Laura Sanders: My answer to your waltz of words in The Pulse Journal

Just like many people didn’t want to believe that anything was wrong with Ohio State football, Jim Tressel resigned amid a wave of controversy.  Our statewide school funding issue isn’t far off from the Jim Tressel controversy where little white lies that is in the context of the program, insignificant, the evil is in the cover-up.  And with school budgets, the cover-up is in the contracts extorted by the teachers unions. 

The apologists were out again in this past week’s Pulse Journal.  Another letter attacking me was placed in that paper proving the vast intellectual deficiencies of a certain percentage of the population.  When reading these things I almost feel sorry for those people.  I mean how do they live?  How do they make decisions?  Surely they aren’t so mentally challenged, because if you read letters from apologists like the author of the editorial below, that is the only conclusion a person that can actually think would conclude. 

Before I tear this letter to pieces, read it for yourself.  It isn’t my intention to make these people feel bad, but they do it to themselves.  They vote after all, and it is through apologists like the author of this letter that the teachers union uses to propel their strategy, which has worked because people like me couldn’t believe that there are actually people who can’t think critically enough to see through the façade of deceit. 

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Teachers aren’t just educators

Dear Richard Hoffman: You can rejoice now that Lakota’s teachers have agreed to a three-year freeze in step raises and a much less comprehensive health care plan. Or, is that not going far enough? Oh, that’s right…you believe our teachers are overpaid, even though 100 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 68 percent of those have master’s degrees. I guess with six-hour workdays and summers off, they really aren’t deserving, huh? Those daily lesson plans and graded papers must magically appear on their desks each morning. 

I have friends who are teachers, and let me tell you, they are worth every penny they earn. Not only are they educators; they are counselors, role models, mediators, chaperones and disciplinarians. They perform a balancing act every day in the classroom, having to be assertive yet compassionate; formidable yet sensitive; strict yet respectful.

Instead of recognizing the commitments to our children put forth by Lakota staff members, you, Mr. Hoffman, are spending all of your time blaming unions, threatening school board members and charging “overpaid” teachers with taxpayer abuse. Your arguments are weak at best, accusing school administrators and board members of mismanaging school funds when it is well-documented that Lakota only spent $9,806 per pupil during the 2009-10 school year — less than most other comparable statewide districts. As a matter of fact,Westervilleschool Superintendent Dan Good was quoted in a February 2011 article as saying, “We’re going to be looking at what’s going on in those communities (Lakota and Fairfield) that’s allowing them to keep those high ratings along with such a low-cost per pupil.”

Our school system relies solely on levies being passed so that our teachers can be compensated. The reason for Lakota’s continued success is because of our teachers. They should be lauded, not punished.    

Laura Sanders

LibertyTwp.

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Ok, where to start? There are so many problems with this letter.  First off, I am not spending all my time blaming the unions.  I spend about 2% of my time fighting taxes, which began about 9 months ago.  The other 98% percent of my time is quite productive.  Of the 2% of my time I do spend on fighting higher taxes, it is the reasonable conclusion that unions are to blame for the overall funding problems.  They didn’t give themselves any budget limits.  Unions aren’t any different from teenagers, if you give them a $100 dollars, they’ll want $200.  You can never give enough because the teenager hasn’t learned the value of money. They don’t value what comes easily.  And neither do union members.  As a producer, and a capitalist, I don’t like unions.  I don’t want my money supporting them.  I’m fine if they can exist in the free market, but they can’t.  They have succeeded in driving up wages to the point that China,India, and Indonesia are now doing jobs that used to be done in the United States.  I blame the unions for that.  Labor costs are the unifying factor in the overall manufacturing problems our country is facing.  I think people should be paid a fair wage, but if it’s excessive, and drives up the cost of the product to where the consumer won’t buy it, or simply can’t afford it, then the victor of that wage level negotiation is not the union that extorted the higher wage, because the union killed the job in the long run. 

This is what the teachers union has done to the cost of education.  They have driven up the cost without a care in the world to the end result.  Their solution to everything is simply to raise more taxes, which isn’t a successful formula for prosperity.  That mentality has run the Norwood General Motors plant out-of-town, it shut down Fisher Body in Hamilton.  In fact it has practically decimated the economy of Hamilton.  It drove up the costs at Cincinnati Milacron down in Oakley.  The list goes on and on and on.  Those were all production jobs, and most of that work is now out of the county. 

