the barrel. The last set of tests must really have been stinkaroo if you consider this good.

    Avon, Simsbury, Farmington all put us to shame!

  226. WH Alum

    Harry, Thank you for helping us to understand the scores and what it really means for WH. (At least for those of us who can be reasonable and don’t take every opportunity to throw pot-shots at the teachers and education system.)

  227. Harry Captain

    “Doesn’t cut the top third” – yet for the same stat, WH leaps from 95 to 56! And that progress “doesn’t cut it”?!

    Pile on more “in our segment” BS without actual analysis of the data.

    Keep comparing “apple to oranges”. WH is smart enough to know the difference.

  228. WH Alum

    Harry – I feel your frustration… but if it helps, I think that the readership of this little blog is yet still pretty narrow. 🙂 Most parents and neighbors I’ve spoken to about it in the past still have never taken a look. So – if they need to whine, let’m whine to each other.

  229. EJ

    Progress is one thing excellence is another.

    We went from the bottom of the middle 3rd(95) to the top of the middle 3rd (56). Yes that is progress but that is not top acheiving, that is still mediocrity.

    We should be up there with Farmington, Avon and Simsbury. The powers that be keep bragging about our school system and the tests don’t support it.

  230. Harry Captain

    Dis-aggregate the data into COMPARABLE components, analyze the data, and WH is up there.

    To do otherwise is an over simplified comparison of homogeneous to heterogeneous students, resulting in the wrong conclusion.

  231. Ok, so what will it take to move us to the top? I think that’s what we ALL really want to know.

  232. EJ

    Sounds like you want to cut one section of town away from the rest. Which section is that? Which schools?
    What is planned to bring underperformers up?
    Is the BOE planning on showing anyone this data?

    Again it sounds like you are blaming the poor and minorities, as you did the other day, just this time your not stating it so obviously.

  233. Harry Captain

    Would anyone mind if we moved this discussion on CMT performance to a better titled topic? Such as https://whdad.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/so-what-are-we-to-make-of-the-capt-scores/ ?

    We’ve been all over the place on many topics under this title and some good discussion is getting buried.

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