I’ve employed people who worked for AK Steel in Middletown, several of them that wanted jobs while they were on strike during their labor dispute that went on for over a year back in 2006-2007.  I learned a great deal about the hard union mentality from those employees, since AK Steel is one of those mob type unions where they actually beat-up people who crossed the picket line during labor disputes.  A lot of my local motorcycle friends in and around town are big time union types.  I have made my feelings known to these guys.  I have told them, “You wouldn’t have a boat, and you wouldn’t have a Harley Davidson parked in the garage if not for the union, because you guys are too stupid to earn that kind of money on your own.”

“We ain’t got those head smarts like you do, brother,” is what they say to me.  “Thank God for the union.”

“You’re working yourself out of a job with the wages you guys demand.”

“Just so long as it don’t happen till after I retire.”  (they typically laugh at this point.)

Teachers are absolutely no different.  They are like anyone else.  They believe their job is the most important job on the face of the planet.  It’s up to someone like me, (in management) to let them know that their job isn’t quite so important, that someone else can do their job, and the show will go on without them if need be.  It’s my job in management to not be liked, because nobody likes to be told they aren’t that valuable. 

But for a manager to know the value of a job, they need to know something about the job.  I’ve worked in just about every endeavor someone could imagine and I know how difficult teaching is.  To me, teaching is worth a range of about 40K to 60K tops, because it is a degree position.  But a master’s degree has no value to me.  A doctorate has no value to me, not in public education.  I just want kids to be able to read, write and be productive citizens.  If parents want all that other stuff they can hire a private tutor, or a private school, and make sure that kid gets to college.  It’s an insane law to pay 68% of the teachers at Lakota more money because they have a master’s degree.  What’s the value in that?  Does it make them better?  The union will tell you it does, so where are the results?  Where are the test results that prove otherwise?  There aren’t any, its pure speculation.  What do a master’s and doctorate degree do to justify higher labor costs? 

I know a woman who is going for her doctorate.  I asked her, “why is that so important to you?” 

She said to me, “I’m a professional student.”  At least she was honest.  This particular woman is the really cautious type.  She is the kind that will put her kids in a helmet when they are riding their bicycles, and in her professional life, she doesn’t care much for competition, so she enjoys the security and pace of academia.  I know personally, as I look down the list of the top 625 highly paid teachers at Lakota that many of those teachers fit the same description.  Only in government does their vision for reality work, because the tax payer picks up the bill. 

The only reason a lot of the laws that school boards are constrained with regarding school budgets exists, like the run-a-way labor costs mentioned with the master’s degree ratio are because the OEA lobbied to get laws passed that completely benefited them. 

It is insane to create policies that drive up your labor costs then turn around and continue to ask for more money from tax payers to fund them.  With as much money as I spend in taxes, I expect Lakota to be the greatest districts in the state.  But don’t be a fool and ask me to pay for infinite amounts of money for it.  That doesn’t make any sense.  At some point there’s a diminishing marginal return and we’ve hit that point. 

As to grading papers, what?  A teacher is under contract for 7.5 hours.  Grading papers if a teacher has to do it every single day shouldn’t take more than 4 hours per day.  So that’s a 11.5 hour day.  So what.  Why was such a statement spoke about as though it were something special?  I average a lot more than that per day. I’m on call 24 hours a day, and most of the time 6 days a week, or 7 if I have people working all weekend.  And I don’t have summers off.  I would expect any employee that I hired for over 40K per year to do everything said in that letter and more.  I don’t understand the emotion.  Is all that money needed to pay these employees and a pat on the back too required?  What kind of fragile people are these teachers that think such talking points even dictate special merit?  It’s expected! 

It is well-documented that Lakota only spent $9,806 per pupil, but so what.  That’s too high. How do I know it’s too high?  What criteria?  Well, if the district asks for more money for a levy, that means they aren’t working within their budget.  When the average tax bill in the Lakota School District is between $3000 to $4000 per year and the district is still asking for more money which does not mean Lakota has done a good job.  It doesn’t change anything if another district in the state thinks Lakota is doing well.  All that tells me is that education costs everywhere are too high.  The teachers union and the school board need to find a way to bring that number down to $8,000 per student, or even $6,000 per student.  If it were up to me, and I were running the district I wouldn’t be happy till the cost per pupil was under $5000.  We’re talking simply about labor costs here.  Not helping children. 

The union is solely responsible for pricing themselves out of the market.  It is unreasonable to ask tax payers to fund this ridiculous perception that these radical teachers union members have about their value.  Are teachers valuable, sure.  But they aren’t more important than the kid’s parents, and many of the traits listed are not the job of the teacher.   If they wish to be mentors, that’s the teacher’s choice.  If they chose to be counselors, role models, mediators, chaperones and disciplinarians, that’s fine. But they are paid to teach the basics.  I don’t want to hear about all those other traits, because those are the aspects of living that kids should be getting from their parents.  The union types will say that the parents are not doing the job.  Well, who are they to say?  Who are they to take it upon themselves?  Who are they to impose on the sanctity of a family?  Is it their job to impose on every parent the policing that only a fraction of truly bad parents deserve?  Is it justice to extend those traits outside the classroom, which is what a lot of teachers mistakenly believe they have an obligation to indulge in.  No, because all those tasks cost money, money that is inflated for a role that is overly dramatized in order to justify the money spent. 

So to answer the question, am I happy?  No, because the contract was a ploy to gain an edge with the public to over-turn Senate Bill 5.  It was not genuine; otherwise the union would look at the financial situation with more intelligence.  It would have advised its members to reduce their cost to the district.  They would have sought to make themselves more marketable. 

I was happy to see the superintendent and school board members happy for a change.  It was nice to see them feeling good about their jobs.  I did like that.  But I know what they don’t want to admit to themselves, because they are stuck dealing with that crazy union every day, that this concession is just another manipulative scheme orchestrated by the union. 

I see through this labor debate.  I have employees that constantly lobby for more overtime, raises, less work hours, you name it.  I’ve heard every over dramatized excuse in the human vocabulary for why an employee thinks they are valuable.  The trick is knowing which ones are telling the truth, and which ones aren’t. 

I hope to God that the author of this letter about me is not a teacher, but is in fact just another neurotic mother that is overly emotional about all topics in her life.  I really hope that’s the case.  Because if this person represents the kind of employees that we are paying over 60K per year, which is the average wage at Lakota, then we are wasting our money much worse than even I have pointed out. 

 I see from experience that the labor situation at Lakota needs to be dealt with, in order for Lakota to remain excellent.  Labor does not make a school great.  Management of resources does.  Lakota has shown that it can manage resources better than other schools, but that’s not enough if it is asking for more money.  If the state cuts it’s funding, if the federal government cuts its money, and there’s less money to go around, then the school needs to find a way to do more with even less.  It’s insane, and highly ignorant to assume that the tax payer will shoulder that responsibility directly.  I’ve heard it said that Lakota needs new sources of revenue.  Well, how’s it going to do that when it doesn’t produce anything?  The product is the education of children, and the results of that education have not placed the United States in first place in the world, so why would we spend more than what we’ve spent at this point?  Why should personal property taxes go up over $4000 per property, what is the value?  So a public teacher can take a 5K vacation on their 3 months off?  Isn’t that what it really comes down to?  Because if it wasn’t, the union would have been more responsible in what they demanded, and we are where we are because of the demands on the community.  When the school levy passed, it wasn’t asked for, it was demanded. 

In 2005 I fought the school levy back then too.  For all the same reasons.  The money kicked in during 2006.  As soon as the money hit the district, and the union knew the receipts were in from assessed property value, after owners paid their taxes, they threatened to strike in 2008.  The teachers union pushed its members to strike, to walk off the job.  I will never forget that.  The strike was over money.  As soon as positive cash flow was shown to the district because of the levy passing, the union went after the excess money.  That is the path that brought us to the financial situation we’re currently in.  It’s my money they want, and it’s my money they squandered away like drunken sailors. 

Unlike a lot of people who live in the district, I have lived in the Lakota district for a long time, and I plan to stick around.  And I have a great memory.  I know that these are people who are attempting to scam my neighbors and children that I genuinely care for.  And that’s bullying, it makes me very, very angry.  And I will not stand for it!

So you apologists can figure out where you want to be on this position, but remember, there isn’t any negotiation.  There is right and wrong.  I’m right, and those asking for more money are wrong.  And that’s the end of the story.  Live with it……get an education and learn a couple of things, then talk to me when you figure out that you agree with me.

 

Rich Hoffman
http://overmanwarrior.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/ten-rules-to-live-by/
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